A standard netbook with a pretty conventional design, Samsung's NC10 won't turn many heads, but its crowning feature is built-in 3G wireless broadband. Partnered with Optus, the Samsung NC10 becomes a handy road-warrior — if you can live with the tiny touchpad.
The Samsung NC10 netbook has a basic design that follows a pattern similar to the plethora of netbooks already available on the market. This standard design is no surprise, as the NC10 has been available overseas for quite some time before finally hitting Australian shelves. Despite the lack of style flourishes, the netbook’s gloss black lid, chrome edges and sturdy build quality is still impressive. The large chrome hinges feel well built, and the Samsung NC10's display exhibits minimal flex when twisted. The Samsung NC10's chassis is made of a strong plastic and there are no loose, squeaking or moving parts.
The Samsung NC10's keyboard is well spaced and comfortable to use, and the keys are all in their regular positions. Unfortunately, the touchpad is quite small and too narrow for our liking — it’s about an inch wide — and in our tests scrolling and general gesturing was a little frustrating. The NC10's display is LED backlit, meaning it is brighter and uses less power than a regular LCD screen. Viewing angles aren't great though and the standard 1024x600 resolution means the desktop can be a little cramped.
The Samsung NC10 netbook’s netbook specifications are similar to the rest of the pack — it runs Windows XP SP3, has a 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 processor, a 160GB hard disk drive, 1GB of DDR2 RAM and integrated graphics. Its best feature is the built-in 3G wireless broadband, with a SIM card slot located under the battery. Samsung has partnered with Optus for the NC10 launch, offering the netbook for free if you sign up to one of two 24 month contract plans — a $49.99 per month plan that includes 2GB of data and a $69.99 per month plan with 5GB of data. It is not available as a standalone netbook locally.
The Samsung NC10 netbook includes Optus’ wireless broadband software pre-installed, and getting online is a simple matter of launching the software and clicking connect. In our tests the Optus network isn’t always on par with its competitors, but the convenience of not having to plug in a USB modem for wireless broadband as well as freeing up an USB port, still makes this a nice addition. During testing, we managed to achieve download speeds of up to 2.2 kilobytes per second (KBps) and upload speeds of up to 1.6KBps — slightly better speeds than Optus' own E1762 Wireless Broadband USB modem.
The Samsung NC10 netbook features the standard array of ports with three USB 2.0 ports, a D-Sub port, 10/100 Ethernet, headphone and microphone jacks, an SD card reader and a Kensington lock slot. The lack of Gigabit Ethernet is disappointing and the SD card reader is annoyingly positioned on the edge of the front fascia. Bluetooth 2.0 and 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity are included and a neat set of LED lights on the front panel provide notifications for caps and number lock, power and hard drive use, amongst others.
During general use, the Samsung NC10 netbook is a very quiet machine, despite the use of a regular hard drive rather as opposed to a quieter SSD one. The underside of this netbook does get a little warm during prolonged use, though it's not enough to detract from the overall user experience.
In our iTunes test it took the Samsung NC10 netbook 7min 52sec to encode 53min worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3s. This is quite a good result for a netbook and it is a better score than the BenQ Joybook Lite U120 Eco and MSI's Wind U120 recorded. The NC10 netbook also fared well in our hard drive transfer speed test, with a result of 21.63 megabytes per second (MBps).
The Samsung NC10 netbook includes a VGA webcam above the display. Audio from the built-in speakers is about average — there is little bass and distortion is evident at high volumes, but using a regular set of headphones produces reasonable audio quality.
Battery life is quite impressive. In our battery test, where we loop a video file with the screen brightness at its highest setting, the Samsung NC10's 6-cell battery lasted just over four hours. This test was conducted in high-performance mode, so you will get even better results by changing the Windows XP power settings.
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