Rating Samsung's first notebooks for the U.S.

If your holiday list includes a laptop, there's a new choice from an well-known name: Samsung. In October, Samsung announced that it was entering the U.

Samsung X360
If your holiday list includes a laptop, there's a new choice from an well-known name: Samsung. In October, Samsung announced that it was entering the U.S. market with six new notebooks, as well as a netbook. The timing wasn't great. After several quarters of double-digit growth, the PC market cooled off in late September, but Samsung seems undeterred. So should you consider a Samsung system? Here's what the reviews sites have to say.

Laptop Magazine has been all over Samsung's U.S. launch, and the site just posted a review of the Samsung R610-64G, a desktop replacement with a 16-inch widescreen display. Their verdict: The R610-64G has a great design, and it is one of the lightest (6 pounds), thinnest and most inexpensive models in its class. But if you're looking for a laptop with a 16-inch display with a 16:9 aspect ratio, you probably expect a great multimedia experience too, and with its relatively low resolution display (1,366x768), poor audio quality, weak gaming performance, and lack of either Blu-ray or dedicated media controls, the R610-64G makes too many sacrifices to get the price below $1,000. Other choices in this category include the Acer Aspire 6930G, HP HDX 16 and Sony VAIO FW series. The Aspire 6930G-6723, which Laptop Magazine also just reviewed makes for an interesting comparison because it is also priced at $999, but includes Blu-ray and better graphics.

The Samsung X series, which includes both 13.3-inch and 14.1-inch thin-and-light notebooks for business users, looks more promising. Both PC Magazine and Laptop Magazine have reviewed the 14.1-inch X460 (the other model is the X360 series). PC Magazine says the $1,700 X460-44P is a "worthy ambassador for the Samsung brand" with its "extravagant" design, light weight (4.2 pounds), integrated DVD burner, and solid performance and battery life (4 hours, 27 minutes onMobileMark 2007). The only major strike against it is the lack of any built-in mobile broadband options, though you can always use an ExpressCard or USB modem. Laptop Magazine likes it even better giving the X460-44P an Editors' Choice for its "very, very bright" LED-backlit display, thin chassis and solid performance and battery life, though they noted that the 1,280x800 display "isn't terribly sharp" and the Express Card slot is so shallow that modem cards stick out. Other models with 14.1-inch displays include the Dell Latitude E6400; HP Compaq 6500 and 6900 series; HP Pavilion dv4; Lenovo SL, R, and T series; and Sony VAIO VGN-Z590. As far as I can tell, no major site has reviewed the X360, which weighs 2.8 pounds and has an optional solid-state disk (SSD), putting it in direct competition with heavyweights such as the Apple MacBook Air and Lenovo ThinkPad X300.

The Samsung Q310 also has a 13.3-inch display, but it is more of a mainstream notebook with prices starting at $1,150. Laptop Magazine reviewed the $1,300 Q310-34P with a 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400, 3GB of memory, Intel integrated graphics, a 320GB hard drive and a DVD burner. They concluded it was a "strong contender" with solid performance and battery life, thin profile and good looks, but other mainstream notebooks such as the Lenovo ThinkPad SL300 series and HP Pavilion dv3510nr offer similar or better specs at lower prices. I'd add the Lenovo IdeaPad U330 13.3-inch model, which starts at $1,200, to the list of direct competitors here.

The other new Samsung models, the P460 and P560, are both semi-ruggedized notebooks that start at $1,150. I have yet to see hands-on reviews of these models from any major site. Finally, the Samsung NC10 is a nicely-equipped netbook with 10.2-inch display, 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270 processor, 1GB of memory, a 120GB hard drive and Windows XP for $500. Laptop Magazine gave the NC10 an Editors' Choice and you'll find numerous hands-on reviews on smaller reviews sites and gadget blogs.