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Samsung NC20 - 12in Ultraportable Review

Samsung NC20 - 12.1in Netbook

Manufacturer: Samsung
UK Price (as reviewed): £372.57 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $517.99 (exc. Tax)

Samsung didn't rush into the netbook market right away. Instead, the company took the cautious route and waited to see whether there was demand for this new class of device before taking the plunge. That decision was, by all accounts, the right one because Samsung spent time working out exactly what consumers were looking for.

The result was of course the excellent Samsung NC10, which walked away with near perfect scores and bit-tech's Excellence award. The NC10 is still, in many respects, the best netbook on the market and it's still a firm favourite at bit-tech long after its launch.

There's not one standout feature that makes the NC10 great - it's merely an exceptionally well-balanced product, which is all the more impressive when you consider that it was Samsung's first foray into unchartered netbook waters.

Samsung hasn't changed the winning formula with its second leap into the crowded netbook field: the 12.1in NC20. We've had a look at a couple of 12.1in laptops recently - namely the Dell Inspiron Mini 12 and HP Pavilion dv2-1030ea - and we weren't overly impressed with either, frankly.

Samsung NC20 - 12in Ultraportable Review Samsung NC20

Our experience with the Mini 12 was marred by its soggy keyboard, a sluggish desktop environment and lacklustre battery performance - all things that weren't problems with the Mini 9. The dv2's major failing was its rubbish battery life, while the rest of the machine was largely up to scratch - 80 minutes of runtime away from a plug socket while using a 3G data card just isn't good enough by any measure.

The NC20 is essentially a scaled up NC10 - the design is practically identical on the outside and the increased dimensions haven't had a massive impact on portability. It's still 31mm at its thickest point like the NC10 and it's slightly smaller than the Inspiron Mini 12 at 292mm x 217mm (width x depth) compared to 299mm x 229mm x 28mm (w x d x h). Moreover, it's just 200g heavier than the NC10 at 1.51kg, which makes it 250g fatter than the Mini 12.

Far more interesting than its outward appearance is the hardware that Samsung has packed inside. The NC20 isn't another underpowered Atom machine - oh no. Instead, Samsung has opted for Via's Nano U2250 processor, which is generally more powerful than an Atom-based equivalent because of its Out of Order architecture - we'll talk about this more over the page.

Specification Summary:

  • Via Nano U2250 processor (1.3 to 1.6GHz, 800MHz FSB, 1MB L2 cache)
  • Via VX800 chipset with Via Chrome9 HC3 integrated graphics
  • 1GB 667MHz DDR2-SDRAM
  • Glossy 12.1-inch LED backlit display (1,280 x 800 native resolution)
  • 160GB Samsung Spinpoint M5 5,400rpm SATA hard drive
  • Three USB 2.0 ports, two 3.5mm audio jacks (headphone and microphone), 10/100 Ethernet and D-SUB connectors
  • Integrated three-in-one media card reader (SD/SDHC/MMC)
  • Built in 802.11g wireless networking and Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
  • Stereo speakers and integrated 1.3 megapixel webcam (with microphone)
  • Six cell 5,200mAh Li-Ion battery
  • Windows XP Home Service Pack 3