The Samsung NC10 doesn't exactly break the mould when it comes to design. It's a standard 10.2-inch Netbook that in terms of design sits squarely between the Asus Eee PC 1000 and the MSI Wind. This isn't a bad thing, as Samsung has clearly looked at what works and put its own spin on it.
The result is clearly the best Netbook so far. It's certainly one the most aggressively priced, as along with the Advent 4211, which is a rebadged MSI Wind, it's the first 10-inch Netbook to break the sub-£300 barrier.
The design is compact and the look crisp. Available in three colours - black, blue and white - the matt finish of our white review sample is typical. In the hand it feels solid and robust
The white plastic casing feels good in the hand, while the silver trim around the edge, and also on the hinges, gives it a smart look. Our one concern with the design is with the hinges, which on our sample held the screen in place but felt as thought they would soon weaken.
The hinges open the screen to a maximum 45-degree angle, so be careful not to try and force it back any further.
Weighing 1.3kg, with the six-cell battery fitted, it measures 260 x 170 x 30mm at its mid point. Sure, the battery sticks out of the bottom but this only adds an extra 5mm to the overall depth.
Slightly more annoying is the balance of the machine, as the battery means there is more weight at the back than at the front, so feels back heavy when perched on your knee.
When it comes to specification, you'll find the NC10 is very much a Netbook, packing in an Intel Atom N270 processor and 1024MB of memory. The 160GB hard drive is a welcome addition (Samsung has no plans to offer an SSD drive at the moment), which is partitioned into two equally sized portions.
Pre-installed with Windows XP, we found it loaded smoothly and quickly, booting in just 29 seconds. Performance was more than acceptable, running basic office tasks with relative ease.
You won't want to run anything too taxing on this kind of machine but as a second machine for use out and about, or around the house, it proved great for word processing and surfing the internet.
We've grown accustomed to manufacturers simply loading the basic install of Windows onto their Netbooks but Samsung has gone the extra mile and added its standard array of applications, such as Samsung Battery Manager and Recovery Solution III.
The first time you launch the NC10 you'll be forced to create a backup image and then you'll be able to set up user profiles. We found setting up the wireless connection, it uses an Atheros chipset, easy and we were on the internet within minutes.
You'll also find McAfee Internet Security has also been bundled with it, which is something we've not seen with other Netbooks. It's inclusion may not sway your buying decision but if you're going to use it for web browsing it'll certainly come in useful.
The two most important aspects of any Netbook are the screen and keyboard and we can safely say, the NC10 excels in both departments. The 10.2-inch screen may have the standard 1024 x 600-pixel resolution, so images are a good size. As a result, as with all Netbooks, you'll still need to scroll sideways to view most web pages.
It's a backlit LED panel, which can be switched off and in standard mode looks incredibly bright. Even dropping the NC10 down into Maximum Battery Mode, which takes the screen down to its minimum level, you'll still find it more than usable.
However, what really makes this Netbook stand out is the sheer quality of the keyboard. Until now, the MSI Wind has clearly been the most user-friendly but having used the NC10 for the last few days, we feel it has beaten the MSI into second place.
It fills the entire width of the 260mm chassis and are 95 per cent full-sized. The keystroke is quite short but the keys feel incredibly sturdy, as you type and you'll soon find yourself typing with relative ease. Secondary function keys are small but at least Samsung has added a full compliment, which is something you won't see on the likes of the Dell Inspiron 9, for example.
The touchpad is rather small and the use of a dual-click single strip mouse button will have its detractors but overall we found navigation was easy.
MSI made a mistake with the Wind by releasing it with a 3-cell battery, which undermined it's otherwise all-round usability. Samsung hasn't made that mistake, as the 6-cell battery more than lives up to expectations. In standard mode, Battery Manager Normal, we managed to get 298 minutes, which at just shy of five hours is highly impressive.
Dropping down into Maximum Battery Life mode we managed to eek a further 26 minutes from the system, to get an overall battery life of 324 minutes. Simply put, if battery life is high on your list of requirements, this is the Netbook to opt for.
The design incorporates nothing new in terms of features, so you'll find three USB ports - one on the right-and side, two on the left - VGA-out, Ethernet port and mic and headphone jacks. One nice touch is that icons down the side of the keyboard highlight where they are so you don't need to pick the machine up to locate the USB port, for instance.
On the front of the casing you'll find the obligatory Secure Digital slot, which supports SD HC. Stereo speakers are located on the base of the machine and while the quality is tinny what we found impressive was the volume, which is far better than we've heard on any other Netbook.
So, has the Samsung NC10 been worth waiting for? Clearly the answer is yes. While it does nothing new, it takes all the proven good points of other devices, tightens them up and delivers an excellent package at a great price. It'll be interesting to see how other companies respond but for the time being, Samsung has set the benchmark for 10-inch Netbooks and set it high.