Samsung N310 (Go)

In that picture of two computers ganging up on another, smaller computer, the one in the middle is a Samsung N310, marketed in the US as the Samsung Go.  It’s an Intel Atom based netbook with 1 gig of RAM, a 160 gig hard drive, and some very nice industrial design.  A long time Apple customer, I’m kind of a sucker for a pretty product.

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It has rounded clamshell design with an easy to grip rubberized plastic case.  The keyboard is 93% standard size with textured, island keys.  The display is edge to edge glass, like the current Macbook line has, making it supremely easy to clean.  Physically, it is a lovely machine and would be a pleasure to use if I were willing to run the operating system it comes with and is configured for, Windows XP.  Unfortunately, I’m not.

The N310 did not want to play nice with Ubuntu Linux.  The biggest problem was, I suspect, with the power management software.  If I left the unit plugged in and set up not to go into suspend or hibernate mode, then it worked fine.  But, of course, that’s not what a netbook is for.  On battery, or whenever it went through suspend/resume cycles, hardware support became very spotty, and I got frequent disk I/O errors that necessitated rebooting.  Additionally, the screen brightness controls were eccentric to the point of being unusable, and the open source drivers for the Atheros wifi card never reported better than 60% signal strength on the occasions when they worked at all.  A power user might know enough to implement workarounds for these quirks, but I couldn’t figure out any fixes, nor find any in the community support fora.  There are enough equivalent, better supported units that I finally decided I didn’t want to bother with it anymore, I wanted a computer that would let me get work done.

I reiterate, none of these problems were there under Windows XP, so if that is a usable operating system for you then the Samsung N310 is a very, very nice unit (albeit not for people who want to mess with the internals of their computer; the case is hostile to tampering).  But for me Windows itself is a problem, and so my N310 is on its way back to where it came from.

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  1. Wait a bit and get an ARM based machine. Numerous vendors are working on ARM laptops running Linux. Power management on IA processors, like Atom, is not that good. That’s why cell phones don’t use Atom. That probably is not why the suspend/hibernate didn’t work in Ubuntu — a PC is not just a CPU. But, the battery life should be way better, unless the overall design is mis-executed. There are enough of these ARM based netbooks in progress that _one_ of them will work well.

    Also, stick with HDD. The current SSDs are not price competitive, and laptops are not where you’ll see the performance benefit. (I notice you got the standard Atom HDD setup, this is just a side comment.)

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