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My first foray into the world of netbooks.
So I decided that with a number of courses coming up it would be a good idea to downsize my laptop to something a little more manageable. I have seen netbooks before and was largely impressed by them. It made a certain degree of sense to get something small and cheap and devoid of Vista so that I could browse the internet watch DVD's and send emails yet something small enough that I could throw it in a backpack with a couple of spare sets of clothes and a wash kit.

After some research and a look at various pc retailers I decided on the Samsung N310. A friend had bought himself an NC10 earlier this year and it seemed to run alright. Bear in mind that his version ran XP. A few net searches seemed to indicate that I would have no problem installing Linux on one. When it came to looking at the various netbooks available I decided that the N310 seemed best suited to my needs.

I was able to pick up one for about 350 slightly more than I had wanted but it seemed ideal for my purposes. It comes with a pretty much usual specification for current netbooks:

Atom 270 processor.
160GB HDD.
1024x600 10.2" display.
Intel GMA 950 graphics

The feature that sold it to me was its apparent robustness. Instead of being made of the usual shiny plastic that scratches as soon as you touch it the n310 sports a rugged matt textured shell. The ethernet and VGA ports have dust covers over them to. Granted the VGA port cover is little more than a rubber sleeve, but it is still a step in the right direction. The SD card reader comes with a pretty much standard blanking plate finished in the same matt plastic used for the shell. The shell itself makes the netbook slightly thicker than most but again this gives the appearance of robustness.

I decided earlier today to go and buy one. On getting it back home the first thing I did was to fire it up and get photographic evidence of me refusing the XP license. I'll claim a refund for that tomorrow. Then I proceeded to test Ubuntu Jaunty live to see what got picked up. Its fair to say that it took an age to load, given that this was not the netbook remix I decided to jump straight in with a Debian Lenny install.

The installation went much as expected. The only thing that seemed to make it take longer than usual was downloading a number of updates from the internet during installation. I booted to the new system to see what had not been picked up. My experience of installing linux on anything usually leaves me with bits of hardware not working properly which then takes a couple of hours of Google-bashing to sort out. In this instance ALMOST everything works out of the box.

The only issues I have with the n310 are minor. I will however list them for others to consider before buying.

There is no switch for the wireless adaptor. This wouldn't be a problem if the function+wireless symbol powered down the adaptor but it doesn't. As yet I have found no easy way of powering off the adaptor. Maybe this doesn't matter so much as the only time I won't be using it is when I have wired access and so I will also have a mains power supply. I still think though that it is a little short sighted of Samsung to implement this in software requiring a driver.

The ethernet port has been designed in such a way that if your cable has a protective rubber sheath over the RJ45 plug it won't fit. Fortunately mine slide off easily as they were seperate rubber sheathes I put on for protection when I made the cable. If you bought a cable ready made though it may come with the protective sheath bonded to the plug. Samsung, I know things are going wireless here but if your going to put an ethernet port on it make sure it works with everyday cables that you can buy.

There are a number of other "function+key" switches on the n310 and to be honest I have no idea what they are meant to do. They don't seem to work at any rate. What exactly is a picture of a man running with a bag over his shoulder meant to do? Press here to have your netbook stolen? There is also what I can only describe as a small dog kennel with a mobile phone on its roof. Okay I'm open to sugestions on what that key does.

So far I have done a little research on the internet to no avail on these software driven function keys. It seems bizarre that Samsung would be so short sighted as to not provide drivers for the second most popular netbook operating system.

With all of that said I'm impressed with the n310. Its a good little netbook and ideal for my purposes. Despite the gripes I have with the unusual keys everything else seems to work without a flaw. If you're planning on upgrading memory it only has one slot so you will need to invest in one 2GB stick of 533Mhz DDR2 SODIMM.


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Comments about this article
Samsung N310 reminds me of my ASUS 904HD/X
writen by: sam-c on 2009-09-02 01:57:27
Nearly the same specifications as ASUS 904HD/X that I got as a prize from IBM, I installed Ubuntu 8.10 with the help of a USB flashdrive.
But recently the Ubuntu "disappeared". I shall have to overcome that somehow soon.
The ASUS has Windows XP OEM and I had it Dual Boot.
RE: Samsung N310 reminds me of my ASUS 904HD/X written by sam-c:

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