Introducing the Samsung N210

While Samsung has been a strong retail presence in the states for time immemorial, it may be surprising to note that they only made their push into retail computing within the last year or so. Samsung computers were big in the rest of the world (obviously huge in Korea), but out here there had been nary a peep from them.

Then the floodgates quietly opened, and Samsung dipped their toe into the highly competitive waters of the American mainstream notebook market. One of their entries is a Best Buy exclusive netbook that we review here today, the N210. The N210 may be on its way out; it's since been consigned to Best Buy's "outlet store" online and its retail presence is limited. What we have on hand is a factory refurb'ed model; I had purchased it for personal use and the way I figured it was that sure, I could get a brand new one for a little more, but odds were good I'd pop open the casing and void the warranty anyhow, so why pay an extra $30 for months of warranty I'll never see?

The specifications are commonplace given Atom-powered netbooks:

Samsung N210 Specifications
Processor Intel Atom N450
(1.66GHz + SMT, 45nm, 512KB L2, 533FSB, 5.5W)
Chipset Intel NM10
Memory 1x1024MB DDR2-667
Graphics Intel Integrated GMA 3150
Display 10.1" LED Matte 16:9 WSVGA (1024x600)
Hard Drive(s) 2.5" 250GB 5400RPM
Optical Drive N/A
Networking 10/100 Fast Ethernet
Atheros 802.11bgn WiFi
Audio HD Audio (2 speakers headphone and mic jacks)
Battery 6-cell, 11.1V, 4400mAh, 48Whr
Front Side SD reader
Power switch
Left Side AC power jack
RJ-45 ethernet jack
Exhaust vent
USB 2.0
Mic jack
Headphone jack
Right Side 2x USB 2.0
VGA port
Kensington lock
Back Side Battery
Operating System Windows 7 Starter
Dimensions 10.5" x 7.4" x 1.2" (WxDxH)
Weight 2.8 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing $329

As you can see, there isn't a whole lot of action in the N210 that isn't common to modern netbooks at large. There's the anemic Intel Atom N450 processor and the requisite 1GB of DDR2, but at least Samsung was kind enough to outfit the N210 with a 250GB drive.

Going with 10/100 ethernet instead of gigabit is disappointing but not a game-breaker; the Atom is so slow and the 5400RPM hard drive does nothing to remedy that, so it's not a huge loss. Not having bluetooth is a major loss, though. When the N210 was making the review rounds, bluetooth was an option being touted for it. Yet finding a bluetooth-enabled unit in our neck of the woods is an onerous task at best.

But since netbooks are by and large the same these days, does Samsung at least bring any secret sauce to the table?

Inside and Outside the Samsung N210
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  • InternetGeek - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - link

    I have an HP Mini 210. It's got exactly the same hardware configuration than this Samsung. I'm running Windows 7 64bit, VIsual Studio 2010, SQL Server 2010, and the usual set of desktop applications 'must-have' (office, paint.net, metrotwit, etc). I expanded the the RAM to it's max of 2GB. However, I don't find it too slow. It would be better if it had an SSD but it would actually cost more than the netbook itself.

    These netbooks would be a no-brainer to buy if they came with bluetooth and wireless n. I don't include a 3g modem because now I tether to my phone (Nexus One) and don't have to pay for that function :)....
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - link

    I'm getting to the point where I'm going to be adding another SSD to my desktop.

    I'm curious what the performance gain would be with a netbook/laptop like this, if anything noticeable.

    I wouldn't normally buy a new ~$300 computer and then pay ~$250 to upgrade one component, but this SSD (x25m g2) is getting old and the new ones on they way will be worth purchasing. I'm trying to determine if it's worth cleaning the SSD and putting it in a netbook, or would it be worth having more solid state space in my desktop? Is the Atom even powerful enough to demand higher performance from its resources?
    Reply
  • flgt - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - link

    I would think that a netbook would really benefit from a value class SSD, although even they seem outrageously overpriced compared to complete $300-$400 system. I’m willing to be that a lot of the sluggish feel is from waiting for the anemic 5400 rpm HDD to load programs into memory. I was on a budget so I only upgraded to a X25V, but it has been the best computer upgrade I’ve ever made. I can’t wait for the 80 GB models later this year. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - link

    The problem is that the majority of netbooks don't even allow you to actually replace the hard drive. I actually tried to get photos of the inside of the N210, but despite removing every screw from the bottom panel it refused to pop open. I could see the hard drive in there, but be damned if I could actually replace it.

    So yes, changing out the drive for an SSD may help, but that's operating on the assumption that you can even change out the drive to begin with, along with the assumption that you're willing to void the warranty to do it.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - link

    My own experience with netbooks suggests that the Atom CPU is a huge bottleneck. When you have a CULV laptop with a 5400RPM load a game up in 60 seconds, then have an Atom netbook with a similar 5400RPM drive take three times as long to start a game, I'm pretty sure it's the CPU and RAM that's slowing things down. Really, Atom is state of the art performance from around 2003. Seven years is an eternity in computers, and just like slapping an HD 5870 into an old Athlon 64 system won't provide a good gaming experience, an SSD with Atom is only going to be marginally faster in a few HDD limited situations.

    Anyway, some people are fine with the performance, but I suspect most of those people don't know (or what to know) about CULV or other ultraportable options.
    Reply
  • mino - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Are you joking ?

    My as-cheap-as-it-gets Athlon XP 1700+ from 2003 would eat any netbook for breakfast.

    Remember, 2003 wast the year of Arhlon 3200+, Pentium 3.2EE and Radeon 9800 ...

    State-of-the-art 2000/2001, I might agree.

    Atom might be competitive with Athlon 1.4 in SSE2 multimedia encoding. But it will not stand a chance in general purpose x86/SSE stuff.

    Think 1GHz PentiumIII/Athlon with Geforce Ti 200. That's about it.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Not at all a direct comparison, but Anandtech testing showed the original Atom was roughly equivalent to a 1.2GHz Pentium M. My 1.8GHz Pentium M was faster than the Athlon XP 3000+ that was in my desktop at the time, so Atom at 1.66GHz might be in the same ballpark as your 1700+ Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I know we have independent testing that suggests Atom was close to the Pentium M, but...

    I had a Sony TR2A a lifetime ago with a 1GHz Pentium M, and that notebook was an absolute joy to use. 1GB of DDR, 1GHz Pentium M, slow-as-hell 1.8" hard drive...but it was far more responsive than I've ever felt Atom to be.

    In raw number-crunching Atom may be faster, but I get the feeling it's nowhere near as agile.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, August 05, 2010 - link

    My only use of Atom has been my carputer, which uses an Atom 330. In that application it works quite well, the only lag I experience is when opening large directories of songs within my front end program. I'm not sure if that is due to the lack of processing power to poorly written software. But I can see it having issues when trying to do more difficult things. Reply
  • Computer Bottleneck - Wednesday, July 28, 2010 - link

    Considering the modest single core/1 GB RAM/5200 Rpm HDD I was amazed when Best Buy told me none of the netbooks they sell come with the original OS install disk.

    Granted these machines don't come with DVD drives stock, but many people still have access to external optical drives for clean install purposes.
    Reply

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