Our reviews of previous Samsung netboosks give us reason to think they'll all be decent performers when they're released in the UK later this month, all being well. Prices are TBC.At $349, The N150 falls into the same price range as other retail fixed configuration Netbooks we've reviewed. It costs about $50 more than entry-level $299 models, but for the same price, you can also get the Asus Eee PC 1018 that offers similar components, but a slimmer profile and a more upscale brushed-metal look, as well as more than 30 minutes of additional battery life.In a world where most Netbooks are glossy black bricks, the Samsung N150 at least tries to look a little different. Mixing black and burgundy, the lid reminded us a bit of the sunburst finish found on many guitars. The interior is less interesting; everything is a simple matte black. Compared with slimmer Netbooks such as the Asus Eee PC 1018, it looks and feels thick and bulky. However, with that you also get the sense that this is a solidly built laptop that can stand up to some serious road abuse.The keyboard has wide, flat-topped keys, packed tightly together, which is a change from the more common island-style keyboards we've seen on most new Netbooks. The keys themselves are a good size, but the lack of space between them led to plenty of typing mistakes when we first started using the keyboard. The all-important right Shift key is fortunately a good size, but the four arrow keys are shrunk down quite a bit.
It has a decent size touch pad, but it's not as wide as the one of the Asus Eee PC 1018. The left and right mouse buttons are less impressive, relegated to a thin one-piece rocker bar that is far from our favorite way to control a mouse pointer.
The 10.1-inch wide-screen display has a 1,024x600-pixel native resolution, which is standard for nonpremium Netbook screens. One of the best features of the N150 is its matte screen finish, which is a rarity on Netbooks (or consumer laptops of any size), so if you're very sensitive to screen glare, it could be a deal clincher.
As with most of the fixed configuration retail Netbooks we've seen recently, 802.11n Wi-Fi is standard, while Bluetooth gets skipped. Other than that, you're not going to find any high-end extras, just the usual combo of three USB ports, a VGA video out, and an SD card reader.While all of our back to school 2010 retail Netbooks essentially use the same combination on an Intel Atom N450 CPU, Windows 7 Starter, and 1GB of RAM (the HP Mini 210 has a variation N455 CPU and a faster hard drive), the Samsung N150 was actually faster then the competition by a few seconds in each of our benchmark tests.
Before you get too excited about that, the difference is literally just a few seconds in each case, and you're very unlikely to be able to tell the difference in everyday use. We'd say the N150 has typical Netbook performance, which means it's fine for basic Web surfing, office productivity, and light multimedia playback--HD streaming video is definitely iffy. The key to Netbook satisfaction is keeping one's expectations modest, and not trying to completely replace the full-size, full-power computer you already have.When we reviewed the Samsung R730, we were impressed by its £500 price tag and stylish red lid. But we were disappointed by its lack of power and the fact that the lovely red finish didn't extend to the laptop's interior. Now that we have our hands on the 17.3-inch Samsung R780, we're pleased to report that, for around £250 more, you can bag yourself an Intel Core i5 CPU, Blu-ray drive and a glossy red finish both inside and out. But are those features worth the extra moolah?At around 411 by 40 by 273mm, the R780 is a fairly substantial laptop, but, on the plus side, its bulky dimensions mean there's loads of extra space for that lovely glossy red finish to cover. This deep red covers not only the R780's lid, but also stretches around the keyboard and goes right up to the hinge. It's a consistency of style we see in precious few machines, and Samsung deserves praise for creating a laptop that looks good both inside and out. Pretty much everything that's not red is an understated matte black.
We like other details of the R780's interior too, such as its the chrome-accented power button, and the four tiny, blue LEDs that light up the corners of the R780's trackpad whenever you're using it.
The LEDs on the trackpad's corners help ensure your finger doesn't stray onto the patterned chassis by accident
The R780's port array is pretty bog-standard, with VGA and HDMI out, three USB ports, an additional eSATA/USB port, an Ethernet jack, a multi-format card reader, and 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a microphone.The trackpad is impressively large and smooth, and the keyboard is big, comfortable and sensibly laid out, with isolated keys. Typing on it for extended periods of time won't cause your fingers to warp permanently into unnatural shapes.
This machine runs Windows 7 Home Premium, and sports a 500GB hard drive to handle your storage needs. That's a decent storage capacity for the price, and you'd have to be a real download fiend to burn through that kind of space in a hurry.
We like the 17.3-inch LED display, which offers a decent maximum resolution of 1,600x900 pixels. More impressive than the resolution, however, is the brightness of this display. It's sufficiently bright to cancel out most of the reflections that appear on the very glossy screen. Colours look vibrant, and the screen also boasts a wide horizontal and vertical viewing angle, so the whole family can crowd around to check out the humiliating Facebook photos you've been tagged in.Toshiba clearly thought its Satellite range of laptops wasn't big enough, so it's churned out a few more machines to plug the gaps. One such device is the Satellite A660, which is part of the company's entertainment and gaming line-up. That means we're expecting it to be able to handle high-definition movies and some of our favourite games. Our review model is the Satellite A660-15T, which features an Intel Core i7-720QM CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. It can be yours for around £900 from John Lewis.If you asked a six-year-old child to draw a laptop, they'd probably doodle something resembling the A660. It couldn't really look more generic -- it's a solid black rectangle, with a big chrome logo on the lid. But, while the A660 might not grab your attention at first, closer inspection reveals plenty of interesting details.
The lid and keyboard surround have a textured, brick-like pattern that we've seen on other Toshiba machines in the past. The effect is subtle, but we like it. The inside of the lid is made of glossy black plastic, with a brushed effect lurking just below the surface. We didn't notice either of these surfaces picking up many fingerprints.The trackpad is large, with a glowing white strip at the top, and, in the lower left-hand corner, there's an illuminated Satellite logo. Above the keyboard, which has isolated keys, you'll find a range of touch-sensitive buttons.On either side of these buttons sit built-in Harman Kardon speakers. Set below a black grille, they look like proper speakers, and they're the A660's most distinctive visual feature.The A660's connectivity is pretty comprehensive. Around the sides are VGA and HDMI outputs, an Ethernet port, a Blu-ray/DVD rewritable drive, three USB ports and a SATA/USB port for plugging in an extra hard drive. There's also a 3.5mm socket for headphones or a microphone. Finally, there's a multi-format card reader on the front.
We were positively delighted by both the A660's keyboard and trackpad. The keyboard is comfortable, and each key has a pleasingly grippy feel. Typing at speed is a breeze, and we made very few mistakes. The trackpad is large and incredibly sensitive, which makes complex cursor movements simple. The trackpad buttons are the pièce de résistance -- they're extremely sensitive and easy to press, so you won't end up with a cramped, crippled hand after a long day of computing.The A660 sports a 16-inch, LED-backlit screen, with a maximum resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. That's a decent resolution for a screen of this size. When we looked at some photos, however, we noticed that the display isn't especially bright, and we've certainly seen screens that project more vivid colours. The A660's screen could definitely benefit from a higher contrast ratio. The vertical viewing angle is also pretty poor -- putting the screen at just a slight angle beyond your direct line of sight will cause it to become too dark to view.
The A660-15T is powered by a beefy Intel Core i7-720QM CPU. It's quad-core, with a 6MB cache, and a clock speed of 1.6GHz, or 2.8GHz when it goes into turbo mode. Your storage needs will be catered for by a 500GB hard drive.Budget laptops don't tend to be very attractive, but the L650 bucks the trend. There's nothing particularly innovative about its glossy black chassis, but the slick, carbon-fibre-style pattern on the surface certainly adds a touch of class.We were impressed by the L650's build quality. Cheap laptops can feel as if they'll fall apart in your hands, but this machine is relatively sturdy. There's little keyboard flex, the screen's hinge mechanism is tight, and we get the feeling that, if the laptop were dropped accidentally, nothing serious would go wrong. The L650 is a relatively large laptop. Its chassis measures a not inconsiderable 380 by 28 by 250mm, and weighs 2.5kg, so getting it into a bag will be a struggle. The upshot of having such a large chassis is that Toshiba's been able to accommodate a huge trackpad, a full-size keyboard and an accompanying numerical keypad. The latter will prove useful for anyone who enters plenty of numerical data, or for people who want to assign keyboard shortcuts in their favourite games.
The L650 has a large, 15.6-inch display. This runs at a rather modest 1,366x768-pixel resolution, which is low given the size of the panel. But the quality of the display is undeniable. It has a wide viewing angle, particularly across the horizontal axis, so it lends itself well to watching movies side by side with a friend.
The L650-12Q looks unremarkable, but its performance is surprisingly good, given its price
You'll want to buy yourself a set of external speakers or headphones though, because the L650's speakers are truly terrible, even by laptop standards. We've heard better audio coming out of a mobile phone.The L650 isn't particularly well endowed in terms of connectivity options. It has three USB ports, one of which doubles as an eSATA port, a two-in-one memory-card reader and an HDMI video output. That's enough to get by, but, considering that many laptops of a similar size have four or more USB ports, we feel rather cheated.Jay LeBoff was sick of being left incommunicado when the power went out in his neighborhood in Westchester County, N.Y. So he set out to build a backup power supply that relies on the sun.
At the Consumer Electronics Show, his company, NRG Dock, showed off solar chargers that are designed to run a range of electronics, including cell phones, Blackberrys, gaming machines, and music players. A high-end version will power laptops.The products have a couple of pieces. In the Home version, there is a weatherproof battery and a solar panel that charges up and connects to a docking station inside. With a 15-watt panel and battery, it has enough juice to run a laptop for several hours, Allan Wattenmaker, the company's chief operating officer, said Tuesday at CES.The Apartment version has a smaller panel that can be attached to a window with a suction cup. That charger is designed for smaller devices, like iPods and cell phones, rather than laptops, Wattenmaker said.NRG Dock plans to release its first products in the second or third quarter of this year. The Home version will cost $800, and the Apartment version will cost $500. Both will benefit from federal and state tax rebates that could take 30 percent off the price, Wattenmaker said.