The Samsung N220 has many of the usual trappings of a 10.1″ netbook including a low resolution screen, a small keyboard, and just 1GB of RAM. However, with Pine Trail at its heart and a hefty 5900mAh battery, it has the potential to be a very cool, quiet, and long-lasting travel companion.
May 16, 2010 by Lawrence Lee
The second generation of Intel Atom saw the consolidation of their chip design
through the elimination of the Northbridge by integrating the memory controller
and graphics core onto the same package as the CPU. Our first experience with
the new platform came in the form of the Intel
D510M0, a mini-ITX motherboard with an integrated dual core D510 processor,
the successor to the D945GCLF2 and Atom 330. While we did not see any tangible
performance increase, the new architecture was significantly more power efficient,
easier to cool, and quieter. We speculated at the time that the new Atom platform,
codename Pine Trail, would be more compelling in mobile devices for which battery
life is paramount.
Cue the Samsung N220, a 10.1" netbook utilizing the new Atom N450 processor,
the direct replacement for the well-known 1.66GHz N280 found in countless other
netbooks. The N220 has many of the usual trappings of such machines including
a low resolution 1024×600 screen, a small keyboard, and only 1GB of RAM. However,
with Pine Trail at its heart and a hefty 5900mAh battery, it has the potential
to be a very cool, quiet, and long-lasting travel companion.
The N220 is currently selling in Canada and Europe for the equivalent of US$400.
Samsung will be shipping the N210, which is the same device but with a US keyboard
layout, to the United States in the near future.
Samsung N220: Specifications
10.1", 1024×600, Non-Gloss, LED Back Light
Intel® Atom™ N450
(1.66 GHz, 667 MHz FSB, 512KB L2 cache, 5.5W)
Intel NM10 Express
Intel GMA 3150
1GB DDR2 PC2-6400
250GB 5400 RPM SATA
10/100 LAN, 802.11bg/n
2.1 + EDR
0.3 megapixel (640×480)
3-in-1 (SD, SDHC, MMC)
|Speakers||3W Stereo (1.5W x 2)|
6-cell 5900 mAh 66Wh
1.34 kg, 26.2 x 18.8 x 2.9~3.7 cm
(W x D x H)
Windows 7 Starter
The N220 measures 26.2 x 18.8 x 2.9~3.7 cm and the entire machine weighs in
at 1.34 kilograms (2.95 lb). The battery weighs 330 grams on its own.
SCREEN & PERIPHERALS
The N220 features a 10.1" 1024×600 matte screen with LED backlighting,
a 0.3 megapixel webcam, and standard trackpad.
Keyboard size comparison, scale: 20 pixels per
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13:
Measurement and Analysis Tools
H.264/VC-1 Video Test Clips
H.264 and VC-1 are codecs commonly used in high definition movie videos on
the web (like Quicktime movie trailers and the like) and also in Blu-ray discs.
To play these clips, we use Cyberlink PowerDVD with hardware acceleration turned
Rush Hour 3 Trailer 2c is a 1080p clip encoded in H.264
inside an Apple Quicktime container.
Coral Reef Adventure Trailer is encoded in VC-1 using the
WMV3 codec commonly recognized by the "WMV-HD" moniker.
x264/MKV Video Test Clips
MKV (Matroska) is a very popular online multimedia container
used for high definition content, usually using x264 (a free, open source
H.264 encoder) for video. The clips were taken from two longer videos —
the most demanding one minute portions were used. To play them we use Media
Player Classic Home Cinema which by default utilizes DXVA (DirectX Video
Acceleration) with supported GPUs. For graphics chips that do not support
hardware acceleration for either codec, the software decoder CoreAVC is
used to render using CPU power alone.
x264 720p: Undead Battle is a 720p x264 clip encoded from
x264 1080p: Spaceship is a 1080p x264 clip encoded from
Flash Video Test Clip
Many users watch media online in Adobe’s Flash format on sites
like Hulu and YouTube. Now that the latest 10.1 beta version of Flash supports
GPU acceleration, only slower systems like those powered by a single core
Atom without a proper GPU struggle with Flash in HD. Our test clip is a
HD movie trailer from YouTube played in Firefox.
Flash HD 720p: Iron
Real-world Benchmark Test Details
Our first test procedure is designed to determine the overall system power
consumption at various states (measured using a Seasonic Power Angel). To stress
CPUs we use either Prime95 (large FFTs setting) or CPUBurn depending on which
produces higher system power consumption. To stress the GPU, we use ATITool
or FurMark, which ever application is more power demanding.
Our second test procedure is to run the system through a video test suite featuring
a variety of high definition clips. During playback, a CPU usage graph is created
by the Windows Task Manger for analysis to determine the average CPU usage.
High CPU usage is indicative of poor video decoding ability. If the video (and/or
audio) skips or freezes, we conclude the GPU (in conjunction with the processor)
is inadequate to decompress the clip properly. Power consumption during playback
of high definition video is also recorded.
Lastly, we run a short series of performance benchmarks — a few real-world
applications as well as synthetic tests.
All nonessential pre-installed software is removed prior to testing, and certain
services and features like Superfetch and System Restore are disabled to prevent
them from affecting our results. Aero glass is left enabled if supported. All
tests are conducted with WiFi disabled (as well as other wireless connectivity
features) unless necessary, and screen brightness is set to a reasonable level
unless otherwise noted. We also make note if energy saving features like Cool’n’Quiet
and SpeedStep do not function properly.
During testing the screen was adjusted to 4/8, more or less equivalent to 4/10
on our reference laptop, the Gateway EC1803h.
AC Power Draw
Test Results: System Power
ThinkPad Edge 13
CPU + GPU
Running on AC power, the N220 used slightly more power than the 1005HA when
idle, but slightly less on load. This is a bit disappointing as Intel’s dual
core Pine Trail D510M0 motherboard delivered some considerable power savings
compared to its predecessor, the D945GCLF2 which was based on the first generation
Test Results: Video Playback
Rush Hour 1080p
Coral Reef 1080p
Iron Man 720p
Light gray boxes: watchable
Dark gray boxes: unwatchable, failure
The N220’s power consumption was much impressive during video playback, in
some cases using up to 3W less than the 1005HA. Unfortunately, Pine Trail didn’t
give the N220 the ability to play any of the high definition videos in our test
suite that the 1005HA couldn’t. If anything, playback was slightly worse as
most of the clips were very choppy and the audio frequently went out of sync.
The 1080p H.264 clip suffered from the occasional frame rate slowdown on the
1005HA but was watchable; on the N220, it was much worse, with the same problem
afflicting 20~25% of the clip. The only video that would play smoothly throughout
was the 720p x264 clip, but like the 1005HA, the software decoder CoreAVC was
Given that much of the hardware is basically the same, we would guess that
operating system, Windows 7 Starter edition is in some way to blame.
To test battery life, we ran a series of tests to simulate real life web surfing
and movie watching. The critical and low battery actions were disabled, so the
system would simply shut down once the battery was exhausted as far as Windows
would allow. WiFi was enabled obviously for the web browsing test.
For the web browsing test we loaded three websites into Firefox
on separate tabs: Google News, Yahoo News, and CNN International. Using the
add-on, we set each tab to do a staggered reload every minute. This is essentially
one page reload every 20 seconds.
For video playback we used an XVID encoded AVI (1324kbps video, 448kbps AC3
audio) played with VLC Player in a loop.
Test Results: Battery Life
ThinkPad Edge 13
The N220 ran for 8:31 during our web browsing test and a tremendous 8 hours
flat playing Xvid video, beating the 1005HA by 0:13 and 1:26 respectively. Our
AC power tests showed that the N220 uses less power when playing video and on
load, so if any kind of stress is involved, the N220 will probably outlast older
netbooks and CULV laptops alike.
Test Results: Benchmarks
The N220 also benched very closely to the 1005HA, that is to say, it’s a very
slow machine compared to the larger machines based on CULV chips. The N220 took
a mysterious dive in our NOD32 anti-virus test, taking almost 40% longer than
the 1005HA. It also booted up much slower, probably due to the Windows 7 operating
Thermals & Acoustics
Internal temperature were recorded using SpeedFan while external temperatures
were taken with an IR thermometer on the hottest point on both the topside and
underside of the N220.
CPU + GPU Load
Ambient temperature: 22°C.
The N220 ran reasonably cool, with the left side of the system becoming lukewarm
during load. Its acoustics were more impressive — the N220 is the quietest
netbook/laptop we’ve ever tested. When idle and during Xvid playback, we could
not tell if the fan was on and the system measured only 14~15 dBA@ 0.6m. The
noise level increased in small steps when the CPU and then the GPU were placed
on load. The acoustic profile remained soft and smooth even during the highest
observed noise level.
O/S, Pre-installed Software: For those unfamiliar with Windows 7 Starter
edition, it operates much in the same way as the Home Premium edition, but lacks
a host of features. These omissions include: the Aero interface, the ability
to change the wallpaper and visual style, Windows Media Center, multi-touch,
multiple monitors, fast user switching, network printing and internet connection
sharing. There is also no 64-bit version, though this is unimportant for systems
with 3GB of RAM or less.
Most of these features are unlikely to be missed on a netbook, though not being
able to change the wallpaper seems petty on Microsoft’s part. And despite all
the deletions, it’s still Windows 7, which is more demanding of hardware than
XP. Subjectively, the Samsung N220 felt sluggish until much of the bloatware
that came pre-installed was removed. This included McAfee SecurityCenter, a
trial version of Office, Works, a plethora of simple games. Once it was cleaned
up, the system was serviceable with basic applications, but it felt less snappy
than the XP-equipped 1005HA. Windows 7 also eats more RAM, with 600MB in use
after a fresh boot-up.
Build Quality: The N220 seems well constructed except for a couple of
weak spots on the bezel surrounding the screen. The area around the keyboard
feels completely solid as does the exterior. The build quality is excellent
for a netbook.
LCD: While glossy panels have become the norm in most mobile devices,
netbook screens typically have matte finishes and the N220 is no exception.
The screen is adequately bright and is easily visible in both outdoor and indoor
settings alike. The colors are warmer and richer than most of the glossy LED-backlit
screens found on 11~13" laptops. The resolution is our biggest problem
as 1024×600 just isn’t enough to properly render most webpages though we found
that dragging the taskbar over to the side helped a bit. There is an option
to expand the resolution to 1024×768 but this just stretches the picture out,
making it look distorted.
Webcam: The included 0.3mp webcam is perhaps the worst we’ve ever experienced
by a small margin. Generally grainy, it becomes noticeably more blurry than
other models when motion is involved, and in low light, the image quality is
Speakers: The tiny speakers under the lip of the machine produce, as
one would guess, tinny sound about on par with a typical laptop. The volume
can be pumped rather high, but that only makes it sound worse.
Keyboard: We would consider the keyboard one of the best among netbooks
if it were not for the size. The keyboard exhibits very little flex and the
keys offer excellent tactile feedback. Unfortunately, the keys are even smaller
than the average 10" netbook with the main keys being only 9 mm wide. The
island style utilized by Samsung just doesn’t make sense in a machine this size.
If you find typing on an Asus 1005HA or Acer Aspire One troublesome, it’s best
to avoid the N220.
Touchpad: The touchpad is nothing special — it has a small, simple,
smooth surface with a small degree of resistance. The left/right mouse buttons
are flush with rest of the body, making them somewhat difficult to press with
HyperSpace: The N220 has a quick-boot operating system called HyperSpace
which is similar to Asus’ ExpressGate. It offers a browser, Skype, a simple
notepad application, and a customizable front page with shortcuts to Gmail,
Twitter, and other web services. HyperSpace isn’t exactly instant-on as it takes
32 seconds to fully load, but this is less than half the time it takes to boot
into Windows 7.
It also requires a pre-allocated amount of system memory (128MB, 256MB or 512MB)
because it can be run simultaneously with Windows. Once both operating systems
are loaded it takes about 18 seconds to switch between the two.
Chargeable USB: The N220 also has a feature which allows you to charge
USB devices even if the system is off, asleep, or hibernating. Simply load the
Chargeable USB application, switch the toggle from off to on, and you’re off
to the races.
With the feature enabled, the system did not draw any additional AC power when
no devices were plugged in. We tested it by attempting to charge a pair of cell
phones, a Sony Ericsson and a Motorola. The Sony phone claimed it was charging,
but according to our power meter, the N220’s energy draw did not increase. After
an hour, the meter on the phone hadn’t budged even a sliver. When we plugged
in the Motorola phone, the system drew an extra 0.5W, but an error message came
up on the phone’s LCD that said "unable to charge." This feature may
work better on other devices, but we wouldn’t consider it a bankable selling
Comparable System sound files:
In the end Pine Trail delivers more or less what we expected in a netbook.
The Samsung N220’s battery lasted about 8.5 hours when surfing the web, slightly
better than the Asus 1005HA.
When playing Xvid video, it stayed alive for a tremendous 8 hours flat, 1.5
hours better than the 1005HA. It seems the more stress you put on it, the longer
it lasts compared to the competition. The machine also runs fairly cool and
is easily the quietest mobile PC we’ve ever tested, measuring only 14~15 dBA@0.6m
when idle, and 17~18 dBA@0.6m at full load. Furthermore, the N220 is solidly
constructed, which is rare for a netbook these days, and features an exemplary
screen with a matte finish.
It is still a netbook though, so it suffers from all the problems about which
netbook haters love to complain. It is of course small and light, being just
over 1 inch thick and just under 3 pounds, but its keyboard and LCD are small
too. The screen’s resolution is low, and with no digital video output, nor hardware
acceleration for high definition video, it is best suited for playing standard
definition material. While Atom is energy efficient, its performance is anemic;
the hardware is only suitable for basic tasks. The choice of operation system
compounds this a bit as well — Windows 7 Starter is a bigger resource hog
The Samsung N220 retails for about US$400, which is high for a 10" netbook.
They are considered commodities by many, so Samsung may have trouble getting
takers at that price. Alternatives include the US$300 Asus Eee PC 1001P, which
sports similar specifications with the exception of 802.11n. The US$320 Gateway
LT21 series and Acer AO532h are comparable models as well, only lacking Bluetooth.
If long battery life is not essential, US$400 can get you a much more capable
11.6" single core CULV system like the Acer Aspire AS1410 or the Gateway
EC1805U, the US version of the Gateway
Our thanks to Samsung
for N220 sample.
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Articles of Related Interest
Asus UL30A & Lenovo ThinkPad
Edge 13 CULV Notebooks
Asus UL80Vt: A CULV Laptop with Hybrid
Gateway EC1803h: Netbook
Asus Eee PC Seashell 1005HA netbook
Intel D510M0 Motherboard: Atom 2.0
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