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Hands-on with the Dell Mini 10v


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imgp1500We just had a chance to go hands-on with the freshly announced Dell Mini 10v. For the uninitiated, the Mini 10v is the cheaper version of the Dell Mini 10 which costs $299, $50 less than the Mini 10.

We noticed that the Mini 10v has a plastic case as opposed to a magnesium alloy one. The edge-to-edge glass screen is also gone as there isn’t a high-definition display option. The keypad doesn’t support multi-touch, and it has a VGA port instead of an HDMI one. Under the hood you’ll find a 1.6GHz Intel Atom 270 processor, Microsoft Windows XP, 1GB of RAM, a 120GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and a 3-cell lithium ion battery. The $349 Mini 10 has an Intel Atom Z520 processor clocked at 1.33GHz, 1GB of RAM, and a larger 160GB hard drive.

The plastic bezel is noticeably less chic, and you won’t want to take the VGA approach over HDMI if you connect your netbook to your LCD TV. At the highest end, you’re missing out on a 1366 x 768 display that’s available on the Dell Mini 10 only.

Overall, if you’re cash strapped, there’s not a lot of sacrifice. Chances are you might not have the high-end LCD and don’t require HDMI out anyway, and you may not need the high-def screen, so it’s a compelling buy.

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Hands-On With the ASUS Eee PC 1008HA


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eeepc1008leadASUS may have unveiled its newest Eee PC - the 1008HA — at CeBit in March but here in the U.S. we have been patiently awaiting its arrival. ASUS is now ready to launch its slimmest Eee on our home soil. The Eee PC 1008HA “Seashell” will be available later this month (pre-orders begin on May 18th) for $429. We got a chance to check out the ultra-sleek 1008HA a few days ago. Check out our first impressions along with hands-on video and photos below.

With all netbooks sporting the same Intel Atom, 1GB of RAM and Windows XP combo, the race is on to design a netbook that can stick out from the crowd. And while Samsung did a stand up job with the recently-reviewed N310, ASUS has done the same with the 1008HA Seashell.

The all-white glossy 10-inch netbook is incredibly thin (less than an inch thick) and, true to its name, looks like a white smooth seashell. It is even thinner than an Ethernet jack - which is why the patent pending jack pulls down. This isn’t the only unique port on the system though. There is a mini-VGA port on the left side, but ASUS also includes an adapter; hidden under the system is a VGA adapter that snaps off that allows you to hook the system up to an external monitor. These ports are joined by 2 USB, mic and headphone jacks, and a card reader.

ASUS continues on the track of providing solid keyboard and touchpad combos. The 92 percent of full size keyboard is spacious for a netbook and the matte keys are comfortable. Though we noticed a slight flex on the pre-production model we got a look at we were happy to see a full size Shift key located underneath the Enter key. The touchpad, which blends in with the deck, was smooth and there are dedicated right and left mouse buttons below.

When it comes to internals the 1008HA has the same configuration as the Editor’s Choice winning ASUS Eee PC 1000HE, including an Intel Atom N280 processor, 1GB of RAM, a 160GB hard drive and Windows XP. It is outfitted, however, with a lithium polymer battery which is rated for six hours of use.

For $429, the Eee PC 1008HA may be $30 more than the popular Eee PC 1000HE but it has a more compact chassis and a breathtaking design. While consumers may be willing to pay a bit more for the head turning look, we suggest waiting for the full review to find out how the 1008HA performs and how long it can last on a charge.

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Samsung N310


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This netbook is attractive and comfortable to use, but its battery life is a bit short for the price.

For the past several months Samsung has led the netbook parade in terms of quality, creating solidly built systems that boast long battery life. With the new N310, the company is trying to establish itself as the leader when it comes to style, too. At $479, the N310 is one of the most unique and chic 10-inch netbooks on the market, and its island keyboard is a pleasure to type on. However, end users will have to be willing to pay a premium for a netbook that has the same specs as the competition (an Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM and Windows XP) and considerably less battery life than more affordable systems.

Pebble Design

The N310’s fashion forward design is a departure from the more professional looking N110 and NC10. Designed by Japanese artist Naoto Fukasawa, the rounded and smooth edges of the N310 is modeled after a pebble. The navy blue lid (also available in black) is covered in a slightly grainy, rubberized surface that is more durable than the typical hard plastic, according to Samsung. These touches definitely make the N310 stand out from its closest competitors. In case its stylings are too subtle, Samsung’s logo is prominently featured in raised lettering that extends across the cover; it’s a bit too in-your-face for our liking.

The N310 is not only Samsung’s most compact netbook, but its trimmer than many others. Measuring 10.3 x 7.3 x 1.1 inches, the system isn’t as thin as the HP Mini 1000, but it’s shorter than the MSI Wind U123. Weighing 2.8 pounds by itself, the N310 (in its included felt case) and its A/C adapter came in at 3.4 pounds, and didn’t put much strain on our shoulder as we walked home.


The N310 houses the same netbook ports as the N110. On the right edge are two USB ports and a VGA port, and the left side houses one more USB port, mic and headphone jacks, and an Ethernet jack. The front of the system holds a 3-in-1 card reader; you won’t find any ports or slots on the back of the system.

Island Style Keyboard, Expanded Touchpad

samsung_n310_sh1.jpgWhile we were impressed with the more traditional keyboards on Samsung’s previous netbooks, the N310 has an island-style layout which is 94 percent of full-size. They’re the same kind of raised keys that you’ll find on systems such as the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE, Apple MacBook, and several Sony VAIOs, but the keys on the N310 are also treated with a nano-sized silver ion powder that makes it “bacteria free.” But it’s not just germophobes who will like this keyboard; almost from the moment we started using it, we appreciated the soft but comfortable key feel. Key placement is also not an issue: the Shift key is full size and located underneath the Enter key.

The original touchpad on the Samsung NC10, at 2.3 x 1.1 inches, was disappointingly small and very vertically narrow. Like the Samsung N110, the N310 has a horizontally and vertically expanded trackpad. Measuring 2.5 x 1.3 inches, the size of the pad is now comparable to those on other netbooks, including the Acer Aspire One AOD150 and the MSI Wind U123. However, the touchpad isn’t quite as large as that on the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE.

The mouse buttons remain a single rocker bar lacking a divot to separate the left and right sides. We prefer two dedicated buttons, but this arrangement is still better than the vertically oriented touchpad buttons like those on the HP Mini 1000 or 2140.


Flush Glossy Display

Similar to the HP Mini 2140 and the Dell Inspiron Mini 10, the Samsung N310 has a flush 10.1-inch (1024 x 600-pixel resolution) LED-backlit glass screen. It was wide enough that were able to keep a Web page and a document open side-by-side. Samsung’s software lets you easily increase the resolution to 1024 x 768, but it compresses everything on the screen. An episode of 24 streamed from Hulu.com looked extremely clear and detailed at the native resolution, and tilting the screen back 45 degrees (which is as far as it goes) didn’t produce distracting glare.

Webcam and Audio

Above the display is a 1.3-megapixel webcam, which provided clear images in a Skype video chat. A caller in California saw little motion blur when we quickly waved and could even make out details on our face. The netbook also comes with CyberLink’s YouCam, which allowed us to capture still shots and video. The built-in stereo speakers located above the keyboard were quite loud; MGMT’s “Electric Feel” over Slacker.com did not sound as tinny as other netbook speakers.


samsung_n310_sh1.jpgConfigured like its predecessors, the N310’s 1.6-GHz Intel Atom CPU and 1GB of RAM running Windows XP provided the netbook norm in performance. Notching 1,510 on PCMark05—121 points above the category average and only three points lower than the N110—the N310 was able to handle our usual mobile tasks, which included simultaneously conducting video calls over Skype and surfing the Web with multiple tabs open.

The Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip with 128MB of shared memory delivered a score of 736 in 3DMark03, which is 103 points higher than the N110, though 19 points lower than the category average. Its 3DMark06 score of 88 was almost half the 158 category average, but a downloaded high definition 720p video clip played back smoothly with no hiccups or pauses. We transcoded a 5-minute-and-5-second MPEG-4 video clip (114MB) to the AVI format using Handbrake. The N310 completed the task in 29 minutes and 10 seconds, which is 6 minutes slower than the netbook average.

The N310’s 5,400-rpm, 160GB hard drive booted Windows XP Home in 45 seconds, 10 seconds quicker than the netbook average. The LAPTOP Transfer Test (copying a 4.97GB folder of mixed media) took 5 minutes and 1 second, or a rate of 16.9 MBps. This is quite fast for a netbook (the average is 14.4 Mbps), but not as fast as the Acer Aspire One AOD150 (17.7 MBps). The N310 stayed relatively cool during testing; the underside got no hotter than 90 degrees.

Battery Life

While the Sasmung N110’s standard six-cell battery provided more than seven hours of run time, the N310 comes standard with a 4-cell battery. On the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi), the N310 lasted 3 hours and 32 minutes. While higher than the 2:40 average for netbooks outfitted with three-cell batteries, at this $479 price we’re disappointed that a six-cell battery does not come standard. The $399 ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (7:08) and the $379 MSI Wind U123 (8:14) both provide more than double the run time. Still, Samsung plans to offer a high capacity 8850 mAH six-cell battery for the N310, which is rated to last more than 10.5 hours on a single charge.

Wireless Performance

The 802.11b/g Wi-Fi card inside the N310 provided a steady connection for working on the Net. Delivering 20.2 Mbps and 15.9 Mbps from 15 and 50 feet, respectively—both slightly above average—we were able to maintain a strong signal far from our access point. Streaming video clips on YouTube and music over Slacker.com were void of any pauses. Samsung plans to offer the N310 with built-in mobile broadband by the Fall.

Software, Configuration Options, and Warranty

samsung_n310_sh1.jpgIn addition to CyberLink’s YouCam and McAfee Security Center, Samsung bundles its own utilities with the N310, including Samsung Recovery Solution III (which creates a restore file of the operating system), Samsung Battery Life Extender, and Samsung Magic Doctor (which will detect problems with applications and help to correct any issues). Other tools include an Easy Network Manager for connecting to a wireless access point.

Configuration and Upgrade Options

At launch, Samsung will only offer the configuration of the N310 that we reviewed. The six-cell battery option will be available at a later date, and pricing is to be determined. Samsung covers this netbook with a one-year warranty and 24/7 toll-free technical support.

In terms of upgradeability, we like that the N310 has a clearly marked and easily accessible memory door on the bottom of the system. However, it looks as though you may need to pop off the keyboard if you want to upgrade the hard drive.


With the N310, Samsung has created one of the more attractive and compact 10-inch netbooks on the market. Its compact build and peppy performance will provide the fashion-conscious a well-rounded package. However, its $479 price gives us pause. For $10 less you can snatch up the Editor’s Choice-winning Samsung N110, which provides double the battery life, though in a less appealing chassis. And for $70 more you can pick up the Samsung NC20, which provides a larger 12-inch display in addition to more endurance. But if style is at the top of your mobile computing list, the Samsung N310 is worth a look.

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Apple MacBook Air vs. MSI X340: The Super-Slim Ultraportable Face-Off


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If you’ve taken a gander at our MSI X340 review, you read that we deemed the machine a very good ultraportable for the price, despite its flaws. You also would’ve noticed comparisons to the Apple MacBook Air sprinkled throughout, as Cupertino’s notebook was the prototype for super-slim systems. Considering that both notebooks offer roughly the same weight and dimensions, we thought it appropriate to pit them in a 6-round knock-down, drag-out competition to determine which laptop is the best when factoring in price, design, value, and general usability (while leaving the inevitable Mac OS X vs. Windows arguments aside). Consider it Ali-Foreman for super-thin ultraportables. Let’s get ready to rumble!

Design and Ports
The MacBook Air may have set the new standard for super-svelte ultraportables and served as the inspiration for the X340, but its tiny 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.7-inch frame comes with a number of compromises that the similarly-sized MSI (13.0 x 8.8 x 0.8 inches) doesn’t possess. Save for the MagSafe power cord connection, the MacBook Air’s three ports (USB 2.0, mini-DisplayPort, headphone) are tucked away in the back-right corner of the system in a drop-down flap. The small opening makes it a pain to connect gear, which isn’t a problem that comes with the X340 as all of it ports are easily accessible. MSI also includes several connections that Apple doesn’t: HDMI,VGA, Ethernet, mic, modem, 2-in-1 card reader, and an additional USB port.

In terms of build, the MacBook Air’s aluminum frame is far sturdier than the X340; the latter has a rather hollow feel to it despite being virtually the same weight as its Cupertino rival (2.9 pounds vs. 3.0 pounds). In addition, the MSI’s lid also has alot of flex, and draws all manner of smudges and fingerprints (the latter is nothing that a cloth or paper towel couldn’t take care of). Of course, the X340 we tested was a pre-production model so it’s possible that the frame will be a little bit sturdier in the final build.

WINNER: MSI X340. Easy access to ports (and lots of them!) allowed us to overlook the flimsy feel.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Both notebooks have full-size keyboards, but the MacBook Air’s trounces the X340’s. The MacBook Air features Apple’s familiar Chiclet-styled keys that deliver good tactile feedback. It also has very cool backlighting that kicks in during low-light situations. The multitouch trackpad allowed us to scroll through Web pages, and zoom in and out of photos using pinch gestures.

Despite offering plenty of room for touch typists, the X340’s keyboard simply feels cheap in comparison. Its keyboard has way too much flex, and the keys are mushy. In addition, the right Shift key is about half the width of the MacBook Air’s. Again we must emphasize that our X340 was a late pre-production model so the final version may have a little less flex. Still, the X340’s keyboard would have to be completely different to best the MacBook Air’s.

WINNER: MacBook Air. A solid, comfortable keyboard is conducive to a pleasurable typing experience.

The MacBook Air and X340 both offer similar-size, LED displays (13.4 vs. 13.3), but MSI’s machine serves up a 16:9 resolution at 1,366 x 768 pixels (the Air serves up a 16;10 1,280 x 800). Both screens kicked back too many reflections when viewing Web pages with dark backgrounds, but the X340 better replicated skin tones and demonstrated deeper color saturation when we watched Hulu clips.

WINNER: MSI X340. The sharper colors and slightly crisper visuals one-upped the Apple MacBook Air.



When it comes to raw processing and graphics performance, the Air has a huge advantage, given its 1.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and Nvidia GeForce 9400M GPU (with 256MB of memory). The X340, with its 1.4-GHz Core 2 Solo ULV processor and integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics, was designed to offer decent productivty performance and battery life.

To do an apples-to-apples comparison between the Mac OS-based Air and the Vista-based X340, we installed Vista (via Boot Camp) on the MacBook and ran both systems through a couple of popular performance benchmarks. On PCMark Vantage, which measures overall system performance, the Air scored a whopping 3,684 compared to the X340’s 1,658. On 3DMark06, which measures graphics performance alone, the Air notched 1,385 to the X340’s 643.

WINNER: The MacBook Air, by a mile. Clearly, these two systems are not in the same class when comes to processing power and graphics. However, the X340 was more than adequate for common tasks like surfing the Web, sending e-mail, writing documents in Word, or watching 720p video.

Battery Life
Battery life is a notebook essential that we can all agree is vital, especially in the ultraportable category, as the systems are designed to be toted around town and from office to office. Unfortunately, the MacBook Air dropped the ball here, big time. Our LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous surfing over Wi-Fi) revealed a scant 2 hours and 8 minutes of battery life.

The X340’s endurance, however, was 1 hour and 30 minutes longer, at 3:38, which gives you additional time to work on documents, check e-mail, and watch YouTube clips. For the sake of fairness, it should be noted that the Air’s CPU and GPU offer more computing punch and thus user power juice than the MSI’s processor and graphics card.

WINNER: MSI X340. The Air may have better performance, but these are both meant to be ultraportable systems, not high-end workstations. You can’t be too mobile when you only get two measly hours of battery life.

Value and Verdict
The MacBook Air certainly offers a lot of power given its svelte design; our $2,499 configuration includes a 1.86-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics (with 256MB of memory), 2GB of RAM, and a 128GB solid-state drive. A lower-priced model is available for $1,799, which offers a 1.6-GHz Core 2 Duo CPU and the same graphics chip but a slower, 4,200-rpm 120GB HDD.

Conversely, X340 is nearly as good a performer but is far more wallet-friendly at $899 — $900 less than the Air’s lower-end configuration. The system houses a 1.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500 UL3V processor, 2GB of RAM, 320GB, and 5,400-rpm hard drive. It’s build quality and keyboard aren’t as good as the Air, but these are trade-offs we think many consumers will be willing to make. Some may be turned off, however, by MSI’s limited tech support hours.

Ultimately, selecting a champion in this contest can be tricky, particularly if you favor either the Mac OS X or Windows Vista operating system. But in terms of usability and bang for the buck, the X340 offers a similarly slim design with more easily accessible ports and better battery life for considerably less money.

MSI X340 MacBook Air
Price $899 $1799 - $2,499
Weight 2.9 Pounds 3.0 Pounds
Size 13 x 8.8 x 0.8 inches 12.8 x 8.9 x 0.7 inches
Ports 2 USB, Ethernet, HDMI, Modem, VGA, headphone, microphone, card reader 1 USB, headphone, Mini-DisplayPort
Display 13.4-inch 1366×768 13.3-inch 1280×800
CPU 1.4-GHz Core 2 Solo SU3500 1.6 / 1.8-GHz Core 2 Duo
Storage 320GB 5,400 rpm HDD 120GB 4,200 rpm HDD / 128GB SSD
PCMark Vantage 1,658 3,684
3DMark06 643 1,385
Battery Life (hours) 3:38 2:08

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