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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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