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Samsung 305U - Part 3, UH-OH!

Well, this project has taken a sudden turn for the worse. I had noticed while installing and configuring Windows that the wireless networking seemed a bit finicky, I got the feeling that it was not connecting as easily as it should have, and it didn't seem to be getting the throughput that I thought it should have.

Well, this project has taken a sudden turn for the worse. I had noticed while installing and configuring Windows that the wireless networking seemed a bit finicky, I got the feeling that it was not connecting as easily as it should have, and it didn't seem to be getting the throughput that I thought it should have. I assumed it was just more Windows garbage software acting up, and carried on with my plans the system.

As I wrote in Part 2 of this series, openSuSE 12.1 loaded just fine, and wireless networking connected and seemed to perform normally. However, after installing all of the openSuSE 12.1 updates, I found that wireless networking would no longer connect. Strange... the 305U has a Broadcom 4313 WiFi adapter, which is relatively new but has been supported and working just fine in all the latest Linux distributions for some time now, and I have at least two other netbooks which have the same wireless adapter and work just fine. So this is clearly not a Linux problem... Hmmm. Quite a bit more testing and experimentation, and I found that it would connect sometimes, but not others. Eventually it dawned on me that the times when it would connect were when I was sitting at my desk, which is directly below the wireless router, and the times when it wouldn't connect were when I was elsewhere in the house, usually two floors below where the router is located.

As a rule, once I load Linux on a system I seldom, if ever, boot Windows again. Now, when I went back and tried with Windows I found exactly the same problem. When I had initially loaded both Windows and openSuSE, I had been sitting at my desk and using an extra wired network cable that I keep there for this reason, so when I first switched from wired to wireless I was still sitting right next to the router. One more thing that I noticed while doing some more thorough testing of this, the Samsung often didn't list some or all of my neighbor's wireless networks, also depending on where I was located in the house. Obviously, this system has a problem with wireless network reception, the next question was whether it was a problem with this particular laptop, or it was a general problem with this model.

After a good bit of searching on the Internet, I found a couple of posts from people who had exactly the same problem with this laptop, running Windows only. (If you can read German, here is a link to one such discussion in the Chip.de online forums) One of them researched it in considerably more detail, and contacted Samsung support about it. His conclusion was that the 305U has only one very weak antenna, causing serious limitations in reception and range. That certainly corresponds exactly with my experience with this system. UGH!

While searching for information on the wireless problem, I also came across a couple of posts from people describing another problem I had just begun to notice. If you leave the 305U idle long enough for the screen-blanking to kick in, and then touch the keyboard or touchpad so that the screen comes back on, there is a very irritating flicker in the screen, especially in any darker background colors. Sigh. It's not a very strong flicker, but it is clearly there. If you are old enough to have used CRT monitors very much, and you remember how some of them used to flicker, it looks pretty much like that. Once it starts, the only way to clear it is to power off and reboot. Bleah.

So unfortunately, this Samsung 305U is going back to the distributor. That is really too bad, because it is an extremely nice system in most ways. But the networking problem is a killer, both the range and throughput limits are unacceptable. I will have to start over again looking for an alternative.

jw 29/12/2011