The Samsung N110 is a gentle revision to the company's successful Samsung NC10 netbook, with record-breaking longevity. REVISED, 17 JULY 2009.

Samsung has proved itself an accomplished maker of laptops, and when it set out to make a netbook, it came up trumps with the NC10. It didn't really bring anything new to what was already available; but it did build on other people's designs and executed them in a high-quality final product.

In the Samsung N110, little has changed from that winning formula first seen on the Samsung NC10. Or for that matter, the MSI Wind, which Samsung's latest now even more closely resembles; physically at least. Where the NC10 had a slightly square-cornered look about it, Samsung has softened the lines subtly, giving the N110 a closer approximation to MSI's pioneering netbook.

The spec list for all three netbooks are near carbon-copies: 10in screen, Intel Atom N270, 1GB RAM, 160GB hard drive, three USB... and yet, once again Samsung has just refined the overall build to lift the Samsung N110 above the crowd.

Apart from the rounding of corners and stripping away of tacky chrome-effect side trim, the Samsung N110 adds a gloss-finish screen in place of the respectable matt version on the NC10. While this is a usually step backward for any laptop, the item fitted to this netbook is not as annoyingly reflective as some.

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About 70g of weight has been lost along the way, although to look at the spec list it's hard to see where. The Samsung N110 has the same hard disk, same USB complement, 802.11b/g wireless card, ethernet and SD card slot. And yet somehow, the new Samsung N110 also manages to last longer on battery.

When testing the NC10 we measured 464 mins life - over 7.5 hours - and were suitably impressed. And the Samsung N110? A netbook record-breaking 595 mins; just five minutes short of ten long hours.

In build quality, the Samsung N110 shines with its excellent firm keyboard, precision-tracking touchpad and good positive-clicking buttons. There's also some useful software additions that make Windows XP look less antediluvian, such as a translucent graphical screen overlay when adjusting screen brightness and speaker volume.

And sound quality is another area where the Samsung N110 excels, as it sidesteps the squawky tinniness of the MSI Wind, with smoother sound and higher sound levels possible.

NEXT PAGE: Our earlier review of the Samsung N110 >>

A bit of streamlining (better plastics and a slimmer profile) here and a couple tweaks (immense improvement on the mouse button) there... it all adds up to the Samsung N110 polishing away blemishes found on the original Samsung NC10. So if you find some echoes between the two reviews, they're entirely intentional.

Samsung has made an interesting decision to switch the Samsung N110 from the matte screen on the NC10 to the glossy side of the force. It doesn't matter all that much: The 10.1in, 1024-by-600-pixel panel works reasonably in all sorts of lighting conditions.

What's notable is that, in a side-by-side comparison, the glossy finish didn't really make the screen on the Samsung N110 pop that much more - but it did introduce a bit of glare. We'd almost prefer sticking with the matte screen of the NC10.

Thank goodness Samsung has addressed the troublesome touchpad buttons of its older netbook. On that machine you have to push the button down below the surface for the action to register. As a result, if you press the left side of the single-button bar, the right side of the bar juts up. On the Samsung N110, the company has fixed the problem quickly and easily by changing the molding on the casing.

Even though the dimensions haven't changed from those of the NC10 (261x186x30mm), the Samsung N110 feels a little more slender. And since Samsung built this mouse button into the curved bottom, it hits the hands more naturally. Generally it seems more secure.

What hasn't changed a whole lot is the keyboard. The buttons satisfy, and the firm, solid keys give a little as you press down. The feel is reminiscent of what you find on the Lenovo IdeaPad S10. Lacking any extra shortcut buttons (like the S10), the Samsung N110 comes across as a semi-stylish but bland netbook on the surface.

Of course, it all comes down to personal taste. (For instance, I think the HP Mini 1000 makes better use of that same amount of space with its wide, flat keyboard.)

Otherwise, you're getting the standard-issue layout for a netbook: an SD card reader, three USB 2.0 ports, VGA, ethernet, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, headphone and microphone jacks, and a webcam. And don't forget the tinny speakers - the curse of most netbooks.

If you're familiar with netbooks at all, you know not to expect them to be speed demons. No exception here: the 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU and 1GB of RAM in the Samsung N110 motored through our WorldBench 6 tests with the same verve we saw from the initial pack of netbooks using the same processor.

It scored a hair higher than Samsung's previous model, earning a middle-of-the-road mark of 36. Also unremarkable is the fact that the machine comes with a 160GB hard drive. Where it does shine, though, is in the battery-life department: the Samsung N110 ran for a staggering 8 hours, 23 minutes.

That's long by any stretch - and by netbook standards, the Samsung N110 outdoes the competition without having to use an overly meaty battery. The system weighs only 1.26kg.

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The feature attractions lie in the bundled software package. Samsung Recovery Solution III is a handy backup and system-restore program that even throws in a couple of suggestions regarding the possible causes of your machine's problems, giving you a recommended course of backup action to resolve the matter.

Easy Network Manager lets you quickly and effortlessly connect to networks; it's a superfluous bit of software for anyone remotely savvy enough, but it puts a pretty face on the standard Windows XP option. We even like the well-annotated and easily navigable digital user guide. We're not kidding - we wish every netbook came this well prepared for battle.

Samsung N110: Specs

  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270
  • 10.1in (1024x600) glossy LCD display
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home SP3
  • 160GB 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics
  • VGA out
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • 100Mb/s ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g
  • Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
  • SD card slot
  • mic in, headphone out
  • built-in mic
  • stereo speakers
  • 1.3Mp webcam
  • 6-cell/5900mAh battery
  • 272x189x30mm
  • 1262g
  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270
  • 10.1in (1024x600) glossy LCD display
  • Microsoft Windows XP Home SP3
  • 160GB 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics
  • VGA out
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • 100Mb/s ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g
  • Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
  • SD card slot
  • mic in, headphone out
  • built-in mic
  • stereo speakers
  • 1.3Mp webcam
  • 6-cell/5900mAh battery
  • 272x189x30mm
  • 1262g

OUR VERDICT

The original Samsung NC10 is still available, and at around £50 less than the N110 it remains an attractive purchase. Either model can stand proud as an excellent netbook compared to competition that often just misses the mark in aspects such as keyboard quality, battery life or speaker performance. But if you want to stretch to the extra for the N110 you’ll be rewarded with a mini laptop possessing great usability, better than average build quality and outstanding battery life.

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