Samsung N130 Review

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Pros: Matte screen ; Excellent keyboard and touchpad ; Bundled with several useful apps and utilities ; ;

Cons: Disappointing battery life ; Weaker sound quality than N140 ; SD Cards stick out when inserted ; Underside gets uncomfortably hot

Verdict: Samsung's value netbook offers a good keyboard but medicore battery life.

The Samsung N130 is one of two new 10-inch netbooks from a company whose machines have consistently impressed us with solid keyboards, performance, and endurance. While the N140 sports a premium design, the N130 is all about value. At $349 (with street prices often below $300), this netbook looks similar to the N140 but offers less performance and battery life. We don't think the $50 consumers will save is worth these trade-offs, but if you care more about price than all-day computing, the N130 may meet your needs.

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Design

The 10.7 x 7.4 x 1.2-inch, 2.6-pound N130 is almost the same size as the N140, but has a shape reminiscent of the pebble design on the Samsung Go (N310) minus the grainy, rubberized surface. Instead, a matte plastic graces the lid and chassis--this is no fingerprint magnet like the N140. We still like the rounded edges on this design and appreciate the more subdued logo. Unfortunately, the N130 only comes in white with two different colors for the lid--Slate Blue and Pink--and no chrome accents.

Like the N140, the N130's power switch now sits on the front of the unit and is a slider, not a button. And just as with the N140, the six-cell battery only raises the unit about a quarter of an inch in the back.

Heat

While writing this review and watching video with the N130, we noticed that the netbook became slightly hot during use. After leaving the system idle for five minutes, we measured heat on the touchpad and underside at 89.0 and 96.0 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. After playing a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the touchpad reached 94.0 degrees, but the space between the G and H keys got to 99.5, and the underside notched 101.5 degrees, which is really uncomfortable.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Instead of the chiclet-style keyboard last seen on the Samsung Go, the N130 has the same great keyboard as the N140 (and both the N110 and NC10). As with earlier models, we're fans of the layout (93 percent of full size) and placement of the slightly textured keys. The keyboard is comfortable to type on with good travel and a nice spring, which allowed us to reach our full typing speed right away.

The 2.5 x 1.4-inch touchpad is also the same size as the N140's, and is wide enough to move across the screen without having to pick up your finger too much. The single mouse button bar beneath is a little stiff. We'd prefer to see distinct left and right buttons, as well as a demarcation between the touchpad area and the palm rest, which shares the same slight roughness as there is on the N140.

Display and Audio

Thankfully, the 10.1-inch, 1024 x 600-pixel WSVGA display has a matte finish, just as with the N140 and NC10. Despite the lack of a glossy display, colors and blacks were still vibrant and deep. However, while watching the dark scenes from the opening of the Torchwood: Children of Earth episode "Day One," we noticed that there was a lack of distinction between darker shades. The N130 showed less depth in the video than the N140, even with the same Intel GMA driver settings. Both horizontal and vertical viewing angles are good; even when we tilted the display all the way back to 45 degrees, we didn't encounter much distortion. Three people can sit together and watch video on the screen without trouble.

Audio in general was disappointing. Even on 100 percent volume we strained to hear the sound from episodes of Forever Knight and The Daily Show we watched on Hulu while in a quiet room. With a fan or heater going, we had to reach for external speakers. Audio quality was predictably tinny; the distinctive bass line in Superchick's "One Girl Revolution" was barely present, and Alicia Keys' voice sounded more whiny than soulful when we listened to "If I Ain't Got You."

Though the more expensive N140 has the same sound card as the N130, it benefits from SRS Sound software not included with this budget system. Also, the N130 only has one speaker (located under the front of the unit on the left) while the N140 has two speakers on either side.

Ports and Webcam

Though similar in design to the Samsung Go, the N130 doesn't come with covers for its ports. Just as with the N140, a VGA, Ethernet, headphone, mic and one USB port line the left, and the A/C jack plus two remaining USB ports line the right. The power switch and 3-in-1 memory card slot sit in front.

Similar to the N140, SD Cards stick out half an inch from the system when inserted--farther than on the N110 and NC10--and the reader doesn't have a spring lock, leaving us with a feeling that the card wasn't very secure.

The 0.3-megapixel webcam sitting above the display captures decent video and still images. When chatting with a friend over Skype, they noted that colors seemed a bit red-tinted, but were otherwise good. However, they saw blur every time we moved, whether fast or slow.

The bundled software, CyberLink's YouCam, allows users to apply fun effects to video or still images, and includes one-button uploads to YouTube. Images captured are a little dark, even in good lighting--not a surprise for a webcam of this caliber.

Performance

Putting aside outside appearances, the real difference between the N130 and the N140 is in performance. The 1.6-GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU and 1GB of RAM easily handled multitasking in Windows XP between CoolPlayer, GIMP, Google Chrome (with up to 8 tabs open), and Microsoft Office, though we did note that the system lagged when loading Web sites with heavy Flash or graphic elements.

The N130 notched a score of 870 on Geekbench, almost 40 points higher than the netbook average but 17 below the N140, which runs Windows 7 Starter Edition. Compared it to other Windows XP systems, the N130's score comes in below the Toshiba mini NB205 (904) and the Acer Aspire One D250 (878).



On PCMark05, a benchmark that measures overall performance, the N130 scored 1,514, just above the netbook average of 1,498 and surprisingly above the N140's score of 1,357. However, PCMark05 was developed for Windows XP, not Windows 7, which may account for this one discrepancy in test scores. The system bested the mini NB205 (1,496) and the Aspire D250 (1,492), and notched almost the same score as the Samsung N110 (1,513).

On hard drive tests, the N130 performed decently, completing the LAPTOP Transfer Test (copying a 4.97GB file of mixed media files) in 5 minutes and 12 seconds for a rate of 16.3 MBps. This is faster than the average netbook (15.4 MBps) but 3.8 MBps behind the N140's score of 20.1 MBps. The original mini NB205 also beats the N130 with a rate of 18.1, as does the ASUS Eee PC 1005HA, which scored 19.9 MBps.

The N130's 52-second boot time is two seconds faster than the N140. This is just below the netbook average of 57 seconds, and beats the mini NB205's 85-second score.

Graphics and Video Performance

On 3DMark06, the N130's Intel GMA 950 graphics earned the netbook a low score of 91, which didn't surprise us. Still, this showing is almost 70 points below the average of 160, and is bested by the Aspire D250 (123) and the Eee PC 1005HA (124). The mini NB205 and Samsung N110 scored very close: 92 and 90, respectively.



Though standard definition video played smoothly, it didn't have much depth. When watching video of a bus traveling down a dark road at night, the trees and grass became one dark blob, and were barely distinguishable from the skyline. On the N140, each of these elements was distinct. Hulu and YouTube videos stuttered a bit during playback--especially at full screen--and Web sites with Flash or heavy graphic elements slowed down page loading more than on the N140, even when close to the router.

When we transcoded a 114MB MPEG-4 video clip to AVI using HandBrake, it took 29 minutes and 5 seconds, faster than the category average of 29:42 and almost 10 seconds faster than the N140 (29:14). It beat the Samsung Go by 5 seconds, but it lags behind the mini NB205 (27:23) and the Eee PC 1005HA (27:25) by over 2 minutes.

Wi-Fi and Battery

We were surprised that the 802.11b/g/n radio performed better than the N140, delivering a throughput of 25.7 Mbps at 15 feet from the router. It's 4.9 Mbps faster than the netbook average of 20.8 Mbps, and 9.3 Mbps above the N140's score of 16.4 Mbps. It even bests the mini NB205 (21.3), the Eee PC 1005HA (22.5), and the Samsung Go (20.2). At 50 feet from the router, the score dropped dramatically to 14.9 Mbps, below the 17.1 Mbps average and all three of the netbooks it beat at 15 feet. Streaming video definitely became more of a chore when we weren't near the router. We had to fill all five buffer bars while watching The Daily Show on Hulu in order to get through a full segment without stopping.

Like the N140, the N130 performed below our expectations on the LAPTOP Battery Test. The original Samsung NC10 was the first netbook to last longer than 6 hours, and the N110 and Samsung Go both bested that time. However, the N130 only lasted 4 hours and 44 minutes, more than an hour and a half below the six-cell netbook average of 6:18. The N140 managed to last 6:32--almost two hours longer. The N130 doesn't even come close to the mini NB205 and Eee PC 1005HA (9:24 and 8:57, respectively).



Though the N130 is meant to be a budget system, the inclusion of a low capacity 4000-mAh battery lessens the system's appeal in a market where consumers heavily base their netbook buying decisions on the life of the battery. While Samsung doesn't offer an upgrade option for this netbook, you can buy a higher capacity 5200-mAh battery as an accessory for $149. This should give users about 6.5 hours of juice.

Software

Samsung preloads the N130 with a large suite of branded apps and utilities. Aside from the aforementioned CyberLink YouCam, the netbook also includes management utilities for resolution, display (including hot keys to rotate 90 and 180 degrees, which are useful if you're using the N130 as an eBook reader), networks, and power profiles. The Battery Life Extender caps the battery's charge at 80 percent to prolong its life for systems that are often kept plugged in. Samsung Update Plus will automatically keep these apps up to date.

The netbook also comes with 60-day trials of McAfee Internet Security, Microsoft Office 2007, and AnyPC for remote access to other computers.

Configurations and Warranty

The N130 is currently available in just one configuration with two model numbers. The N130-13B indicates the Slate Blue lid and the N130-13P indicates pink. Though you can't order the N130 with more than 1GB of RAM, the slot is easily accessible from the underside.

Samsung offers a one-year standard parts-and-labor warranty and 24/7 toll-free technical support.

Green Testing

It took 2 hours and 7 minutes to charge the N130 to 100 percent (nearly an hour and a half faster than the category average of 3 hours and 30 minutes), and the system used an average of 38.2 watts during that time. The netbook's LAPTOP Battery Efficiency Rating (the total amount of watts it takes to recharge divided by the battery life; lower is better) was 17.1--slightly less efficient than the typical netbook (16.8) but very eco-friendly overall. It also earned an Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) Gold rating of 21 (out of 27).

Verdict

We're fans of the budget-priced Samsung N130's ergonomics. However, when compared to the N140, which is only $50 more, it comes in behind in overall performance and--more importantly--battery life. If your budget is flexible, the N140 is definitely the better choice. If $349 is your sweet spot, however, you can also pick up a Toshiba mini NB205 running Windows XP, which has comparable benchmark scores and hours more battery life, for around the same price. Overall, the Samsung N130 is a decent netbook, but there are better choices in this price range.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 1.6-GHz Intel Atom Processor N270
Operating System MS Windows XP (SP3)
RAM 1GB
RAM Upgradable to 2GB
Hard Drive Size 160GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 10.1
Native Resolution 1024x600
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Intel GMA 950
Video Memory 128MB
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth
Mobile Broadband
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
USB Ports 3
Card Slots 3-1 card reader
Warranty/Support One-year standard parts-and-labor/24/7 toll-free phone
Size 10.7 x 7.4 x 1.2 inches
Weight 2.6 pounds
Company Website http://www.samsung.com/us