Last year Samsung released some cool-looking coloured netbooks which stood out in the crowd. For its latest model, the Korean manufacturer has gone for a more demure look with its gloss-black N210.
The new netbook has a 10.1-inch screen, though the frame around the display looks oddly wider than normal, making the screen look smaller. An optical illusion, we're sure, but the combination of glossy edge, matte main frame and gloss inner frame looks busy and space-grabbing.
Unlike most netbooks, the N210 has a matte rather than a glossy screen with consequently muted colours but at least it means there's no problem setting the computer up on an office desk trying to avoid the reflections shiny screens create.
The display is sharp and bright, thanks to the up-to 1152 x 864 resolution. Stick with the default 1024 x 600 resolution for best results, though. Below the display, the keyboard looks pretty smart and spacious. The keys and all the space around them are black with white lettering. The whole thing is framed with a narrow chrome edge which looks good from above and the side, defining the N210's design neatly when it's shut. Also on the edge is the power switch - a spring-loaded slider on the edge nearest the user.
Of course, you need to touch those keys, not just gaze at them. And though it looks spacious, it's still quite cramped and takes a little getting used to. And, as usual with netbooks, that trackpad is titchy enough to be awkward, though Samsung is hardly on its own in this regard. And at least it includes easy navigation: swipe a finger down the right-hand edge of the trackpad to move down the screen. You can also achieve the same effect by swiping anywhere on the trackpad with two fingers.
The N210's speed is unexceptional thanks to the standard Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz processor and 1GB of memory, though at least the hard drive is capacious - 250GB.
Other standouts on this netbook include battery life, promising over 11 hours of life and in our tests the battery was certainly impressive, especially as the battery, though protruding downwards at the base of the unit so the netbook is slightly tipped up, doesn't poke out in an ugly fashion at the back.
Then there's HyperSpace Instant-on to take you to a Linux online environment if you can't wait for the time it takes for Windows 7 to boot. We had some problems here because the software didn't automatically install when the netbook was first launched. To get to it we had to restore the PC and delete a partition (which may not suit all users).
When it was finally working it was simple enough to invoke - pressing F6 during Startup and the customisable screen appeared complete with weather, BBC World News, Share prices and Twitter feed. It was certainly quicker than a full Windows boot and cute looking, though the description of instant-on is pushing things. The weather was loyally fixed to Samsung's home capital Seoul until we changed it. How much use this configuration will prove is another matter, but it's cool enough to have the option.
It looks ordinary enough and has largely average performance, though the extra battery life is welcome and the alternative Linux boot-up is fun. It may be that the battery life on its own will be enough to recommend it to you - just don't expect it to turn any heads.