Samsung NP300E5A Notebook

It is really starting to look like I have an affinity for Samsung computers. This is at least my fifth one, and I have a feeling that it might be my sixth, that I am forgetting one somehow...
Written by J.A. Watson, Contributor

It is really starting to look like I have an affinity for Samsung computers. This is at least my fifth one, and I have a feeling that it might be my sixth, that I am forgetting one somehow... But I swear, I don't go looking specifically for Samsung, I just seem to keep finding them for a very good price. That is what has happened again in this case, it was on sale for CHF 535 (about £360 or $585), which is a ridiculous price so I couldn't pass it up. Both my partner and I are overdue for desktop replacements, so there is no doubt this one will be put to good use - the only question is which of us will get it.

Samsung NP300E5A

This is part of what Samsung calls their "3 Series", and the specifications are pretty good. It has an Intel Core i5-2450M/2.50GHz CPU, 4GB of DDR-3 memory, and a 500GB disk. It has two graphic controllers, the integrated Intel HD 3000 and an nVidia GeForce GT 520 MX. That's some pretty serious power... The display is 15.6 inches, and 1366x768 resolution. For networking it has a Realtek Gigabit wired adapter, an Intel Centrino Wireless-N 130 adapter, and Bluetooth 3.0. Other interfaces and ports include 3 USB-2.0 (not USB-3, one of the few things about it that disappointed me slightly), VGA and HDMI ports, and an SD card lot. Oh, and a CD/DVD-R/W drive and a 1.3 Megapixel camera. The keyboard is full sized (of course), with a separate number pad, and it has an Elantech touchpad with separate buttons (no ClickPad rubbish, thankfully). It comes preloaded with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, but it is at least not burdened with excessive preloaded garbageware - all I had to remove was Symantec Internet Security.

This is not some small/thin/light "Ultrabook" or netbook, it is 36.8x24.3cm and 3.3cm thick, and weighs in at about 2.3Kg. That's roughly double the size and weight of some of my netbooks, so I am not likely to be hauling this one around with me very much. But for desktop use and occasionally moving around the house, it is just fine. The exterior finish is very nice, the lid is about 3/4 covered with a lined metallic surface, and the rest is black plastic. I think it is a bit more "classy" looking than the typical all black plastic notebook.

I turned it on and walked through the initial Windows 7 setup (ugh). It gave me the option of dividing the disk into C: and D: partitions, and allocating the disk to each of them, which I have mentioned before makes provisioning for Linux installation a lot easier. I made D: about 150GB, and gave C: the rest. Once the Windows 7 setup was done I got to work on the "real" setup, loading Linux on it.

So far I have loaded Linux Mint Debian Edition (Gnome), openSuSE 12.1 (KDE) and Ubuntu 12.04 (Unity). Mint and openSuSE loaded with no problem, but Ubuntu fouled up somehow and left the system unbootable. I recovered by installing the openSuSE GRUB again, so that was not a significant problem. Everything else works beautifully - wired and wireless networking both came up with no trouble, and my Kensingon Bluetooth Slimblade Trackball/Mouse connected as well. I have connected an external monitor to the HDMI port, and configured it at 1680x1050 and the laptop screen at 1366x768, and the desktop extended across both displays, it all worked fine. The speakers sound good (I was just listening to Norah Jones latest CD). The Fn-keys for volume up/down, brightness up/down and touchpad on/off work, I didn't test the others. Suspend/Resume works and is very fast, something like two or three seconds to suspend, and only one or two to resume (although it takes a few seconds longer for the wireless networking to reconnect).

All in All, this is a very nice notebook system, I'm quite pleased that I got it, and tickled pink with the price. I chose not to put the current releases of Fedora, Mint12 and Mageia on it because their new releases will be out soon. So I am looking forward to that. I haven't tried the nVidia drivers on it yet, because performance with the Intel graphics is good enough for my needs. I'll probably load up the nVidia before too long, just to see how much difference it makes.

jw 3/5/2012

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