Samsung’s newest Netbook, the N310, $499.99 pushes the envelope on design fashion over form factor in this most misunderstood laptop computer category. Sure it looks cool, with a simple, yet elegant design by international award winning designer Naoto Fukasawa.

What does it have going for it?  

-An easy-to-use pebble stone keyboard with more space between the keys making it easier to type and is only 7 per cent smaller than a standard keyboard in size.

-The longest lasting battery in its class. Samsung claims 11 hours, but realistically closer to ten, still, great portable technology on one battery charge.

-The other goodies are onboard video camera, WiFi and Samsung’s own ECO certification mark, attesting to the absence of hazardous substances and materials; optimized energy efficiency; and, effective material usage.

It actually looks more powerful than what it really is: another Netbook running on an Intel Atom processor, one MB RAM, like dozens of other brands, including previous Samsung models.

If you are a first-time portable computer buyer or existing Netbook fan, you will love it…it’s like the new Volkswagen Beetle, with generous rubber-like curves and attractively different from other models.

But there’s something about Netbooks that are irritating me and I can’t put my finger on it yet.

I think Netbooks are a computer phase that happened at the right place and time.

Call it a perfect storm. They are noticeably smaller and lighter than notebooks, cheaper and arrived during an economic downturn, making them an attractive buy. Stores don’t like them because they make less money than they do on regular notebooks, which in turn, have better performance and value.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told me in an interview at the recent Windows 7 that Netbooks are many things to many people, but that computer makers will soon counter back with smaller and lighter notebooks that will do more than casual computing and Internet, the de facto category for Netbooks.

Take Toshiba’s upcoming Satellite T110 or larger SatelliteT130 for example. Literally arriving Christmas week, these thin-and-light notebooks are ultra portable and will run circles around Netbooks. The T110 for $699, has a much more usable 11.6 inch display, is 24.9 mm thin, has  2GB of fast and efficient DDR3 RAM, weighs less than 1.8kg and includes an Intel Pentium Ultra Low Voltage Processor and hard drive impact sensor. These are all quality features, until now reserved for much more expensive notebooks.

Can Netbooks do that? I doubt it. That would make them notebooks…or Not-Netbooks, right?

Check out my weekend Edmonton Journal Column on computer buying tips at:


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