The Samsung N210 joins the company's illustrious line of netbooks, this time armed with the very latest version of Intel Atom N450 along with a new integrated graphics processor. Will the new chips reward with increased performance or battery life?

The Samsung N210 is from Samsung's freshest netbook lineup, but offers little new over its similar 10in-screen brethren such as the Samsung NC10, N110 and N140 models - except a new version of the Intel Atom and a new integrated graphics processor.

Pine Trail M is the codename Intel gives its new series of Atom processors honed for low-power netbooks, leading with the Atom N450 chip used in this Samsung N210.

‘Low power', meaning they consume little power and radiate minimal waste heat - useful attributes in a laptop that's more likely than not to spend time working from battery power.

But that low-power rating extends to raw performance too of course. Even if you're not asking your laptop to take on desktop power duties, you still need enough compute clout to stop your portable being dragged down by mundane tasks like running a Skype video chat or viewing Flash-based websites.

Read our reviews of other Samsung netbooks:

There may be a fraction more horsepower from the N450 Atom, looking at the 1.66GHz clock spec, against the 1.60GHz of the original N270.

In fact the Atom N450 has more in common with the Intel Atom N280 chip, as found in the Samsung N510 netbook, for example. It shares the exact same 1.66GHz clock speed, 667MHz front-side bus and 512kB of L2 cache.

In its favour, the new Atom N450 is specified to work with a 64-bit OS - but we can't see that feature being exploited very often on netbooks where most manufacturers install a paltry 1GB RAM, and don't provide the means to upgrade beyond 2GB.

But in our lab tests, we did notice a measurable difference, with the Samsung N210 scoring 36 points in WorldBench 6.

While regular readers might question this so-so result - actually little different to just about every netbook we've benchtested in the last two years - it's worth noting that this is a Windows 7 result.

Our previous tests suggest that when moving from Windows XP to Windows 7, you will see around a 10% drop in real-world performance, caused by the overheads of the new operating system. Hence, netbooks running the original Intel Atom tend to score closer to just 30 points when wielding Windows 7.

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The other mooted benefit of the latest Intel Atom N450 is better battery life, helped along here by the use of more efficient complementary graphics and system chipsets.

Here, however, we saw little tangible benefit - at least not when referenced to the last Samsung netbook we tested.

The Samsung N210 lasted for 9 hrs 42 mins in our MobileMark 2007 Productivity test - a truly outstanding result that should allow a long day's work before recharging.

But set against this, the Samsung N140 with its original Atom, Windows XP, and the exact same capacity battery (66Wh) lasted for very nearly as long: 9 hrs 36 mins.

The move to Intel GMA 3150 integrated graphics in the Samsung N210 resulted in no real difference in gaming performance either. Given the ordeal by FEAR at Maximum quality settings, the Samsung N210 limped along at 2 frames per second, rising glacially to 4fps at High, 6fps at Medium, then 25fps at Low quality settings.

The rest of the package

Looking over the rest of the Samsung N210, there's little new to stand out. It has the usual stock of three USB 2.0 ports, ethernet (the older 100Mb/s variety), VGA video output, webcam and microphone.

Wireless is 802.11n and Bluetooth is version 2.1.

The lid sports a smart shiny gunmetal-colour gloss, but the rest of the netbook's case is relegated to a mediocre black plastic construction.

It appears to be from the same stable as the Samsung X520 we recently tested, down to the low-rent front power slide switch and hard-edged chrome-effect plastic edging.

Samsung N210

The Samsung N210 has a handsome shiny lid that covers a less inspired interior

Small Scrabble keys have a nice positive action and allow easy use of the 252mm-wide keyboard. Once you're typing away you might not even notice how toy-like it appears compared to Samsung's hitherto classy designs.

An anti-glare matt screen is always welcome, although it has something of a sparkly grain when you look closely at the panel, and Samsung has alighted upon the idea of an additional shiny inner bezel that somehow conspires to make the screen seem smaller.

In fact, this 1024x600 display stretches to a shade under the 10.1in spec, at 10.05in across.

As with the Samsung N140, Samsung has made access to the mouse click buttons that bit trickier than it needs to, for no explicable reason.

Entirely flush-recessed into the top deck, these tricky clicky buttons require you to raise your hand slightly just to use them with your thumb tip. The trackpad above is responsive enough, small at 63x40mm in size but quite navigable by fingertip.

NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict >>

See our Laptop Advisor website for expert reviews of today’s best laptops, plus read our essential advice to make sure you choose the right specs

Samsung N210: Specs

  • 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450
  • 667MHz FSB
  • 512kB L2 cache
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Starter 32-bit
  • 10.1in (1024 x 600) matt LED-backlit LCD display
  • 250GB 2.5in 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • Intel NM10 chipset
  • Intel GMA 3150 integrated graphics
  • VGA
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • SD card reader
  • ethernet 100Mb/s
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • audio-in, headphone jacks
  • webcam
  • built-in mic
  • stereo speakers
  • 66Wh Li-ion battery
  • 265 x 189 x 26–29mm
  • 1346g
  • 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450
  • 667MHz FSB
  • 512kB L2 cache
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Starter 32-bit
  • 10.1in (1024 x 600) matt LED-backlit LCD display
  • 250GB 2.5in 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • Intel NM10 chipset
  • Intel GMA 3150 integrated graphics
  • VGA
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • SD card reader
  • ethernet 100Mb/s
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • audio-in, headphone jacks
  • webcam
  • built-in mic
  • stereo speakers
  • 66Wh Li-ion battery
  • 265 x 189 x 26–29mm
  • 1346g

OUR VERDICT

We found it difficult to get excited by a netbook that barely matches earlier models in performance and feels cheaper in overall build quality to boot. It looks more plasticky than a Samsung NC10 or N110, has discernibly no more performance than them (in part, to be fair, because it’s slowed down by Microsoft’s newer OS), and we measured no leap forward in battery life than the Samsung N140 we last tested. It also weighs over 100g more than an N140. In short, while it’s a competent enough little laptop that will make a good netbook companion, it struggles to meet the high standards set by previous Samsung netbooks.

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