Can you remember the first netbook which started this hype? Right! The EEE PC with a 7 inch(!) display. The Samsung NC20 lying before us now has a 12 inch display and is still called a netbook, or a mini notebook. The display is the deciding factor when deciding whether a laptop is a netbook or a subnotebook, and in this case this criteria is no longer valid. The only criterias left are the price, around 470 Euros, and the basic programs supported by the hardware.
The case is nearly identical to that of the smaller NC10, and the only difference between the two is bigger measurements of the NC20's case. As usual, the feel and the worksmanship of the case are of high quality.
Even the connections available are identical. The bigger NC20 restricts it's ports to those found on a typical netbook.
The increase in size was not used by the keyboard. The NC20 clearly uses the same unit that was placed in the 10 inch NC10. However, the keyboard is still comfortable to type on, and the touchpad can be used without any problems.
The bigger 12 inch display lets the user enjoy the bigger display area, and the higher WXGA resolution, which should be more than enough to work with typical, everyday programs.
The only thing that we could not comprehend was the switch from the matt display, which was used in the NC10, to the glossy display in the NC20. The 12 inch notebook could have been perfect for mobile use, were it not for the glossy display, as it is clear that outdoors, a matt display has a clear advantage over a glossy display.
The results of the noise emissions and the surface temperature were overall good. The user can keep the mini notebook on his/her lap, and watch a movie comfortably without worrying about distracting noise emissions, or an unbearably warm surface.
Finally, the 6-cell battery has a capacity of 57 Wh which is more than enough to allow high mobility of the mini notebook. The Samsung NC20 can run for 4-5 hours if the user so wishes.
|Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)||6h 41min|
|WiFi Surfing||4h 20min|
|Load (maximum brightness)||2h 07min|
|Off / Standby||0 / 0 Watt|
|Idle|| 11.9 / 14 / 17.6 Watt|
31.1 / 32.2 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max:
Equipped with a high performance 57 Wh Lithium-Ion battery, the NC20 can run for a decent amount of time. As the case of the laptop is flat, a row of 6-cell accumulators will stick out of the bottom of the case a bit.
Due to the battery, the laptop is a bit slanted, which is, however, very helpful when handling the notebook.
In the BatteryEater Readers test, with minimal brightness, a deactivated WLAN/BT, and in the Windows energy-saving mode, the NC20 can run for a good 401 minutes. This can be taken as the maximum time that can be reached when the notebook is in practical use.
Under heavy CPU usage, in the BatteryEater Classic test, the NC20 managed to run for about two hours.
In the practical WLAN-run time test, the 12 inch netbook from Samsung, in the configuration of our test model, managed to run for 260 minutes. Thus, the mini notebook can be used in mobile use without any problems.
The two loudspeakers, on the right and left side beneath the notebook, produce acceptable sound quality for a netbook. The sound seems a bit muffled, but that is due to the positioning of the loudspeakers beneath the notebook. The loudspeakers are good enough for playing music and watching videos on a laptop.
The Samsung NC20 has very good maximum surface temperatures. Despite CPU and graphics chip usage for multiple hours, the surface and bottom temperatures of the laptop reached a maxium of only 35.4°C. In the hand rest and touchpad regions, the temperature reached a maximum of 30°C.
On the bottom of the laptop, the measured temperatures were even lower. The maximum value was 35.2 °C, but the case remained at 30°C for most of the time.
29.2 / 29.2 / 31.5 dB(A)
||40.3 / 40.3 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: (15 cm distance)
As long as the Samsung NC20 does not have heavy CPU usage, it runs quietly, which is a great quality in a netbook. The measured noise emission, while the laptop was idle, was about 31.5 dB(A). The cooler fan ran in this state but was almost inaudible. In energy-saving mode, with minimal CPU usage, the fan switched off automatically. So, in the above state, the laptop was almost completely quiet, as the only noise that remained was that emanating from the hard disk of the NC20.
The behavior of the fan when the CPU was under heavy usage was a bit surprising. In this state, the laptop had a noise emission of 40.3 dB(A), which can be described as uncomfortably loud. However, the laptop should not reach this noise level when it is being used for 0-8-15 office programs.
|Rendering Single 32Bit||888 Points|
|Shading 32Bit||459 Points|
|3DMark 2001SE Standard||2100 points|
|3DMark 03 Standard||600 points|
One could predict that the 1024 MB of RAM would cause a bottleneck when it comes to performance with office programs. However, the 1 GB of RAM should suffice for the somewhat less performance hungry Windows XP.
By replacing the 160 GB hard disk, from Samsung (HM160HI - 5400 rpm), with a SSD (Solid State Drive), the user can get a clear boost in performance. This is because the Samsung hard disk takes about 20 milliseconds more to read data than the average time hard disks take to access data. However, the storage capacity of 160 gigabytes fulfills most of the user's storage needs.
Once the initial problem (i.e., the slow performance which is probably due to a software problem of IE) is taken care of, the performance of the hardware used can be classified as sufficient to run most of the usual office programs.
When directly comparing the SiSoftware Sandra Dhrystone (Integer calcuations) and the Whetstone (Decimal place calculation) benchmarks, one can say that the VIA Nano CPU is somewhat better than the latest Atom CPU (N280 in the Acer One D150). In this performance test, however, the immense performance plus of the Intel Core 2 Duo SU and SL energy-saving processors, both of which operate at a lower speed, but still have access to great reserves of performance, becomes clear.
However, the calculation of the number pi, with the help of the benchmark SuperPi, allowed the Atom CPU from Intel to take the lead again. The Atom CPU manages to finish the calculation to 32 million decimal places somewhat faster than the VIA CPU.
The result of the Cinebench R10 benchmark was also very interesting. In Single-CPU Rendering test, the NC20 achieves an amazing 888 points, which is amazing for a mini-notebook. Netbooks with the Intel Atom N270 CPU only score 300 points and the most advanced Atom chip (the N280) scores a good 567 points, which is still far less than 888 points.
The Atom CPU from Intel is a single-core chip, but it uses "Hyperthreading" to simulate two proccessing cores, and can thus get more performance with programs which are optimized for multi-core chips. This feature is completely missing in the VIA Nano CPU.
The Chrome9 HC3 graphics chip from VIA scored 459 points on the OpenGL Shading test, which is a bit less than the score of the GMA 950 chip from Intel.
A speciality of the NC20 is the hardware used. The Korean manufacturer decided to put a CPU and integrated graphics chip from VIA in the NC20, thus offering an alternative to the dominating Intel Atom CPU and integrated GMA graphics. The technical specifications of the chip were probably not the only deciding factor for Samsung. Price and availability must have also played a big role in their decision not to follow the current trend.
The VIA Nano U2250 processor, codenamed "Isaiah", uses 65 nanometer technology, has a L2-Cache of 1024 KB, and is clocked to operate at 1.3 GHz. The manufacturer also released an overclocked version of the chip which runs at 1.5 GHz under heavy CPU usage. The thermal design power (TDP) value of the processor is around 10 W, which is far above the 2 Watts of the Atom CPU.
The performance of the hardware in comparison to the many atom systems in the market is interesting. The first benchmarks gave a good impression. So, of course we were shocked when, in the first few hours of testing the mini notebook, we saw clear performance weaknesses while working on the internet (IE 6.0), and while editing text.
The installation of Google Chrome, which performs better than Microsoft Internet Explorer, was a major improvement. We also deactivated the automatic update function and the pre-installed virus scanner. After all this, working with the current office programs was fast.
However, we were not able to diagnose the initial weak performance. The best explanation we could find for this odd behavior was that the weakness was due to the heavy CPU usage that Microsoft's internet browser usually generates.
In the 3D Mark 2001 benchmark, in which CPU performance plays a significant role, our test model got 2100 points which is a rather modest result when compared to the results from the Intel Atom/GMA combination netbooks. Intel's Atom N270/GMA950 combination achieved a far better 3000 points in this benchmark. The new N280 CPU, which is going to be used in the new Acer One D150, can increase this result by about 200 points.
Even the possible viewing angles of the mirroring display are not really helpful. In fact, they do quite the opposite. If the viewer changes his point of view quickly, then the color display is prone to showing weaknesses, which are worsened by the distracting reflections on the screen. Especially when the netbook is in mobile use, the user will have to change the angle at which he/she opens the display multiple times to get an optimal viewing angle.
The maximum contrast has an acceptable ratio of 200:1. Unfortunately, we did not find the mirroring glare type surface of the display agreeable. Especially not when the laptop was being used on the go, because then the various reflections on the glossy panel are not really an advantage. In our test, especially when the lighting was bright, there were many distracting reflections which could only be prevented by changing the position of the screen.
Equipped with a 12.1 inch WXGA display, the Samsung NC20 can achieve a maximum resolution of 1280x800 pixels, which should suffice for everyday tasks, and for surfing on the internet. In this case, the NC20 has a significant advantage over the NC10, because the NC10 has a maximum resolution of 1024x600 pixels which means that while surfing on the internet the user had to scroll a lot on websites.
In our test, the display had a maximum brightness of 184.1 cd/m² in the central display area. The display brightness in the corners of the screen was around 154.9 cd/m², and thus, when one takes into account the brightness of all the regions of the display, the display has a brightness of 84.1%.
The keyboard in the NC20 does not use the entire width of the laptop case, but it still is comfortable to use, and is well suited for typing longer texts. The F-keys and the cursor keys are, like in the older NC10, rather small, which means that the user has to aim properly to hit the desired key.
The typing feel is exceptional due to the prominent pressure points and a somewhat abrupt stop at the end of the stroke distance. The typing noise is a relatively quiet and muffled noise which is comfortable to hear.
The touchpad also has an easy to use interface which is comfotable to use even when the laptop is in mobile use, as long as one hits the right key. The sliding function of the surface of the touchpad is good. However, sometimes there seems to be a dead region in the center of the touchpad.
Very often, Samsung uses an antibacterial "SilverNano" layer for the keyboards, so as to protect the user from those invisible germs. In our test, many different members of the editorial department used the keyboard of the test model, and thankfully nobody fell sick. So there might be a chance that the layer actually does protect the user...
The NC20 has an Ethernet module (10/100 Mbps), as well as an integrated wireless LAN card from Atheros (AR5007EG 802.11b/g). With the help of the above mentioned communication modules, the integrated Bluetooth module (V 2.0 + EDR) can make a wireless connection with many different periphery devices, like a wireless mouse or a keyboard. However, the NC20 is not available yet with an integrated UMTS module.
The laptop is also adorned by an integrated Webcam with a maximum resolution of 1.3 megapixels. For the snapshot function, a maximum resolution of 1280x1024 is available. For video calls, video rendering at 320x240 pixels is available. The webcam is also good at displaying movements.
The guarantee lasts for 24 months with "on-site pick-up service". This is different from the classical on-site service, as in that case the device is actually repaired at the location. The warranty period can be extended to 36 or 48 months. Of course, you would have to a pay an extra amount for the extension.
Even the offered ports on the NC20 are like those on regular netbooks. The number of USB ports is especially generous: one on the left side and two more on the right side. A VGA port, which can be used to connect an external monitor to the laptop, and a LAN port, both on the left side, make up the rest of the connections offered on the laptop.
There is nothing unusual about the ports themselves. Over the course of multiple weeks of testing, we did not notice any damage to the ports. However, if you are left-handed and want to use an external monitor with the NC20 then you might get a bit annoyed, as the VGA port is pretty far up on the left side of the mini notebook.
A while ago, Dell gave in to the general demand for bigger displays and input devices which were easier to use. Thus, the Inspiron Mini 12, one of the first 12" netbooks, was born. As it is clear that there is a great demand for such netbooks, Samsung decided to release the successor to the NC10, the successfull 10 inch mini notebook. The NC20 has a 12 inch display and is equipped like a netbook, but otherwise it is similar to the NC10.
Samsung pays special attention to the design of their notebooks, as one can clearly see from the NC20. Colored a pearly white, the NC20 emanates an aura of elegance, and should be of special interest to the design-orientated buyers. Moreover, the NC20 fits snugly into most laptop covers due to it's shape and case measurements.
The worksmanship and the sturdiness of the compact subnotebook are very good, like those of it's 10 inch predecessor, the NC10. The robust magnesium chassis does not allow any major deformatios of the screen or the case. This is especially important when the laptop is in intensive mobile use.
The chrome trimming, which runs along the side of the case, is especially pleasing to the eye. However, it must be noted that it is not very tolerant to smudges. The rest of the case, thanks to the matt lacquer, is far more tolerant.
The display hinges may seem a bit big, but they still can not hold the screen perfectly in position, as, in mobile use, the display does move backwards a bit. This is especially annoying, when the laptop is on the user's lap, where, due to the minimal shaking and the mirroring display, the user will have to keep adjusting the screen in a futile attempt to prevent the distracting reflections.
Review Samsung NC20 Netbook
Review Samsung NC20 Netbook
The NC20, the successor to the popular NC10, has been recently released by the Korean giant, Samsung. The netbook has a 12 inch display and uses, contrary to the general trend, a CPU and a graphics chip from VIA. In this review, we will compare the Nano U2250 processor from VIA to the dominating Intel Atom chip, and give an in-depth evaluation of the NC20.