Samsung NC20 - 12in Ultraportable Review

Written by Tim Smalley

June 29, 2009 | 10:15

Tags: #12 #121in #12in #analysis #battery #cpu #evaluation #laptop #life #nano #netbook #notebook #processor #review #ultraportable

Companies: #samsung #test #via

Features & Build Quality

Atom manages to keep its power consumption down by using an In-Order architecture, a choice which means pipeline stalling is common because there is no instruction dispatch queue. The Nano is based on Via's new 'Isaiah' architecture: it's an Out-of-Order, superscalar design that is in a different performance league to the old C7 processor. It can manage Crysis without any hint of stuttering, for starters.

The U2250 at the heart of the NC20 is a 1.3GHz single-core CPU with an idle power of just 200mW and a TDP of 8W. There's no sign of HyperThreading or anything of the sort so there's only one core that shows up inside Task Manager, but that's not really a worry in our eyes because the underlying architecture is capable enough on its own.

One neat feature that Via implemented into the Nano is its dynamic overclocking technology - the chip actually spent most of its time running above its default 1.3GHz clock speed, at closer to 1.5GHz. Via's specification sheet for the Nano U2250 says that it can run at up to 1.6GHz, but we never found a situation where the chip would operate at this speed - we presume it's reserved for those arctic winter days we get from time to time.

Samsung NC20 - 12in Ultraportable Review Features & Build Quality Samsung NC20 - 12in Ultraportable Review Features & Build Quality
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The NC20 is also equipped with Via's Nano-supporting VX800, which features the Chrome 9 HC3 graphics chip. It's not as advanced as most of today's GPUs - although it's a DirectX 9.0 part, it isn't going to be remembered for its gaming performance. It will be remembered for its HD video playback capabilities, though as the HC3 features a built-in HD video decoder, which makes playing 720p video clips on the 1,280 x 800 screen a breeze.

Speaking of the screen, the glossy finish is bound to divide opinion and it does appear to reflect more light than most - it's a long way from being a bad display, though. While it's not to our personal preference (we prefer displays with matte finishes), the image quality is pretty good - the panel's brightness and contrast are both impressive and of particular note is how vibrant and sharp digital photographs look on the screen.

The latter is down to the more spacious 1,280 x 800 native pixel grid, while the former is no doubt helped by the glossy coating on the screen. Unfortunately, the problems associated with all TN+film LCDs are still there. The poor viewing angles and lacklustre colour accuracy (at the high end in particular) haven't miraculously disappeared and are 'features' of the display, but it is worth remembering the panel's budget origins.

Samsung NC20 - 12in Ultraportable Review Features & Build Quality Samsung NC20 - 12in Ultraportable Review Features & Build Quality
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In terms of connectivity, not a lot has changed from the NC10 although Samsung has shuffled the ports around a little. The VGA port, power connector and audio jacks have all swapped sides, while the three USB 2.0 ports have been split the other way, with one on the left hand side and two down the right. This means that the left hand edge of the NC20 houses 10/100 Ethernet, a single USB 2.0 port, the VGA connector and audio jacks, while the right hand side rounds things out with a pair of USB 2.0 ports, the power connector, a Kensington lock slot and the power button.

The port layout changes are largely down to the fact that Samsung has changed the cooling configuration inside the NC20 - hot air is exhausted out of the opposite side to the NC10. This was something I found a little strange at first, being an NC10 owner. The multimedia card reader has also been moved slightly, as it's now directly beneath the LED indicators located on the left hand edge of the wrist rest.
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