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Samsung N120

Battle of the Netbooks
The Screen

Some things never change: netbook users still have to make do with sub-standard screens. By default, the colours on the N120 are dominated by blues, with viewing angles that are reasonable from one side of the screen to the other but dreadful from above and below. The response was also pretty average.

Another point that counts against this screen is the fact that Samsung decided to include a glossy screen, a very bad choice for a mobile device that people are likely to use outside where reflections from natural light leave the screen looking like a mirror. This led to the N120 losing a star in our final verdict.

A lot of space around the outside of the screen isn't used (the speakers take up about an inch of the plastic frame), which, although frustrating, is the price you pay for having a larger keyboard.

Flushed with the success of its NC10, Samsung recently updated its collection of netbooks with the N120. Slightly bigger than its predecessor, this new netbook is based on the same Intel Atom N270 CPU with a 10 inch, 1024 x 600 screen, but now has a more substantial keyboard.

Handling & Design

We're glad to see that the entire case is in matte black plastic, which is much less susceptible to getting covered in greasy fingerprints than its glossy counterpart.  It's well designed and the netbook feels solid and robust.

Samsung has been publicizing the new, larger keyboard, but the improvement from its predecessor the is only very slight.  The trackpad has also been enlarged and now approaches the size of the one on the Asus 1000HE.

The webcam is generally well-behaved, but the sound quality from the microphone is less impressive.  Installed just above the keyboard, it detects the sound of your keystrokes and leaves your voice sounding a little stifled.

Around the outside of the netbook are three USB ports, an Ethernet port, a pair of mini-jacks, a VGA output and an SD card reader. On the underside of the netbook, a flap gives easy access to the RAM.

2 mini jacks, USB and VGA out
SD card reader
2 USB ports

Processor Power

Samsung has stuck with the winning formula from the NC10, with no new CPU.  The Atom N270 is still leading the way, although Samsung's competitor, Asus, has recently upgraded to the N280 on its new 1000HE.

There were very few changes in any of our tests and the NC120 is a very standard netbook.  For comparison purposes, ripping 24 audio tracks to MP3 using iTunes takes 110 seconds on our standard reference model, the Fujitsu-Siemens Amilo xi3650, but it takes the NC120 588 seconds and the Asus 1000HE 586 seconds. Starting the machine up, it takes 35 seconds to get to your Windows XP desktop.

Like most netbooks that use Intel Atom processors coupled with the 945GSE graphics chipset, you can forget about heavy-duty HD video files.


There's not much to say about the sound quality of the N120, with a clear output from the headphone jack. The speakers, on the other hand, are more doubtful: they're good enough if you're stuck without external speakers or headphones, but that's about it. Don't count on them for listening to music or watching a movie.

Portability & Battery Life

Almost 7 ounces lighter than the 1000HE, the N120 has excellent battery life that we measured at 5 hours 39 minutes using our standard test (looping a video with the headphones plugged in, WiFi turned off and screen brightness set to 100 cd/m²). That's twenty minutes less than you get with the Asus, but still an excellent result.

Samsung N120
  • Great battery life
  • Lighter than the 1000HE
  • Quality webcam
  • 160 GB hard drive
  • Big keyboard
  • Glossy screen
  • Limited gaming
  • Mediocre speakers
  • Blues dominate screen with default settings

With great battery life, a bigger keyboard and an enlarged trackpad, the N120 represents a worthwhile upgrade to the NC10. It's main downfall--which costs it a star in our final verdict--is Samsung's decision to include a glossy screen.

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