Samsung N220 Pine Trail Netbook

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O/S, Pre-installed Software: For those unfamiliar with Windows 7 Starter edition, it operates much in the same way as the Home Premium edition, but lacks a host of features. These omissions include: the Aero interface, the ability to change the wallpaper and visual style, Windows Media Center, multi-touch, multiple monitors, fast user switching, network printing and internet connection sharing. There is also no 64-bit version, though this is unimportant for systems with 3GB of RAM or less.

Most of these features are unlikely to be missed on a netbook, though not being able to change the wallpaper seems petty on Microsoft's part. And despite all the deletions, it's still Windows 7, which is more demanding of hardware than XP. Subjectively, the Samsung N220 felt sluggish until much of the bloatware that came pre-installed was removed. This included McAfee SecurityCenter, a trial version of Office, Works, a plethora of simple games. Once it was cleaned up, the system was serviceable with basic applications, but it felt less snappy than the XP-equipped 1005HA. Windows 7 also eats more RAM, with 600MB in use after a fresh boot-up.

Build Quality: The N220 seems well constructed except for a couple of weak spots on the bezel surrounding the screen. The area around the keyboard feels completely solid as does the exterior. The build quality is excellent for a netbook.

LCD: While glossy panels have become the norm in most mobile devices, netbook screens typically have matte finishes and the N220 is no exception. The screen is adequately bright and is easily visible in both outdoor and indoor settings alike. The colors are warmer and richer than most of the glossy LED-backlit screens found on 11~13" laptops. The resolution is our biggest problem as 1024x600 just isn't enough to properly render most webpages though we found that dragging the taskbar over to the side helped a bit. There is an option to expand the resolution to 1024x768 but this just stretches the picture out, making it look distorted.

Webcam: The included 0.3mp webcam is perhaps the worst we've ever experienced by a small margin. Generally grainy, it becomes noticeably more blurry than other models when motion is involved, and in low light, the image quality is atrocious.

Speakers: The tiny speakers under the lip of the machine produce, as one would guess, tinny sound about on par with a typical laptop. The volume can be pumped rather high, but that only makes it sound worse.

Keyboard: We would consider the keyboard one of the best among netbooks if it were not for the size. The keyboard exhibits very little flex and the keys offer excellent tactile feedback. Unfortunately, the keys are even smaller than the average 10" netbook with the main keys being only 9 mm wide. The island style utilized by Samsung just doesn't make sense in a machine this size. If you find typing on an Asus 1005HA or Acer Aspire One troublesome, it's best to avoid the N220.

Touchpad: The touchpad is nothing special — it has a small, simple, smooth surface with a small degree of resistance. The left/right mouse buttons are flush with rest of the body, making them somewhat difficult to press with your thumb.

HyperSpace: The N220 has a quick-boot operating system called HyperSpace which is similar to Asus' ExpressGate. It offers a browser, Skype, a simple notepad application, and a customizable front page with shortcuts to Gmail, Twitter, and other web services. HyperSpace isn't exactly instant-on as it takes 32 seconds to fully load, but this is less than half the time it takes to boot into Windows 7.

HyperSpace start-up screen.

It also requires a pre-allocated amount of system memory (128MB, 256MB or 512MB) because it can be run simultaneously with Windows. Once both operating systems are loaded it takes about 18 seconds to switch between the two.

Chargeable USB: The N220 also has a feature which allows you to charge USB devices even if the system is off, asleep, or hibernating. Simply load the Chargeable USB application, switch the toggle from off to on, and you're off to the races.

Chargeable USB screen.

With the feature enabled, the system did not draw any additional AC power when no devices were plugged in. We tested it by attempting to charge a pair of cell phones, a Sony Ericsson and a Motorola. The Sony phone claimed it was charging, but according to our power meter, the N220's energy draw did not increase. After an hour, the meter on the phone hadn't budged even a sliver. When we plugged in the Motorola phone, the system drew an extra 0.5W, but an error message came up on the phone's LCD that said "unable to charge." This feature may work better on other devices, but we wouldn't consider it a bankable selling point.

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