The specs are great, the reviews are glowing, and it’s a leader on style points. But until I put hands to keys and use the Samsung NC10 in its natural habitat, it’s all hearsay. So begins this series of field reports as I brave the wilds of coffee shops, waiting rooms and economy airplane seats in an effort to document the real netbook experience.
Today I am at a Panera Bread in Sugar Land, Texas, just outside of Houston. Flipping open my shiny blue netbook, I notice that I have the smallest computer in the place. Cool. A press of the power button wakes Sammy from her slumber. Firing up Firefox I am easily and quickly connected to the free Wifi. Total time from bag to surf, less than a minute. Not bad.
Task One – Waste Time on the Web
As I peruse a few web sites the limitations of netbook life are immediately felt. The screen is small. No surprise that the 600 pixel height will take some getting used to. But it is a fair trade off considering the portability and poundage.
Performance-wise, it is a winner. The puny Atom processor has just enough oomph to cruise through the majority of sites thrown at it with ease. Flash animation plays smoothly. Both Flash and QuickTime videos play without a hitch. Occasional screen tearing seems to be the fault of the video chip or maybe the screen refresh rate. It is noticeable, but far from a deal killer, as I watch partial screen Hulu shows and full screen QuickTime video trailers. Add a good set of earbuds, and you have quite an entertainment package.
The trackpad size is stingy but just large enough to be useful. A bit more height would have made a big difference. Perhaps cutting the height of the numeric and function key rows to half or smaller would have been a good design decision. That would have left more room for the mousing surface. Reducing the size of these lesser used keys would not hamper the typing experience like some have done by compressing all the keys (I’m looking at you, Lenovo IdeaPad).
The main problem with the trackpad however is not the size or width. It’s the depth, or rather lack thereof. Positioned almost perfectly flush with the palmrest surface, it is impossible to locate by touch alone. When your finger crosses the edge of the pad with no tactile feedback has the effect of making the cursor feel unresponsive or stuck. You have to take your eyes off the screen to realize your finger is off the pad, reposition your finger back on the pad, and slide again continue you cursors journey. Repeating this exercise several times per minute is unfortunately standard procedure on the NC10.
With so much thought and good design put into the best-in-class keyboard, lets hope that Samsung addresses this interface shortcoming in the next product cycle.
More to come…
In part two of the Samsung NC10 Field Test, we will look at screen quality and go hands-on with the keyboard quality on the NC-10.