No, this isn’t a stuffy computer hardware blog.  It’s a stuffy child safety and parenting blog.  So, I’m not going to copy and detail all the specifications one-by-one.  I won’t take dozens of photos from every angle, a video of me opening the box and starting it up for the first time or even run a single performance test.  I’ve never owned another netbook, so I certainly can’t even do a feature-by-feature comparison with the competition, except that I’ve read a lot of reviews and seen some others in stores.  Those kinds of reviews are great, but best left to expert reviewers you can find on Google.

No, this is just a summary review for parents who are addicted to CarseatBlog and Car-Seat.Org and might be interested in an ultralight computer that they can easily carry from room to room or even outside.  Between the normal household stuff and chasing after kids, it’s nice not being tied to one room or lugging around a 10 pound behemoth notebook like my HP ZD7000.  It might also appeal to people who travel frequently or even every once in a while.

The Samsung NC10 is a Netbook.  That’s the new class of mini notebook computers that use a very low power Intel processor and chipset.  The Asus EEE and Acer Aspire models are examples of netbooks.  They have small screens, reduced size keyboards and weigh just a few pounds.  Plus, you can get them starting around $300.  The one I have has a 10″ screen and a keyboard about 90% of full size, but many models are even smaller with 8.9″ screens.

Anyway, it’s really nice for what it is, a low-powered computer that can do simple tasks like email, internet browsing, blogging and even Microsoft Office.  It’s not going to handle heavy duty tasks very well, but it’s not designed to do that, either.  So, if you plan to do a lot of gaming or photo/video editing or other intensive tasks, you really need to step up to an ultraportable laptop with more power. 

Most all netbooks have a 2-3 USB ports, an ethernet port, a VGA output to run a monitor and a microphone/headphone connector.  They also usually have a built-in microphone, speakers and webcam, though these may not be quite the quality of those on a high end laptop.  They all should have wireless wi-fi network ability, too, and some have a few more connectivity features.  On the flip side, netbooks lack optical drives, so there’s no ability to play a CD or DVD unless you record it onto a USB or some other type of memory card.  Plus, a full resolution DVD movie may not play well on many netbooks, as most lack the processor and graphics power to do this.  Internet movies from Youtube or Hulu should play just fine, though.  Most netbooks have hard drives from 80GB to 320 GB.  The majority seem to be 120-160GB, plenty for a good collection of programs, files, music and movies.

Some PROs and CONs I’ve found with a few days of use:

Things I like:

  • Keyboard has normal layout and is just a bit smaller than a full size.  Many netbook keyboards are even smaller, have funny arrangements, odd size keys or other changes that make it hard to touch type.  I also like that it has dedicated page up/down keys like larger notebooks (some netbooks make you use a function key plus another key for page up/down).  I’m typing this blog from it and it’s much better than I expected!
  • Keyboard is decent quality.  It’s not perfect.  It doesn’t feel like a desktop or even Thinkpad notebook.  The keys aren’t awkward like those on a Macbook Air, but they don’t have quite the same feedback as a real keyboard, either.  Some netbooks have poor keyboards.  It’s just like carseats: Try before you buy!
  • The screen has LED backlight and is very bright on the max setting.  The images look good, too.  The brightest setting is fine outdoors (except in direct sunlight), but almost too bright otherwise.  A setting of 3 or 4 out of 8 is quite good for indoors and saves battery life, too.  Even the lowest settings work for dark rooms.
  • It’s small, thin and light, and even the power adapter is small, too.  That makes it ideal to put into a backpack or day bag and not break your back.  It’s about 10 inches long by 7 inches tall and just over an inch thick.  Even with power supply and cord, it’s barely over 3 pounds!
  • I like that it came with recovery DVDs.  Many laptops don’t come with anything these days, so it’s a real hassle to upgrade your hard drive or recover if it dies (and that’s not uncommon on models that get real hot).
  • The NC10 doesn’t get hot, it runs barely warm and is almost silent.
  • Battery life is awesome.  Most reviews and owners say 6-8 hours.  I haven’t had a chance to test it with continuous use, but it easily runs for a typical day with a hour of standby time here and there.  Right now, I’ve been using it for about three hours straight and it estimates I have over 4 hours left!
  • The standard 6-cell battery only sticks down a little in the back, giving the keyboard a nice angle on a table or lap.  On some netbooks, not only is the 6-cell extended battery optional,  but it’s chunky and looks awkward as it sticks out in back or has a huge bulge on the bottom.
  • Bluetooth.  Many netbooks lack this feature and a lot of people don’t need it. I wanted it so I could sync up to my cell phone without a cable and also use my cellphone as a modem if I wasn’t in Wi-Fi range.  It also lets me use a wireless bluetooth mouse.
  • Wi-fi works fine.  No problems anywhere around the house.
  • Windows XP.  A few netbooks use Windows Vista, with mixed results.  The NC10 uses XP and that’s nice since that’s what is on all our other computers.  It loads pretty quickly (30 seconds) and runs well.

 Some things I don’t like:

  • The touchpad is small, especially top to bottom.  While the pointer moves fine, I find scrolling up and down a page to be a chore.  I am still trying to tweak the settings but I haven’t been able to get scrolling to be quite the way I like it.  It’s also hard to tell where the touchpad ends as it blends in with the palm rest very well in feel.
  • Instead of having two separate touchpad buttons for left and right mouse clicks, it’s one bar with a right and left side.  It feels a bit mushy and doesn’t give great feedback.
  • Though the keyboard is quite good for a netbook, I’m still considering moving up to a 13″ ultraportable to get a real keyboard.  Of course, that would double the cost:-(
  • Like almost all netbooks, the screen has a limited resolution of 1024×600.  That’s enough for surfing and email if you fill the whole screen with it.  It’s not enough to put multiple windows side by side and still have room to maneuver.
  • Cost is $450.  That is somewhat higher than the average netbook.  Whether or not the quality of the keyboard, the great battery life and the bluetooth feature is worth the extra cost depends on the buyer!
  • My keyboard had a little flex on a few keys at the upper right, like delete and backspace.  This isn’t uncommon among small notebooks, but I was able to fix it thanks to some information at the very helpful SammyNetbook.com forum.
  • The speakers are tiny and sound tiny.  You’re not going to fill a room with iTunes on any netbook and the NC10 is no exception.

Overall, for what I need, it’s a nice little machine.  I’m still giving mine a trial period before I move over all my CPS stuff like product manuals and quick reference sheets.  I want to make sure I really can handle the small size before my return period expires.  I can’t imagine anything smaller or with an awkward keyboard layout!  The problem is, all of the ultraportables around $1000 have compromises, too.  Some run hot, some have lousy keyboards or touchpads, some have poor battery life, others are notorious for specific reliability issues.  

In that I haven’t found any major flaws so far and it doesn’t break the bank, I think the NC10 may be a keeper.  For a bit more money, Samsung is releasing a special edition black version that has an improved touchpad and an even longer lasting battery.  It appears to be exclusive to Amazon.com, but unfortunately I have no idea when it will be available.  For a bit less money, this new model looks like it will be competitive to the NC10, also.  I’m still salivating over this little number, but I think the NC10 deserves a fair shake before I spend $1000.  The full size keyboard and touchpad would be nice, but the extra cost and weight are a tradeoff.