Using Google’s Chrome OS Laptop of the Future [Video]

The Chrome Cr-48 netbook might just be a reference design—as in, most folks won’t ever be able to use it—but it is what Google thinks a Chrome laptop should be. And it has some pre…

Samsung N230 Netbook Review

It’s thin and sleek—too bad it’s an Atom netbook
We didn’t want to admit it, but it’s true: The Atom netbook market is a snooze. Netbooks based on Intel’s Atom platform (currently in its Pine Trail incarnation) ship with a 10.1-inch screen, 1GB…

It’s thin and sleek—too bad it’s an Atom netbook

We didn’t want to admit it, but it’s true: The Atom netbook market is a snooze. Netbooks based on Intel’s Atom platform (currently in its Pine Trail incarnation) ship with a 10.1-inch screen, 1GB of RAM, a 1.6GHz single-core Atom processor, Windows 7 Starter, blah blah blah. Netbooks with Nvidia’s Ion graphics architecture are more interesting, but they’re few and far between. At night, faint echoes from the ventilation shafts whisper of AMD’s forthcoming Atom smasher, code-named Ontario, which could signal a new dawn for the genre. But for now, the best we can hope for in this thoroughly commoditized market is a netbook that performs as well as its peers but looks good doing so. Samsung’s N210, which we reviewed in July, rocked a gorgeous Space Age aesthetic and a great keyboard but was packed to the exhaust ports with bloatware. The N230 has the same hardware, but in the slimmest, sleekest frame we’ve ever seen on a netbook. Where the N210 was Space Age, the N230 is pure modern.

By eschewing the multilayer clear-on-white plastic shell of the N210 for a single-layer, slim black carapace, Samsung made the N230’s profile sleeker—at its thickest it’s still less than an inch thick, and most parts of it are three-quarters of that. It’s also the lightest netbook we’ve ever tested, at just two pounds, five ounces (tied with the very first Acer Aspire One we tested in December 2008 for lap weight, and even lighter than that netbook when the power brick is included). Skipping the 6-cell battery did wonders for the N230’s weight and lines, but with a 3-cell battery, the N230 doesn’t last as long as its peers: It tapped out of our video rundown test 10 minutes short of the four-hour mark—70 minutes sooner than the N210 and nearly four-and-a-half hours short of the HP Mini 5102 (September 2010). All other benchmark scores were indistinguishable from those of any other Pine Trail netbook.

 

What it lacks in power, the N230 makes up with its lightweight chassis and low price.

The N230’s lid is glossy-black plastic, while the interior is matte black and the wrist rest is brushed metal. We wish Samsung would have taken at least a little style from the N210 and gone without the exterior’s sheen, which only looks good if you handle the netbook with kid gloves, or leave it at home. Given that the whole point of a netbook is to have a fully functional real computer (as opposed to a tablet) that you can chuck into a bag and take with you, we prefer ones that don’t look dirty as soon as you take them out of the box.

The island-style keyboard is just as roomy and comfortable as its predecessor’s, and the multitouch trackpad, though a bit small for our tastes, is accurate and easy to use. The N230’s port and connector array is standard—three USB 2.0 ports (one of which can charge electronics while the computer is sleeping), audio jacks, VGA out, 10/100 Ethernet, and a multicard reader, and it has 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, though no Bluetooth.
With the N230, Samsung dropped its Hyperspace instant-on OS, which we can’t help but applaud, along with the decision to include less bloatware. We still had to drag a bunch of desktop icons to the Recycle Bin, but they were mostly for Samsung’s onboard maintenance tools, not third-party software (aside from the inevitable Norton trial).

The Samsung N230 takes the standard netbook loadout and crams it into the lightest 10-inch chassis we’ve ever held. Though it’s a magnet for fingerprints, it has great lines, and at around $350, it’s a pretty good deal. The N230 manages to impress us despite our netbook ennui. That’s not a lot, but we’ll take it.

SAMSUNG N230 NETBOOK

FOGHAT

Slimmest, lightest netbook we’ve tested; good keyboard.

FROGHAT

Sub four-hour battery; boring internals; fingerprint prone.

score:8

Asus G73Jw-A1 Review

Featuring Nvidia’s new GeForce GTX 460M graphics
A 17-inch notebook is going to be big, there’s just no way around it. But after reviewing Malibal’s ginormous X7200 desktop replacement in our Holiday issue, Asus’s eight-pound, 11.8-ounce G73Jw-A1…

Featuring Nvidia’s new GeForce GTX 460M graphics

A 17-inch notebook is going to be big, there’s just no way around it. But after reviewing Malibal’s ginormous X7200 desktop replacement in our Holiday issue, Asus’s eight-pound, 11.8-ounce G73Jw-A1 seems highly portable by comparison. And at $1,800—one-third the price of the X7200—the G73Jw-A1 also seems highly affordable.

You get a lot of notebook for that price. At its center is a Core i7-740 quad-core mobile CPU, with a base clock of 1.73GHz and Turbo Boost potential up to 2.93GHz. Asus kicks that up a notch with a one-button overclock feature called Twin Turbo Mode, which pushes the CPU as much as 100MHz higher. According to Asus, Twin Turbo’s impact is most noticeable in multithreaded apps. And we did see a 6 percent difference when running MainConcept with and without Twin Turbo. But we also observed a similar difference in scores when we ran Photoshop, a mostly single-threaded app, both ways. Hey, we’ll take any extra performance we can get.

When the G73Jw-A1 is closed, you can see how the matte black finish and a few strategically designed edges and angles remind us of a stealth fighter.

Running all of our benchmarks with the help of Twin Turbo, the G73Jw-A1 enjoyed generous leads over our zero-point notebook in all the content-creation apps. It also surpassed our zero-point in the gaming benchmarks; although, here the more relevant factor was the notebook’s Nvidia GeForce GTX 460M GPU—a new Fermi-based mobile part. While this card turned out superior scores to the GeForce GTX 260M in our zero-point rig, the benchmark numbers in Far Cry 2 and Call of Duty 4 were pretty close to what we’ve seen from the last-gen GeForce GTX 285M. The big difference is that the G73Jw-A1’s GPU supports DX11. Based on the frame rates we achieved in our aged games, you’ll need to dial down resolutions and effects to make newer games playable—a common compromise in gaming notebooks, particularly those with just a single graphics card.

The G73Jw-A1 comes equipped for HD movie viewing, as well, with a 17.3-inch LED backlit screen that supports a 1920×1080 resolution, perfect for playing Blu-ray movies on the notebook’s combo drive. The G73Jw-A1
also has a decent sound system. It doesn’t compare to the audio quality you’ll get from an external set of speakers or a good set of headphones, but the presence of a subwoofer gives the G73Jw-A1 a much richer sound than you typically get from laptop speakers, and the volume gets pretty loud.

Physically, the G73Jw-A1 is solid. Its matte finish mitigates unsightly fingerprints and its rubberized palm rest area feels pleasant. We also like the full-size chiclet-style keyboard, which is backlit for greater visibility in dark environments. And folks who want to get under the hood will appreciate that a single access panel and two screws are the only things standing between you and three RAM slots, both drive bays, and the wireless card.
 
While we gave the Malibal X7200 high marks for its audacity, Asus’s G73Jw-A1 deserves praise for being a strong performer in a far more practical, portable, and affordable package.

ASUS G73JW-A1

MELODIOUS

Quad-core i7; DX11 graphics; decent sound system; HD screen.

MALODOROUS

You’ll need to dial down detail to play newer games.

score:9ka

New MacBook Airs: Faster, Lighter, Instant On, 30 Day Standby Power [Video]

It’s been two years since the last MacBook Air refresh, but Apple’s made up for lost time: the redesigned MacBook Air comes in 13.3 and 11.6-inch flavors with complete unibody construction. An…