Need more power than from a tablet computer?
Netbook computers used to be the next big thing. Two or three years ago they were being promoted by most computer makers as a cheap, portable alternative to full-size laptops.
That position in the market has now been firmly overtaken by the tablet computer – for many people considering netbooks, what they wanted was a computer for checking and sending email, browsing websites and maybe listening to music and watching video. Tablet computers have all those features and are thinner and lighter than netbooks, but also more expensive.
So what's the point of a new netbook such as Samsung's NC110? Well, it's still useful as a tool for all of the above tasks, but as a full Windows computer it can do more. Windows 7 doesn't work well on keyboard-less tablets, but it works much better on the NC110 which has a full, though small, keyboard, and a combact but usable touchpad. Though the keys were small, we found the keyboard comfortable for typing, and the key are well-spaced, which meant we didn't find ourselves hitting the wrong key by accident. We did find it annoying that the backslash key has for no reason been moved to the far right of the keyboard.
It's been given a makeover compared with previous Samsung netbooks. Those models were already admirably slim but the NC110 is even more svelte – it's only a little over 2cm thick when closed, although there's a bulge at the back where the battery sticks out. It weighs a light 1.18kg and has an impressive battery life of between five and seven hours in use. The screen is a 10.1in model with anti-glare coating so there were no problems with reflections under bright lights.
At the heart of the computer are an Intel Atom N550 processor that runs at a speed of 1.5GHz which compares favourably with the typical tablet-computer processor that runs at 1.0-1.2GHz. The figures can't be directly compared, but for tasks such as editing a photo, the NC110 is likely to be faster than a current tablet.
A webcam with microphone is built into the screen surround, and there are two stereo speakers which worked reasonably well. It doesn't have a CD or DVD drive but it does have two USB sockets (though not using the faster USB 3 standard), a VGA socket for attaching a monitor, headphone and microphone sockets and a Kensington lock socket. It connects to wired and wireless networks and Bluetooth devices.
There's a 250GB hard disk, which again is around 10 times larger than the storage of the average tablet computer. It comes with the slightly cut-down Windows 7 Starter edition operating system, but it also comes with the good, free Office Starter 2010 package of a word processor and spreadsheet program.
Although it lacks the big selection of apps that make tablet PCs a success, the Samsung NC110 has other advantages – it has a full version of Windows, can run most programs and is both light and portable.
Users who want to do nothing more than a little light email and video watching –and who can stump up the extra £100 or £200 – will find that a decent tablet computer suits them better. But if you need to combine portability with power – and a keyboard - the Samsung NC110 fits the bill admirably.
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If you need more than a tablet computer - for less money - the Samsung NC110 is a great choice.
Thin and light; reasonably powerful; good battery life; comfortable keyboard for typing
No USB 3 sockets for fast data transfer; slightly odd keyboard layout
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