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IT Pro's Netbook Epiphany (the Samsung NC10).....
on November 23, 2008
I've been involved with PC's since PC's came into existence. Through the years I've owned a wide range of notebooks from luggables, desktop replacements, to travel companions (currently I own a couple of 12" touch screen tablets and two HP 20" HDX media notebooks used as desktop replacements). I was ready for a new travel notebook and started to follow the evolving "Netbook" category. As in the past, I was faced with a substantial expenditure (several thousand dollars) to get one of the current higher end travel notebooks that would meet my general laptop requirements; a light, relatively powerful, good battery life and compact design. The evolving +/- $500 Netbook category piqued my curiosity and I started to read reviews and study the new product offerings including their upgradability potential, or lack thereof.
In my experience, most air travelers use a laptop similar to myself, web browsing, email, and light office applications (word, excel, etc); or in other words the "Netbook" categories target market.
On occasion I take long trips across the country (8 to 10 hour block to block) and I wanted my new purchase to provide a single charge that would last through that day's journey; no spare batteries or AC adapter in tow. A typical trip for me begins at the departure gate and firing up the notebook for a little catch-up computing while waiting for departure. Once airborne and settled in, I pull my notebook out for some on-board work. Upon arriving at my connection stop I either head to a travel lounge or the departure gate and get on-line once again. On the last flight leg, I'll generally pull out my notebook for some additional in-air use before getting to my destination.
My target requirements:
1. Light weight & Compact foot-print
2. Long battery life
3. 10" - 12" screen size, 1024x600 minimum resolution and bright
4. Reasonable processing power for intended use
5. Windows XP Pro
6. 2 GB of memory and a 320 GB 7200 rpm hard drive
MY NETBOOK SELECTION:
I purchased the "Samsung NC10" and I'M VERY IMPRESSED! I pre-ordered from Amazon.com and received the unit on 11/19/08. I settled on the white version since I'm not a fan of black keyboards which the NC10's blue and black color options sport. With the modifications discussed below, this little machine exceeds my overall expectations and is everything the various reviewers have analyzed and discussed to date. Most reviewers consider the keyboard on the NC10 the best in category, but since I'm not a touch typist that wasn't one of my hot buttons, however the key board is large, solid, and pleasant to use.
The standard NC10 came closest to my purchase specs for light weight; it's under 3 lbs, long battery life; it seems Samsung's targeted 6 - 8 hours of battery life is doable (I've hit 6+ hours using disk, WiFi and toned down screen brightness). The 10.2" screen is very bright and clear with 1024x600 resolutions; it helps to auto-hide the taskbar to buy a little more screen real estate. The unit is very compact and like most Netbooks its projected area is smaller then an 8.5"x11" sheet of paper and the closed clamshell is 1" thick. The standard unit arrives with XP Home, 1 GB memory and a 160 GB 5400 rpm drive. The NC10 feels solid, build quality (inside and out) are excellent and out of the box the unit was responsive and fairly snappy. I have two WiFi access points in my home and the NC10's WiFi card picked both up with excellent reception and through-put; I also tried my Sprint USB broadband adapter with equally satisfactory results.
Like most engineering types; "If its not broke, take it apart and fix it anyway". I've read the reviews and knew the memory and hard disk could be easily be upgraded (given a little bit of prior experience and some hardware finesse). I went to my preferred parts supplier, Newegg, and purchased a 2GB stick of RAM for $32 and a 7200 rpm 320 GB disk drive for $100. I also picked-up a nice Netbook carrying case by Caselogic for $12 with my Amazon order. I used Apricon's EZ Upgrade Kit to image the units' standard 160 GB disk and then put it on the shelf as the failsafe backup. It took me about 10 minutes to take the unit apart and upgrade the components. I then prepared a Windows XP Pro DVD slipstreamed with SP3, repartitioned the disk, reinstalled the operating system and all the Samsung drivers and application software. Samsung did an excellent job of putting all the NC10's drivers and application software on their technical support web page. The overall result of these upgrades makes a noticeable improvement in overall performance. I'm very pleased with the final results for this tweaked, travel ready road machine (an example: standard boot time to WiFi connection is about 90 seconds, however I use hibernation on my notebooks and the machine will boot-up to WiFi connected status in 25 seconds).
I agree with many of the industry and media experts who have editorialized on the Netbook phenomena. Netbooks will continue to be a significant new growth segment in the overall notebook category. The manufactures have an interesting dilemma however; Netbooks will also continue to cut into sales of the higher margin, costlier tier of their notebook offerings. Feature creep is probably going to be the manufactures biggest marketing challenge; the temptation to seek product differentiation by adding larger screens, faster processors (central & graphics), more IO, etc., all tending to increase price, size, weight, and cut into battery life. If you examine your real world use and expectations you may have the same epiphany I have had; these little Netbooks are excellent solutions vs. the more expensive traditional notebook offerings. With a couple of easy inexpensive tweaks, the "Samsung NC10" is a home run!