An Excellent Netbook for Portable Computing

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Last year, I wrote up a review about the Sony eReader. At the time, I wondered if anyone would invest in a dedicated eReader for $200 or higher when there are netbooks for around $300 that can do so many other things plus download books.

So when Samsung offered me a chance to test drive an N150 Netbook for a month, I took them up on it.

Samsung N150 netbook in bright redSamsung N150 netbook in bright red

Samsung N150 netbook in bright red

The verdict…

It’s kinda nifty.

The N150 does exactly what it is designed to do: provide wireless internet access in a nice portable device with a keyboard not nearly as cramped as on a cell phone and a much larger screen. It’s not going to replace an eReader or a full-size laptop, for that matter, but it’s not supposed to do that. Despite its size, the keyboard on the netbook is far easier to use than I expected and didn’t feel at all cramped. If you need to download Microsoft Office 07, that will add to the overall price. I suspect, though, many people could install Open Office for free instead of buying another copy of Office 07.

The netbook is about the size and weight of my little portable DVD player. You can cart it around with little trouble and effort. It even fit into my larger purse and no doubt would fit fine in a backpack without any special cushioning. It has up to seven hours of battery life, meaning it will last almost a full day away from home or the office.

Despite my highly detailed issues with PCs and the Vista operating system, I have no complaints about the Windows 7 system that runs this netbook. There were no crashes and Internet Explorer didn’t jam once. I also installed Mozilla Firefox and also had no problems with that. The video does come across as a bit jerky. A clip that ran perfectly on my MacBook Pro (Saturday Night Live’s Timecrowave) had problems on the netbook. On the other hand, my MacBook Pro was $1200. I wouldn’t expect the same performance from a netbook that is about one-third of its cost.

I discovered yet another way to distract my kids with the built-in webcam. They loved being able to make videos of themselves or whatever was around them instantly. It’s true that you have to be right in front of the netbook to use the webcam, so it makes an awkward personal camera, but they liked hamming it up.

The N150 probably won’t satisfy if you’re looking to buy it as a primary computer. And the screen isn’t satisfying to use as an eReader. But as a portable computer, I could find few flaws.

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