- Sturdy chassis
- Large screen
- Shock-mounted hard drive
- Separate number pad on keyboard
- Bulky and heavy
- Screen resolution could be higher
- Disappointing battery life
Samsung's new Series 6 notebook is designed to offer super-tough computing for the business traveller without having the look of a rugged notebook. It's large and heavy, but offers a 15.6in. screen and a number pad on the keyboard by way of compensation. The price is attractive too — but does the whole package deliver?
The Samsung 600B5B won't win any prizes for its looks. It is a large, boxy notebook, although Samsung has tried to sweeten the pill by tapering the thickness towards the front of the notebook and flattening the front edge. It works up to a point, but few will find the chassis attractive.
Mobile professionals may not be too happy with the 2.6kg weight, or the 37cm by 24.83 by 2.86-3.53mm dimensions. You'll need a large bag or rucksack, and strong shoulders.
The 600B5B's Duracase ProMG chassis includes a magnesium back and can withstand 1,000kg of force on the lid and drops from 76cm (2.5 feet). We certainly found minimal flex in the lid section, and other points that can be vulnerable — such as the wrist rest and chassis corners — also seemed tough.
Solid metal hinges connect the lid and base sections, which should make for a relatively long lifespan. Plastic and other materials used for hinges can crack and break, but metal is more robust. Unfortunately there's no lock to keep the lid firmly closed in transit.
Open up the clamshell and you're greeted by a large keyboard area and a big 15.6in. screen. At its top brightness setting, the 300nit LED-backlit screen can be a little harsh on the eyes. Viewing angles on both the horizontal and vertical planes are good, but not great. Some users may like the fact that the screen can be pushed back to lie flat on a desktop, but you need to be vertically above it to see content clearly.
The screen may be large, but the resolution is disappointing: at 1,366 by 768 pixels, the viewing area is no greater than it is on many smaller screens. If you want a higher resolution, HP's 14in. 1,600-by-900-pixel Elitebook 8460p is one option: similarly rugged in design, it's a touch more expensive than the £625 (ex. VAT) Samsung 600B5B.
The spill-resistant keyboard has a contiguous key design, which looks a little old-fashioned compared to today's isolated chiclet-style keyboards. However, it delivers good tactile feedback and we had no problem with fast touch typing.
To the right of the main keyboard is a separate number pad whose keys are slightly smaller than the main QWERTY keys. It has a standard layout and, although it looks a little squeezed, is perfectly comfortable to use.
Beneath the keyboard is a touchpad with support for horizontal and vertical scrolling, as well as two-finger actions such as pinch-to-zoom. Horizontal scrolling is painfully slow, though, and the touchpad is not wide enough to get the cursor fully across the screen in a single sweep.
Sitting between the G, H and B keys is a small pointing stick, with three buttons located directly beneath the space bar. The central scroll button is awkward to use because it moves at an angle towards the space bar; this motion is easiest to make with a finger, which means that using the pointing stick and the scroll button is often a task for two hands.
Above the keyboard is a grille concealing two speakers. The power button is on the far right of this grille, while on the left are three shortcut buttons. One is a toggle for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, one toggles the twin microphones to the left and right of the 1.3-megapixel camera in the upper screen bezel, while the third locks the notebook down to the login screen. There's a fingerprint reader on the upper left of the wrist rest.
With a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M processor and 4GB of RAM, the Samsung 600B5B doesn't lack horsepower, and should handle most everyday business tasks capably. For storage there's a 500GB hard disk spinning at (a modest) 5,400rpm. The drive is shock protected and has a freefall sensor that should help prevent damage when the notebook is bumped or dropped.
Samsung advertises this notebook as coming with 32-bit Windows 7 Professional, but our review sample had the 64-bit edition installed. Graphics are handled in our review system by the CPU-integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000, which helps keep the price down but may not satisfy those seeking top-notch graphics performance. Samsung offers a discrete GPU, the Nvidia NVS 4200M, as a factory-install option.
Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n) and Bluetooth (3.0+HS) are integrated, along with Gigabit Ethernet for wired connectivity. There's no internal mobile broadband option, but there's nothing to stop you using a USB dongle.
The chassis edges contain icons marking the location of all the side ports and connectors. This makes the keyboard area look a little cluttered, but does help when you're getting used to a new notebook.
Like most modern notebooks, the Samsung 600B5B supports USB 3.0 — and it rather generously provides two of them, as well as two USB 2.0 ports. Generally we see just three USB ports on notebooks these days.
It isn't all good news, though. The two USB 3.0 ports are side by side on the left edge of the chassis, and one could easily be obscured by a large peripheral plugged into the other. The left edge also houses the Ethernet (RJ-45), VGA and HDMI ports, a pair of audio jacks and a 34mm ExpressCard slot.
On the right edge the two USB 2.0 ports — one of them a USB/eSATA combo port — also sit side by side. The optical drive is also on the right. The front of the chassis has a reader for SD- and Memory Stick-compatible media, and an array of system status LEDs.
The Samsung 600B5B's Windows Experience Index (WEI) is a fairly average 4.6 (out of 7.9). The WEI corresponds to the lowest component score — in this case, for Graphics (Desktop performance for Windows Aero). The best component score was for Processor (Calculations per second) of 7.1, a rating matched by the HP EliteBook 8460p, Toshiba Portégé R830 and Lenovo ThinkPad W520.
In between were scores of 5.9 for both RAM (Memory operations per second) and Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate), and 6.5 for Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance). Unless you need to run graphically demanding applications, in which case you should consider a system with a discrete GPU, this notebook should perform well.
Samsung does not give a battery life estimate for the standard 6-cell battery provided. We tested its longevity by running a DVD video for as long as possible from a full battery charge. Under these conditions, we got 2 hours 59 minutes of movie watching, which is slightly disappointing. In everyday usage, the Samsung 600B5B is unlikely to last a full working day on battery power.
Sound quality from the stereo speakers is reasonably good. The maximum volume is loud enough to travel across a small room, and although there is some distortion at the highest volume levels it's not enough to preclude using this notebook for multimedia business presentations to small groups.
Samsung's 600B5B is bulky, heavy and short on battery life for a notebook aimed at mobile professionals, and its 15.6in. screen is let down by moderate resolution. The sturdy chassis separate number pad on the keyboard may appeal to some, though.