Editor’s Note: Portions of this review were taken from our earlier review of the Samsung N310, which has been updated for the U.S. as the Samsung Go.
For the past several months, Samsung has been one of the leaders when it comes to netbooks, creating solidly built systems that boast excellent endurance. With its new Go (a rebranded N310 with an extended battery), the company is trying to establish itself as the leader when it comes to style, too; it’s one of the most unique and chic 10-inch netbooks on the market, and its island keyboard is a pleasure to type on. Though the Go outshines much of the competition with nearly 8.5 hours of battery life, at $449 (through online retailers) users will have to be willing to pay a premium for a netbook that performs no better than the rest.
The Go’s fashion forward design is a departure from the more professional looking N110 and NC10. Designed by Japanese artist Naoto Fukasawa, the rounded and smooth edges of the Go are modeled after a pebble. The bright orange lid (also available in black, navy blue, and light blue) is covered in a slightly grainy, rubberized surface that is more durable than the typical hard plastic shell. These touches definitely make the Go stand out from its closest competitors. In case its stylings are too subtle, Samsung’s logo is prominently featured in raised lettering that extends across the cover; it’s a bit too in-your-face for our liking.
Measuring 10.3 x 7.3 inches, the Go has a slightly smaller footprint than the Asus Eee PC 1005HA (11.2 x 7.8 inches). Tapering from 1.5 to 1.1 inches (owing to its battery), the Go is similar in thickness to the Toshiba mini NB205. However, the Go’s 6-cell battery juts out only slightly from the bottom of the system, as opposed to that on Toshiba’s netbook, which extends more obtrusively out the back. Weighing 3 pounds by itself, the Go (in its included felt case) and its A/C adapter came in at 3.8 pounds, and didn’t put much strain on our shoulder as we walked around New York City.
The Go houses the same netbook ports as the N110. On the right edge are two USB ports and a VGA port, and the left side houses one more USB port, mic and headphone jacks, and an Ethernet jack protected by a small plastic cap. The front of the system holds a 3-in-1 card reader; you won’t find any ports or slots on the back.
Island Style Keyboard, Expanded Touchpad
While we were impressed with the more traditional keyboards on Samsung’s previous netbooks, the Go has an island-style layout that is 94 percent of full-size. They’re the same kind of raised keys that you’ll find on systems such as the Toshiba mini NB205, Apple MacBook, and several Sony VAIOs, but the keys on the Go are also treated with a nano-sized silver ion powder that makes it “bacteria free.” But it’s not just germophobes who will like this keyboard; almost from the moment we started using it, we appreciated its soft but comfortable feel. Key placement is also not an issue: the Shift key is full size and located underneath the Enter key. Though we prefer the coating on the Toshiba mini NB205’s keys, the Samsung Go’s keyboard is one of the best you’ll find on a netbook.
The original touchpad on the Samsung NC10, at 2.3 x 1.1 inches, was disappointingly small and very vertically narrow. Like the Samsung N110, the Go has a horizontally and vertically expanded trackpad. Measuring 2.5 x 1.3 inches, the size of the pad is now comparable to those on other netbooks, including the Acer Aspire One AOD150 and the MSI Wind U123. However, the touchpad isn’t quite as large as that on the mini NB205 (3.1 x 1.6 inches).
The mouse buttons remain a single rocker bar lacking a divot to separate the left and right sides. We prefer two dedicated buttons, but this arrangement is still better than the vertically oriented touchpad buttons like those on the HP Mini 1000.
Flush Glossy Display
Similar to the HP Mini 2140 and the Dell Inspiron Mini 10, the Samsung Go has a flush 10.1-inch (1024 x 600-pixel resolution) LED-backlit glass screen. It was wide enough that we were able to keep a Web page and a document open side-by-side. Samsung’s software lets you easily increase the resolution to 1024 x 768, but it compresses everything on the screen. An episode of 24 streamed from Hulu.com looked smooth and detailed at the native resolution, and tilting the screen back 45 degrees (which is as far as it goes) didn’t produce distracting glare.
Webcam and Audio
Above the display is a 1.3-megapixel webcam, which provided clear images in a Skype video chat. A caller in California saw little motion blur when we quickly waved, and could even make out details on our face. The netbook also comes with CyberLink’s YouCam, which allowed us to capture still shots and video. The built-in stereo speakers located above the keyboard were quite loud; MGMT’s “Electric Feel” over Slacker.com did not sound as tinny as other netbook speakers.
Configured like its predecessors (and competitors), the Go’s 1.6-GHz Intel Atom CPU and 1GB of RAM running Windows XP provided the netbook norm in terms of performance. Notching 1,510 on PCMark05—127 points above the category average and only three points lower than the N110—the Go was able to handle our usual mobile tasks, which included simultaneously conducting video calls over Skype and surfing the Web with multiple tabs open.
The Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip with 128MB of shared memory delivered a score of 736 in 3DMark03, which is 95 points higher than the category average. Its 3DMark06 score of 88 was just below the category average; a downloaded high definition 720p video clip played back smoothly with no hiccups or pauses. When we transcoded a 5:05 MPEG-4 video clip (114MB) to the AVI format using Handbrake, the Go completed the task in 29 minutes and 10 seconds, which is dead even with the netbook average.
The Go’s 5,400-rpm, 160GB hard drive booted Windows XP Home in 45 seconds, 10 seconds quicker than the netbook average. The LAPTOP Transfer Test (copying a 4.97GB folder of mixed media) took 5 minutes and 1 second, or a rate of 16.9 MBps. This is fairly fast for a netbook (the average is 15.1 Mbps), but not as fast as the Acer Aspire One AOD150 (17.7 MBps). The Go stayed relatively cool during testing; the underside got no hotter than 90 degrees.
Like other Samsung netbooks, the Go is no slouch when it comes to endurance. Its 6-cell, 8850 mAh battery lasted 8 hours and 23 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi), which is more than two hours longer than the six-cell netbook average (6:02). While the Eee PC 1005HA (8:57) and Toshiba mini NB205 (9:24) have greater run times, the Go will allow you to work for an entire flight from New York City to California, and then some.
The 802.11b/g Wi-Fi card inside the Go provided a steady connection for working on the Net. Delivering 20.2 Mbps and 15.9 Mbps from 15 and 50 feet, respectively—both slightly above average—we were able to maintain a strong signal far from our access point. Streaming video clips on YouTube and music over Slacker.com were void of any pauses. The netbook features Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, and Samsung plans to offer the Go with built-in mobile broadband by the Fall.
Software, Configuration Options, and Warranty
In addition to CyberLink’s YouCam and McAfee Security Center, Samsung bundles its own utilities with the Go, including Samsung Recovery Solution III (which creates a restore file of the operating system), Samsung Battery Life Extender, and Samsung Magic Doctor (which will detect problems with applications and help to correct any issues). Other tools include an Easy Network Manager for connecting to a wireless access point.
Configuration and Upgrade Options
At launch, Samsung will offer only the configuration of the Go that we reviewed. Samsung covers the Go with a one-year warranty and 24/7 toll-free technical support.
In terms of upgradability, we like that the Go has a clearly marked and easily accessible memory door on the bottom of the system. However, you’ll need to pop off the keyboard if you want to upgrade the hard drive.
With the Go, Samsung has created one of the more attractive 10-inch netbooks on the market. Its compact build and peppy performance will provide the fashion-conscious a well-rounded package. However, its $449 price gives us pause. You can snatch up the Editors’ Choice-winning Toshiba mini NB205, which provides a larger touchpad and even better endurance, for $50 less. And for $50 more you can pick up the Lenovo IdeaPad S12 (retailing for $499), which has a larger 12-inch display but less endurance. Still, if a combo of style and a long runtime is at the top of your mobile computing list, the Samsung Go is worth the splurge.