Samsung NC20 Says Forget the Dell Adamo

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article 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.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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