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back to article Samsung NC110 matte-screen netbook

Tight spots don’t come much trickier than the one netbook makers find themselves in. Squeezed from above by prettier, more interesting tablets, netbooks such as Samsung’s £350 N350 are barely appealing alternatives to Apple’s glossy view of the future. Samsung NC110 Samsung's NC110: more of the same, but with a gloss-less …

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FAIL

Asus eee 1015PX

does all of this and more, faster, for a cheaper price tag

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FAIL

don't forget

Samsung netbooks are garbage. After wasting $500 on a NC10 with a known video cable design flaw that failed two weeks after the short warranty expired I learned my lesson. Sure they are pretty and nice to use for the first year or so but plan on replacing it next year as Samsung thinks of netbooks as nothing but shiny disposable cigarette lighters.

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Anonymous Coward

eMachines em350

Pretty good value as well, especially running lubuntu.

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Boffin

Non-Glossy

I welcome return to proper Matt screen. Like we had nearly 10 years ago. Shiny on a screen is stupid. For YEARS people researched how to make screens Matt.

I think Matte may refer to photographic and cinema Masking? Unless El Reg has relocated.

In film:

* Matte (filmmaking), film and video technology

* Matte painting, a process of creating sets used in film and video

* Matte box, a camera accessory for controlling lens glare

* Open matte, a filming technique that involves matting out the top and bottom of the film frame in the movie projector

Matt: In British English, of a surface: having a non-glossy finish

Matte: In American English, of a surface: having a non-glossy finish

Anyway a glossy screen gives headaches due to eye re-focusing automatically on any moving reflection. Alleviated by careful position of desk etc. A Matt screen may not look so pretty in showroom, but is less distracting and less tiring. I suspect the glossy screens came in because they are cheaper and look prettier. For a tablet a glossy screen also shows up fingerprints worse than Matt. Matt is superior in brightly lit environments and outdoors.

Anyone remember the high contrast ultra-matt Victor 9000 / Sirius1 screen (done by a very fine nylon matt black mesh probably) compared to Shiny Goldfish bowl screens on all other Monitors? It was nearly 15 years before CRT colour monitors caught up (can't use mesh as it's not fine enough and you get moire fringing with mask/slots)

Otherwise nothing special on this netbook?

I hope the Matt no-gloss screen sets a trend.

Can we go back to 1200 lines/pixels (or better) instead of 1080 or lower please for those of us that want to read PDFs and Word DOCs and DTP layout "page at a time". Maybe even option for 4:3 screen and not WS. Some people actually use Laptop for working, not watching Video.

1G RAM is plenty for a netbook with a decent OS. You didn't buy it to run 5 server images or play a high end game?

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, it's all about the screen

If netbooks expect to survive the tablet storm in any way shape or form, they need to find a new useful niche. The 'convenient and portable media device' one has been pulled out from under their feet by the tablets so they should give up on that one and make the most of the fact that that they have a keyboard and so are more suited to business applications.

I'll buy a netbook as soon as they put a high enough resolution screen in that I can realistically use it as a remote terminal for connecting to VMs as that is the one occasion when an underpowered processor is not an issue. If any manufacturers stumble across this post, high enough resolution means 1680 x 1050 if it's a widescreen!

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What I don't understand is...

... for years I had a Dell monitor equipped with a flat CRT, possibly a Mitsubishi tube, that - despite being glass and shiny and all that - was /extremely/ resistant to reflections and glare due to the effective anti-glare coating.

Why isn't this old-skool approach utilised in current display technology?

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Linux

resolution, memory limitations....

Aren't all these limitations brought upon by Microsoft, or am I remembering this somewhat biasedly?

These limitations are more or less universal to all netbooks supplied with windows, probably the only way round this is to have the manufacturers just not bundle windows with them but that's of course, bad business sense as most of the (consumer) world in this market appaerntly seem to want windows. Or they pay the mactax.

/google /google.

Found this close to the top. There are probably more stories to follow but just as a sampler:

http://www.neoseeker.com/news/10812-microsoft-intel-limit-netbook-sizes-for-windows-7-licensing/

Truth or otherwise, I dunno but I would suspect that or some reason like it is why you don't see anything >2Gb RAM or screens bigger than 1024x600 on 10'' netbooks. I don't mind the resolution too much, can work round that. I just wish I had 4 gigs of RAM.

These limitations are of course fine with a finely tuned linux set up. I would suggest checking Debian out, they've got lightweight options ie LXDE/XFCE on install rather than gnome. Works fine for me.

Or for less tinkering I've heard ubuntu netbook remix is the one to go for but I've never tried it, my foot's quite firmly in the Debian camp. Apparently the latest ubuntu's not too bad too but I hear it's horribly bloated.

Or even running XP as my machine dual boots. I chucked out windows 7 starter. On an atom, it's... just a bit slow (may reflect my lack of knowledge in tweaking it however)... and ... I may just only reinstall that when XP finally ceases to be viable, which may not be for a while.

You can probably even boot OS X (dependent on your netbook), but since I have linux on it, I haven't bothered to hackintosh my netbook, and so I can't tell you how good (or bad) it is.

I trust linux just that much more than anything cupertino has to offer for the moment.

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screen res

My Dell mini 1012 has 1366x768 resolution, and the broadcom graphics speed up chip so it plays HD well. I think only the CPU and RAM are constrained by MS.

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J 3
Devil

@resolution, memory limitations....

I'm sure MS helped putting restrictions there (like not installing 2GB instead of 1 GB of RAM), but I suspect there is another problem: the Intel Atoms used in these machines only work with up to 2GB of RAM anyway -- or at least my 1015PN's CPU (the dual core, 64 bit N550) maxes out at that, from what I read at Intel's specs page.

Now, if that is because of technical limitations or artificial impositions like Microsoft's to protect higher end products, I don't know, really...

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@Alpine

Hmm.. interesting. Intel or AMD under the hood?

Where I live at present we seem to be stuck with 1024x600... But only with atoms. Seems if you go with AMD you don't have that screen size limitation.

http://www.dell.com/au/p/laptops.aspx?c=au&l=en&s=dhs&~ck=mn#facets=42443~0~212420&p=1

I've noticed however, if you go up from 10 inch to 12 inch ie Asus Eee 1215N - you transcend the 2Gb RAM limit and resolution limit, because you're no longer quite a 'netbook' or so the theory goes.

Honestly, I have no idea why the big players, M$/intel are deliberately doing this, deliberately hamstringing Atom netbooks. It only forces us to go linux, or XP and not use W7.

It's not like we're likely to use Atoms for heavy lifting anyways, and it comes to a point ie stuff like Asus U31 or even more costly macbooks where you can get a 'core' chip with more grunt, if you need it.

Anyways, hopefully when ARM's come in, we'll see 4gig netbooks (maybe not more than that till they go proper 64 bit). Having said that, I've been waiting for them for years... that tosh AC100 is hardly an excuse for one.

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Anonymous Coward

Matt screen

I think the glossy screens came about because they make the average user's photos look punchier and brighter on screen. Rise of glossy screens has coincided with the rise of the compact digital camera.

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Mitsubishi - anti glare; CRTs and UV?

Yes, Mitsubishi "flat" CRT tubes were excellent. I did get a headache if I was too close to my TV though.

Found this article which talks about Matt versus chemical coated displays. It also mentions UV and to look for CRTs that protect you from UV. Well I never heard that one before..

Never seemed to get a tan from television, though I could be mistaken..

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-an-anti-glare-computer-screen.htm

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FAIL

"...the price has gently declined..."

No it hasn't.

The range for a netbook has always been between £175 and £329. It hasn't changed a bit in two years or more.

Given you can get the Packard Bell DOT-SE-911 from John Lewis for £229, and as far as I can see it's the same spec, this is just a basic machine at a silly price.

I was honestly expecting a machine like this to be £150 by now. But no-one wants to sell machines that cheap - they'd rather price netbooks too high, then say "no-one wants them" - so they can concentrate on making bloody tablets that loads of people don't actually want.

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Re. "...the price has gently declined..."

>making bloody tablets that loads of people don't actually want

But want to be seen with.

On the whole I agree with your post netbooks are in general overpriced, 250 should be the absolute top, 300+ is a no buy.

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Go the "refurbished" route

You do probably pay a premium of £50 or so for a dual core CPU (N550 rather than N450 or N455) in a netbook. Even despite that, Samsung are too expensive. This should be a £249 machine, not a £329 machine.

One reason why earlier netbooks only had 1Gb of RAM was that Microsoft insisted that they come with no more than this if they were going to sell the manufacturers Windows XP to put on them, after it had otherwise been discontinued. It has been rumoured that there are similar restrictions on the sale of Windows 7 Starter, so this may be Microsoft's fault.

If you don't mind buying a "refurbished" machine from Argos or some other retailer, you can buy as-new netbooks - current spec although single core - for well under £150 quid with full warranty and support. (In practice, "refurbished" just means someone bought it and then decided they didn't want it and bought it back. Argos are particularly good for this sort of thing as they have a 30 day no questions asked return policy). I have bought three this way for myself and other members of my family, and they have been great, for the right product niche. The netbook is not my only computer or even my only laptop, but it is great to travel with, as it weighs practically nothing, provides me with the full functions of a PC - you can do work on it if you have to, which you can't with an iPad - and is so cheap that if it is broken or stolen I just buy another one without getting stressed.

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FAIL

premium?

Asus eee 1015PX has an Atom N570 i.e ought to be more expensive (than the N550) based on the same reasoning, yet that Netbook is £249

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Bronze badge

Few years ago

Few years ago, Asda had a deal on Acer Aspire One A150s. 120GB HDD, though 512MB RAM.

£150.

Ran Linpus Linux, quick enough and had Firefox as the browser immediately available.

Though the amount of people who bought one then complained cause its "different its not Windows" probably caused netbook manufacturers to abandon Linux, pre-install MS OSs, pay the Windows tax and be restricted in specs and pricing.

We keep being told that technology is getting cheaper and faster, yet for £329 that is full-sized laptop/desktop price in my opinion.

Netbooks should go back to being cheap.

Tablets are fine to maybe look at some holiday snaps, or to idly browse the web similar to a mobile phone. But when a serious email needs written, or a booking needs made online, the netbook does the job.

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Mushroom

£350, low-spec, Windows Shit Edition?

Thank you for virtually killing the netbook segment, Microsoft! Hope your "post-PC" efforts turn to dust, you selfish pricks!

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Joke

Is there an edition...

...of Windows that isn't shit?

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Err...

Probably Windows 2000 in its heyday.

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Meh

Not Microsoft

This is lousy over priced HARDWARE. Nothing to do with Microsoft. There is no reason whatsoever that this net-book could not have been supplied with 2 or 3 gigs of ram.

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Yes, it is microsofts fault

The companies are restricted in what they can supply in a Windows machine in this area. This is why you never got a notebook with a honking great SSD or with buckets of RAM. It's a hell of a lot to do with Microsoft.

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Meh

@Lottie

NOTHING WHAT SO EVER TO DO WITH MICROSOFT. The reason u dont get a notebook with "...honking great SSD" is that the SSD would be worth 10X the notebook it was atached to. Supply the full Windows 7 and 3 or 4 gigs of ram no problems. Anyway they dont do OS-less net books with honking great SSD's and bucket loads of memory either so whats your excuse for that ??

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intl's fault?

Is it an urban myth that intel's licensing is preventing things like more ram coming as standard?

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Meh

Intel

That's what I've heard too. I think intel restricted the components when used with certain atom processors, such as not being allowed a screen res greater than 1024x600, amount of RAM etc. Intel don't want people having usable, cheap small machines.

Or has nothing advanced in the last 2 years?

Either way, Intel and Microsoft killed netbooks. A shame really, as they're actually useful (unlike a certain new fad...)

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Anonymous Coward

Succeeding at failure

You get the impression they aren't really trying with netbooks anymore.

Too much risk of eating into laptop/tablet sales I guess.

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Bronze badge

Agreed

I still like using this ageing Asus Eee 900, great size & weight (just a shame the battery life sucks and it's only 900mhz) but I do not want a fullsize laptop as they're too big too heavy too awkward to carry round and the keyboard is too big, I've really gotten use to the size of the Eee 900 keyboard, and do not want a tablet because typing on a screen sucks in comparison to a real keyboard.

I thought that netbooks would evolve more but it appears Apple has screwed that up because everyone's smitten with the tablet market, the consumers have that "oooh, shiny!" deer-in-the-headlights look whilst all the manufacturers have dollar signs in their eyes, leaving those who still want netbooks to evolve with higher spec processors & higher resolution screens and still remaining in their small form factor are ignored (does anyone actually make 9" netbooks anymore?)

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Bronze badge

Atom = Not enough RAM, in the first place

But yes, the ceiling with that processor which you aren't forced to put in your notebooks, unless Microsoft insists) is 2 GB.

Binning the RAM when you buy double only costs -so- much more, I assume the module that's there is almost worthless in 2011but regardless, this is not a PC to buy and then upgrade to the specification you actually want, if you can order that specification instead.

You like the screen, fine...

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This is a bit lame.

There are plenty of netbooks that come with 1Gb and have an empty slot into which you can stick another 1Gb. This is a good reason for avoiding this Samsung, frankly.

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Brazos

Atom doesn't really cut it any more, why not review some Brazos netbooks?

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Coat

Whenever I see the word "Brazzos"

I think of "Brazzers".

the one that looks like Colombo left it here, obviously.

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Me too

That was the first thought I had too.

Clearly we've been on the internets for too long.

Anyway, it annoys me that the author of the article says that netbooks arn't doing anything new and different whilst simultaneously not reviewing any netbooks that are.

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FAIL

GMA

GMA - Graphically Mismatched Architecture

Two things have screwed the netbook format: a) Intel 'enhanced' the later Atom CPU specs to include integrated GMA (which is not up to the job) and so the manufacturers moved away from Nvidia Ion based configurations and b) Microsoft coerced the manufacturers to bundle W7.

I'm writing this on an Asus 901 running Ubuntu - a very useful combination. It'd be perfect if it had Ion based gfx. Two & half years ago it cost only £240.

Remember: it's not about what the punters want to buy, it's about what the global megacorps want to sell.

ps don't flame on battery life: unlike usable wireless networks, I'm rarely far away from AC power for long, ymmv.

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Linux

Umm

So, it can't run Windows 7. Fine.

Did you try Linux or XP on it ?

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Linux

Wrong OS

From reading the comments, it seems Linux and XP are the more popular OSs for this class of device. People reading a hardware review for a new netbook really need to know this, given the fact that XP doesn't play nice with all newer computers (incompatibility with BIOS or hard disk partitioning), sometimes resulting in failed installs blowing away other OS installations on intended dual boot setups.

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Unhappy

give us something useful

Like a sensible lump of RAM, an SSD and a DVD drive.You can then have £350 of my money.

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Since when

did every new product have to be revolutionary and magical?

It's a netbook, use it for sending email and browsing on the move. It doesn't need higher specs for that.

An SSD would be nice but realistically you aren't going to get anything bigger than 20GB and the big spinny HD lets you dump quite a few episodes of something on it for travelling.

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wrong direction

Maybe it's just me, but if there was an edge-to-edge 7" netbook, it would fit in a jacket pocket. Am I the only one who thinks that would be VERY convenient?

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Anonymous Coward

9" toshiba nb100 still going strong after 2 years

agree. i like my 9" toshiba nb100 for that reason, sub-10" notebooks without an appalling thick bezel are rare, the toshiba nb100 being an exception.

crucial.com (not just ebay as review stated) is ideal for a 2gig memory replacement upgrade.

My tosh came with xp home but with lots of trialware guff and mcafee which mysteriously hogged >50% of the cpu on occasions.

so I bought a oem xp home full genuine install cd off ebay, and reinstalled cleanly windows xp from that and used microsoft's key updater tool to change the serial product license key to that valid one which was on the laptops label. result, nice clean windows xp, runs sweet.

put norton av on it, i dont have problems with it being a hog, dont get mysterious freezes and its more transparent about what its doing than mcafee. (i dont work for norton).

great little machine, the nb100, keyboard small (but then its a netbook) and letters dim in low light but can get illuminous stickers for that : http://superuser.com/questions/220653

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Fan

Does it have a fan?

Can I please have a netbook with

(a) no fan (b) SSD (c) better than 1024x768 screen.

Thank you.

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J 3
Flame

@Fan

I suspect that, without a fan, the processor would have to be changed quite dramatically here! I just got an Asus 1015PN, and the thing has a very active fan, blowing very hot air for most of the time. At least compared to my older 100-HE, which was just a bit lukewarm to the touch, and would only blow more hot air when under heavier loads.

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Silver badge
FAIL

only because intel is incompetent

Intel seems unable to make a decent cool mobile processor that uses under watt of energy only which ARM has been doing for over a decade. Some of the reason people are choosing ARM tablets (except the Intel prototype tablet which got garbage reviews) over netbooks is the fact they don't need fans, don't get hot, and have surprisingly comparable performance for many things.

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Meh

See icon

This Samsung sounds very similar to theEee 1015PN I just got, although I paid $280 (notice: dollars) for it. Except the 1015PN has one HDMI output, and the Nvidia Ion graphics (which eat battery life like crazy, apparently); everything else sounds pretty much the same. I just ordered a 2 GB memory stick to it, too. Cheap way to make it much better when under heavier loads.

I wouldn't have gotten the 1015PN, since my 1000HE works very well still. But since my mother wanted a netbook for email and the like, I thought why not get the 1015PN, see if it worked well for me, and then pass the 1000HE to her. If I for some reason did not like the new one (say: battery life worse due to dual core, new graphics), then I'd keep the 1000HE.

Well, general OS performance of the nearly 3 year old machine and the newer one is not so different, although the 1015PN deals better with higher res YouTube videos -- the 1000HE can not play 720P, while the 1015PN can. Is not always perfectly smooth, but it plays well. I haven't tried 1080 content, marketing says it should play. But my opinion of marketing, being a tad abrasive and unprintable for such a family rag as El Reg, makes me suspect that it is probably not as good as advertized. I did boot the Win 7 partition, and it works fine (for a Windows OS), it was quite impressive (compared to what I've seen Vista do to much mightier machines). I mean just OS running, and Firefox a bit to test things. Seemed perfectly useable, although not exactly snappy. Since I don't need, even less want, Windows, I promptly installed Ubuntu on it anyway, and that runs fine too -- the only nag is that switching Ion on and off can not be done immediately, it needs a reboot (oh, and some third party scripts, it's not part of the OS). Not a big problem for me, since I keep it off most of the time when I need good battery life.

So, I decided to keep the 1015PN because it is slightly less bulky than the 1000HE, and it also has a bit better battery life (if I keep the Nvidia Ion off). Otherwise, remarkable lack of amount of hardware progress in 3 years...

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Trivial? advantage of the N550...

Just got a 550. I'll keep you posted, but I boot a 64 bit linux on it. It's naturally *WAY* faster than 32 bit W7, haven't benched it properly against a 32 bit linux which I will install soon, but the results should be interesting when I get down to it, performance, battery life etc.

You remember there are arguments about 64 bits being a waste of time on a 2 gig addled machine as you'd expect more ram use. On a proper out-order AMD64/EM64T machine it makes more sense performance wise to go 64 bit, but I think the jury is yet out of 2gig netbooks.

There may be finer driver issues I have yet to encounter, but so far, it works fine (I don't have ion - went for battery life).

One thing I know I don't really have much in way of memory problems thus far.

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70%

I'm confused. This didn't sound like a 70% review.

It sounded decidedly average, which would surely equate to 50%?

And why is everything in 5's? Why not mark out of 10, instead of a percentage? Are there any 83% scores around here?

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Meh

Old one... like me...

I still use an original 10.2" matt screened NC10 for day to day use. I put in the second Gig of RAM and run Win 7 Ultimate on it. I honestly see no reason to 'upgrade'.

As far as I can see all subsequent models have kept a fairly similar price, too much, and build quality has taken a bit of a drop. The specs are so similar to mine and make barely any difference. The dual core processor uses less power so battery life has increased, but not by any world shattering amount, it's not as if you can take a netbook out for a day then recharge it the next day, like you can a mobile phone.

AFAIK MS did limit the spec for netbooks to have XP on them, and then extended those restrictions to Win 7 Starter. What a killer for such useful small computers! And assumptions that netbooks could seriously hurt laptop and tablet sales are most likely correct, or those restrictions would have been lifted by now.

There seems to be a train of thought by those who shout loudest that Linux ought to be the OS family of choice for netbooks, perhaps that may be correct. But the fact is that most consumers, by far, want Windows. They know how to use Windows, and know where to get help if they need it.

Netbooks need to evolve, but unfortunately, as long as people want Windows (and they always will) then they won't change very much, and they will never be as desirable as the lovely "fondle slabs" that we are supposed to be seen with these days.

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Silver badge

Rip off Britain?

Looks like you can buy it in the US for under $300.

Hell, you can get it in Australia for $360 (AUD).

Sure there's tax to contend with, but 329 quid is an outrageous liberty to be taking with the British public.

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Devil

Netbook crippling

I have an Acer Aspire One D260. It will take 2GB instead of the supplied 1GB but Acer make this as hard as possible. You have to take the machine apart (remove keyboard and then uncrew the back, the screw heads being on the inside (!), just to use the memory slot provided. I did it, naturally invalidating the warranty in the process.

There's something going on with netbook specifications and it's not for the customer's benefit; they just want you to buy a laptop like a good boy. Oh, and Windows 7 Starter sucks a very large one; it's put me off "upgrading" to Windows 7 on the upstairs PC, anyway.

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Bronze badge

A150

Same with the A150, except that the RAM limit is 1.5GB. But for a £150 laptop (with no Windows tax) I was happy.

Change the wireless card and it can even be hackintoshed!

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Megaphone

Netbook discussions...

Wow, all great posts pretty much.

To the author of the OA, does this model reviewed in the OP actually take linux easily?

We should continue this netbook themed discussions somewhere else perhaps. Seems there's a lot of us who are keen in this kind of thing.

For all I know there may be well a website/forum up exactly for this sort of thing. A netbook brand-agnostic forum where we can all grouse and gripe and discuss upgrades and alternative OS's. Naturally some netbooks take linuxes much easier than others, workarounds for these could feature too....

I used to go to Eeeuser, that was necessarily more eee centric but lately I've just been googling just about everywhere. Debian wiki has been helpful, for one. Not found any great spots yet.

Anyone here have any great suggestions?

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