Samsung NC20 Says Forget the Dell AdamoBy Frank Ohlhorst | Posted 2009-03-19 Email Print
Dell may be looking to make ultralight Windows notebooks sexy with Adamo, but Samsung is breaking the netbook mold by going a little bigger and a lot faster with its NC20, a Via Nano-powered portable that stretches the definition of a netbook to a notebook.
With its NC20, its latest entry into the ultra-hot netbook market, Samsung is asking the channel, "When is a netbook not a netbook?"
Originally perceived as a replacement for the 2.8-pound Intel Atom-powered NC10, the NC20 introduces a new genre of portable computing, something that is more than a netbook but still less than a notebook.
The 3.3-pound NC20 brings a 1.3GHz Via Nano U225 processor, WXGA 12.1-inch display, 160GB hard drive, 1GB of RAM, Bluetooth 2.0, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Ethernet, 3-in-1 card reader and 1.3-megapixel camera to the realm of netbooks for a retail price of about $599. It's more expensive than the typical netbook, but then again, users are getting a larger screen (12.1 inches versus 10 inches), a faster processor and a bigger hard drive, along with a full-size keyboard.
The extra performance, the slightly larger size and the 12.1-inch screen make the NC20 more akin to an ultraportable system, such as the $1,199 Lenovo ThinkPad X200, the $1,799 entry-level Toshiba Portege R600 or the new $1,999 Dell Adamo. Of course, comparing the Nano-powered NC20 to those Intel Centrino-powered ultraportables isn’t really fair. Even so, the NC20 did pretty good performancewise, scoring a Passmark rating of 302.1, a bit better than an MSI Wind U100 (Passmark rating: 198.1), yet a far cry from Toshiba’s top-of-the-line Portege R600 (Passmark rating: 434.4).
While the NC20 may not perform as well as a $3,000 Toshiba Portege, it sure does offer a lot for $2,400 less. Users will find a bunch of ports, including three USB ports and VGA, audio, SD Card and RJ-45 Ethernet ports. You won’t find a built-in optical drive, but you will find a 1.3-megapixel Webcam integrated into the LCD bezel.
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From a usability standpoint, the NC20 proved to be one of the best netbook-style systems to use—applications loaded up fast, the keyboard worked well and the touchpad proved easy to use. Our test unit came direct from Korea and had a Korean version of Windows XP Home installed, as well as a dual-purpose keyboard, with both English and Korean keys.
We remedied the OS issue by performing a fresh install of Windows XP SP2 on the system to overcome the language barrier. The NC20 worked fine with an external, USB-powered optical drive. The only other chore we had to do was download the drivers from Samsung and burn those onto a CD to install the unit’s various devices and options.
The NC20’s battery life was nearly 5 hours of continuous use, a little short compared with other six-cell netbooks, but still nothing to be ashamed of considering the larger screen and increased performance. Otherwise, everything worked as expected, ranging from Wi-Fi connectivity to Bluetooth to USB devices.
At about $600, it is pretty hard to ignore what the NC20 brings to the table. Users considering an Intel-based ultraportable will want to take a long, hard look at the NC20 to see if they can save a few bucks by going the netbook route. Those looking to buy a netbook should also take a good look at the NC20, where for a few dollars and a few ounces more, the NC20 proves to be more usable than a 10-inch Atom-powered netbook.