Samsung N220

Samsung N220, originally uploaded by FransBadger.

After a longish, administration-overkill-caused break, a short notice. I finally got fed up of my Acer Aspire One (A110, the 512 MB model), as it was pretty impossible to do anything except the very basic html–surfing, even Ubuntu Netbook Remix edition was almost unbearably slow. After considering the options, I took the new Samsung N220 netbook model; it is a pretty basic system with Intel’s Atom N450 processor, 1 GB central memory and 250 GB disk. The positive sides are on the rather sturdy construction (they even claim the keyboard is ‘spill-proof’ and can take some liquid on top of it — I have not tested this). Keyboard feel is nice and the non-reflective 10,1″, led-backlighted display is also ok. The battery is advertised to enable 12 hour non-stop use, but to my experience if you do anything except hold the system on dark, quiet idle mode (the golden standard of battery testers, obviously), you will get something like 7-8 hours of battery life. That is also pretty good; if you plug the system in at the evenings, there is no need to load system during even a full working day. And this is with the standard battery, rather than an extended life battery.

A couple of minor irritations. One of the reasons I picked this particular system was its advertised dual-OS configuration: it has the Windows 7 Starter (I like it) and an “Instant-On” option called HyperSpace, which is actually a slim, stripped-down Linux version (see e.g. this story). This is supposedly fast, simple and substantially more energy efficient than Windows, which all might be true. However, I am not able to use it since it does not allow using Finnish keyboard layout (how silly, they ship this preconfigured with such keyboards that are not yet supported by the OS). It might get an update at some point, but for now, I need to stick to Windows.

Another irritation strikes even while I write this text, every few seconds. On their web pages, Samsung advertises N220 by boasting about its “strategically placed keys ensure that you’ll experience fewer errors – and faster typing”. All well, except the European N220 model actually has its “arrow bracket” (<>) key placed at an non-standard position next to the right shift key, which is made smaller than normal. This means that every time I try to have a capital letter, I will get < << plus a small letter. Oh well, need to just retrain my fingers…

And finally, if you decide to get N220, try disabling “One-Finger Scrolling” — it was just causing trouble by trying to scroll when I was trying to move the mouse/touchpad pointer. It has Two-Finger Scrolling (multi-touch gesture), if you want to use the touchpad for scrolling.

Author: frans

Professor of Information Studies and Interactive Media, esp. Digital Culture and Game Studies in the Tampere University, Finland. Occasional photographer and gardener.

15 thoughts on “Samsung N220”

  1. I can’t seem to get the gesture scrolling working. Any ideas?

    Pretty well agree with this report. I’ve stripped the bloatware off and removed the unnecessary games along with any unwanted embedded loadings on startup. Put Open Office on and removed the 60 days M$ trial as an irritant. As a browser, Chrome seems to work faster over IE and I’ve yet to try Opera or FF properly.

    However, I think long term I shall be getting rid of Win 7 altogether in favour of a Linux distro. Might consider upgrading the RAM soon too. However, I think I pretty well expected this performance as typical for a netbook.

  2. Ian, I decided to go for 1MB → 2MB RAM upgrade (the first memory chip was for some reason incompatible with N220, the system started locking up/crashing, the second memory brand worked ok, Kingston I think). I also decided to modify my keyboard a bit by doing a remapping. I tried a couple of tools for this, but the Win7 worked finally with SharpKeys ( I mapped the irritating arrow bracket key of the non-standard Scandinavian/Finnish keyboard into left shift, thereby cutting radically down the errors in typing, but also losing one key in action. (I nowadays run Windows Character Map utility in the background in case I need some of the missing keys.) The keyboard was in the end the only real embarrassment in N220, and so serious one that I might not have bought the netbook if I had properly tested the keyboard layout in advance (was in a hurry…) It also appears impossible to make this system wake from sleep using any key, you need to use your nails to twist the little power switch every time from the front side. But otherwise this is a solid and reliable little device (typing this with N220 right now). If you go ahead with the Linux OS switch, please blog or comment about it online; it would be interesting to hear how that works out.

  3. Will do Frans. I tend to use Debian based Linux distros and hopefully,I might even be able to use gesture controls on the touchpad.

  4. Ian, actually my N220 appears to have the new Synaptics driver installed already (and trying to download and install the one from the UK site will produce error ‘A newer version is already installed’). But nice to hear you got the gestures working, too. I am mostly using keyboard shortcuts myself, rather than moving the fingers to the touchpad.

  5. The drivers I downloaded yesterday have since today been updated to the latest via Samsung’s auto-updates. Frans, do you find the Samsung updates slow? Maybe just a UK problem.

    And apologies for giving a UK-centric url yesterday, I realised as soon as I hit the enter button.

  6. I find my N220 unbelievably slow. I’ve removed all the crap that I can, but even opening a simnple window takes a number of seconds. Any ideas?

  7. Nick, I never had great expectations for a netbook, but I did complain to Samsung that they should perhaps ship any inherently slow design with the maximum RAM available and an option to download bloatware rather than install it as default.

    I’ve removed almost all that bloatware, including M$ Office Trial (which I’ve replaced with Open Office), and just kept the Samsung Battery Saver et al.

    It’s never going to run close to even a 5-year old old desktop with Linux loaded, but I knew that when I bought it.

  8. Nick, I must admit I have no idea. What I did was install a memory upgrade (replacing the 1GB SODIMM with a 2GB SODIMM module). Even before that Win7 performance was ok, and after the upgrade everything feels pretty snappy (MS Office 2010 Beta starts slow, but I guess that is a feature of that particular software). I am running on ‘high performance’ setting though, and using the lightweight MS Security Essentials rather than a fully blown antivirus scanning in the background.

  9. Frans, my better half also got this laptop recently mainly for reading documents away from home etc. But it is fairly slow with the 1 GB supplied, so I guess I might try the memory upgrade. Do you remember which memory brand did not work properly and what’s the exact Kingston memory that does work? And where in Finland did you end up buying the memory?


  10. Erkki — I was relying on, as usual. Looking at the backlog of my acquisitions, the first memory I tried was “Corsair 2GB DDR2 667MHz SO-DIMM CL5 -muistimoduli.” That did not work for me. The second try (which I am now using) was “Transcend 2GB DDR2 667Mhz 200pin SO-DIMM -muisti.” They also sell Kingston, but it looks like the compatible module was indeed a Transcend one. Hope you will find a compatible chip, too.

    1. I have had the n220 for 2.5 months now. 1st thing I did when purchased was change ram to 2gb & clone the HD. Installed a 128gb SSD, then made it dual-boot to linux (easypeasy – a ubuntu 10.04 clone). Biggest problem was windows partition, had to realign to 4k sectors for the SSD drive. After a linux kernel upgrade + voria repository, everything worked like windows.
      Boot time, win vs linux, about 30 seconds linux to login screen, then another 20 seconds to full use after login.Win boot to login 25 secs, then 25 secs to full use after login.
      The batt life is also about the same for each, 7-8hrs, and that is with good usage. Since the SSD makes a huge difference, no motor and less heat.
      I hated all the bloatware that came with win7, got rid of most of it.I mainly use the linux side, but i did spring for an external dvdrw (usb) drive.
      I am very happy with my sammy. Would like to find a 9-cell extended battery now.

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