How do you rate this laptop with Linux?
Excellent
 
44% (8)
Good
 
39% (7)
Fair
 
11% (2)
Poor
 
6% (1)
Unusable
0% (0)

Samsung NF310

Author(s)

J.A. Watson

Introduction

The Samsung NF310 is the latest in this excellent line, with a Dual Core Atom CPU, DDR3 memory and 1366×768 screen.

Specifications

NameSamsung NF310
ProcessorIntel Atom N550 1.5 GHz Dual Core
Screen10.1“ 1366×768
RAM1 GB DDR3
HDD250GB
Optical DriveNone
Graphics Intel GMA3150
NetworkMarvell PCI-E Fast Ethernet Controller, Broadcom 4313 WiFi b/g/n

Linux Compatibility

DeviceCompatibilityComments
ProcessorYes-
ScreenYes-
HDDYes-
Optical DriveN/A-
GraphicsYes-
SoundYes-
EthernetYes-
WirelessYes-
BluetoothYes-
56K ModemN/A-
USBYes-
FirewireN/A-
Card ReaderYesSD/MMC Card
ExpressCard SlotN/A-
CameraYes-

Notes

This netbook is a significant step forward. The Dual Core Atom CPU and DDR3 memory make things quite fast, the high resolution display is SO much nicer than the typical 1024×600 netbook, and the traditional touchpad with buttons is a LOT less trouble than the “buttonless” ClickPad on the Lenovo S10-3s and HP dm1-3100. The only problem is with display brightness fluctuation and Fn-key controls, which only Fedora 16 gets entirely right.

When running openSuSE, wireless networking often doesn't connect automatically on boot (and doesn't even list the default network SSID in the Network Manager list). To get around this, go into the Network Manager icon on the panel, disable Wireless Networking, and then enable it again.

Summary

The NF310 comes preloaded with Windows 7 Starter, and unlike previous models it actually is able to boot and run that without too much struggling. During the Windows installation it asks how to allocate disk space between the C: and D: drives, and whatever is given to D: is put in an Extended Partition, which makes it quite easy to wipe that and use it for Linux installation.

I have installed several Linux distributions on this netbook, and the installation every time was quite easy. There is some sort of problem with display brightness on Samsung netbooks with Linux, which still seems to plague every distribution I have tried except Fedora 16. There is also still occasionally a problem with the Broadcom 4313 WiFi adapter, but almost all distributions now include the FOSS brcmsmac driver by default, which works very well.

Details on Linux Distributions:

Fedora 16: This is the clear winner on this netbook, as it is the only distribution where absolutely everything seems to be work. Most importantly it is the only one at this time which does not have the very serious problem with display brightness fluctuating wildly when running on battery power, and which has all of the Fn-key controls working properly. The only thing you have to be careful with is that the Broadcom driver was not included in the initial release of Fedora 16, so after installing you have to have a wired network connection at least long enough to install all of the Fedora updates. Once the updates are installed the wireless networking will work.

Linux Mint Debian 201109 Gnome: This is a close second to Fedora on this laptop. It installs easily and seems to work just fine. It has the display brightness fluctuation problem, but that can be avoided by going to Power Preferences and disabling Display Dim. All Fn-key controls seem to work properly.

openSuSE 12.1: Installed with no problems. Everything seems to work out-of-the-box, including wireless networking. This distribution has the display brightness fluctuation problem when running on battery power, but it can be avoided by going into Power Settings / Profiles and disabling “Display Dim”. This was originally my “distribution of choice” for this netbook, but Fedora 16 has since surpassed it.

Ubuntu 11.10, Linux Mint 12: Installed with no problems. These distribution include the brcmsmac driver and the firmware necessary for it, so wireless networking works out of the box. The “Additional Drivers” utility will pop up and offers to install the “STA” driver for the Broadcom wireless card - DO NOT FALL FOR THIS! The brcm80211 driver is much better, and it is already installed and working.

PCLinuxOS 2011.9: Installs and runs with no problems. Includes the brcmsmac driver.

Debian 6.0.3: Installed without problem, but the firmware for the Broadcom 4313 WiFi adapter is not included in the base distribution. After installation use a wired connection to install the package “firmware-brcm80211” and wireless networking will then work. Debian does not have the problem with the display brightness fluctuating, but the Fn-key brightness control doesn't work either.

jw


Discussion

Brian Buchalter, 2012/04/09 20:56

While I suppose what's said here is true, I had a number of problems with my wireless and screen brightness. I wrote up A Guide to Linux on my Samsung netbook to help others navigate these issues. Hope this helps - the NF310 is still a great Linux notebook.

Øystein, 2011/05/14 06:47

The mousepad works fine on my NF310. I have however enabled two finger scrolling in Mouse settings because I prefer that. Works like a charm. Much better than Windows 7, which lags a bit when scroling over flash elements on web pages.

Kevin, 2011/04/20 04:48

The NF310 is a fantastic laptop, with all the features I wanted. So far, almost everything has worked well with Linux. The exception? The touchpad. It seems that elantech changed their internal protocols maybe a year ago, and in doing so broke Linux compatibility at a kernel level. This has affected a wide variety of netbooks and laptops from a variety of manufacturers. Unfortunately, it seems that neither Samsung nor elantech has been willing to release the necessary technical documentation for the kernel folks to fix it.

So, for now, the touchpad can be used to move the mouse cursor, and to initiate left and right clicks. It cannot be used for scrolling (either edge or two-finger), and cannot be configured in any other way (such as to disable tap-to-click). Very frustrating.

See https://bugs.launchpad.net/linux/+bug/681904 for one discussion of the problem.

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samsung_nf310.txt · Last modified: 2012/05/06 06:14 by j.a.watson
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