The other part of the N120's claim to multimedia excellence is its speaker system. Rather than the typical netbook one, the N120 has three speakers, one on either side of the screen rated at 1.5W and a small sub-woofer buried in the front left-hand corner of the chassis. The exotic speaker array doesn't make the N120 the loudest netbook we have come across but it does make it one of the most pleasant sounding – swapping back and forth between the same source playing on an Acer Aspire One and an N120 the improvement was noticeable and dramatic, the little sub-woofer filling out the sound nicely.
SRS sound on a netbook? Oh, yes
The N120's audio performance is further helped by some trick sound modification technology from SRS Labs, the same folks who make the sound modification software for iRiver's media players.
A dedicated SRS control panel lets you switch between the ersatz multi-channel sound of TruSurround XT for video or the stereo expander SRS WOW XT for music. To be honest, messing about with the SRS control panel didn't really change the soundscape by much unless we had a pair of active speakers attached when its influence became more obvious.
The N120's six-cell, 5900mAh battery – up from 5200mAh in the NC10 – did a sterling job when we ran our usual test of playing a standard-definition H.264 video file at full screen using VLC with the Wi-Fi radio on and the screen set to maximum brightness. It averaged 298 minutes across three test runs.
In day to day use, we found it relatively easy to get over six hours of runtime from a full charge. The absolute best we managed, with the Wi-Fi off for most of the time, the screen brightness turned right down, and the CPU speed set to minimum was 8 hours 20 minutes.
Video Playback Battery Life Results
Battery life in Minutes
Longer bars are better
Moving on to PCMark05 and in all three tests – CPU, memory and HDD - the N120 performed worse than the NC10, though the margin wasn't large enough to have a noticeable impact on real-world use.
as someone who has dropped a running SSD Acer Aspire 1 down a flight of stairs I can see where El Reg is coming from. Netbooks are first and foremost portable, and portable means having to withstands knocks, bangs and drops. I wouldn't treat a £370 Samsung with the same disregard as a £200 AA1, and that's exactly why I bought the AA1. If I want to carry around something that I have to treat with kid gloves I'll my cart MacBook around with me. More reason I suspect to start calling machines like the NC10 and N120 "mini-laptops" and machines like the AA1 and Dell Mini 10v - btw, can we get a review of this soon? - "netbooks".
Fragile disc? + performance
Huh? What you talking about? Nothing wrong with the NC10 disc. Sure it's a disc and not an SSD, but unless you're going to be playing Frisbee with the thing it's perfectly fine.
Piro - Have you actually tried an Atom based PC?
Sure they're not gaming rigs, but hell, my NC10 is running Windows XP whilst playing 720p HD material, streamed over WiFi and upscaled to my 1080p telly perfectly smooth all with software codecs!! (and actually it does play many older games quite nicely). Hardly underpowered in performance terms for the job it's designed for, but it is low powered in wattage terms. This is why Atom processors are in my opinion going to be ideal for low powered, quiet HD HTPCs.
Sure £300 to £400 can get you a decent spec PC (as long as Apple's name isn't on it). Fine, in a netbook this size? Hmm, thought not.
Anyway, if your experience of Netbooks are those crappy "cut down linux" based budget EeePcs, then try these higher spec machines running XP, Win7 or even Ubuntu.
Depends on you expectations though. If you want top spec gaming rig in a netbook size device that's not a 300W heater and won't burn through the desk, then you're in for a disappointment. For everyone else who wants a highly portable, low powered, device for web, email, the odd document, taking to meetings, and watch a few vids on a flight, etc, these are ideal.
Not a netbook
I don't think netbooks are purely defined by size. Like others have said it's also the price.
To me a netbook is the best tech I can get with a 10" max screen for less than £200.
Anything more than £200 and I will consider a small notebook.
Still waiting to see what ION and ARM do to the netbook market when competitive products role out.
It probably performed the same in VLC and Quicktime because VLC will use the cpu-bound Quicktime decoder if it's available.
@ Jimbo 7
The Sony Vaio P has a nipple but, unfortunately, remortgaging your house so that you can afford one just isn't as easy as it used to be. ;-P