The monochrome, sunlight-readable displays remain largely synonymous with e-readers, but they're moving into other devices large and small.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Although Samsung presents the 12.1in. Centrino 2 Q210 under the 'consumer' banner, many professionals — particularly in small businesses — will appreciate its distinctive design. So does the Q210 cut it as a business system?
The Q210 is an ordinary clamshell notebook, but Samsung has given it a refreshingly different black and red livery. The lid section is glossy black, as is the back of the keyboard section. The front, though, is a deep, rich red that fades to black through the wrist rest area. It's a novel and quite pleasing effect that mirrors the 'touch of color' seen in Samsung's TVs and consumer-grade monitors.
Samsung's 12.1in. Q210 has a distinctive red-accented livery; it's also an excellent performer with a great keyboard.
It's a shame that the wrist-rest on our review sample came plastered with the usual marketing stickers — five of them in all. There effectively destroy Samsung's design efforts, and we advise that you remove them as soon as possible.
Our only other aesthetic gripe is the glossy finish, which attracts greasy fingermarks. Samsung does provide a cleaning cloth, but busy professionals won't want to spend time buffing up their notebook before meeting clients, for example.
For its size (30.4cm wide by 22.6mm deep by 3.77cm thick), the Q210 is relatively heavy at 1.95kg. If ultraportability is your main concern, then a netbook may be a better bet. That said, it's similar in dimensions and weight to the recently reviewed Toshiba Satellite Pro U400.
The screen measures just 12.1in. across the diagonal. There is probably room in the chassis for a 13-1in. screen, but this would have increased the price. The display has a native resolution of 1,280 by 800 pixels and is coated with Samsung’s SuperBright Gloss finish. This enhances clarity, but is distinctly reflective.
The keyboard and screen sections do not hinge together when the notebook is closed. This is not unusual, but the two halves of the casing do not fit flush to each other — the lower section is slightly longer than the upper one, and both taper away from each other.
This makes the red flash clearly visible along the front edge when the notebook is closed, along with the status lights that populate the left hand end of it. But it also makes very easy to prise the two sections apart; in a bag filled with other bits and pieces, this could be a problem.
Samsung has a name for its casing: 'Protect-o-Edge', which sounds rather naff to us. According to Samsung, this provides 'amazing strength and superior reliability'. Time will tell on that one.
The keyboard is a delight to use. There is absolutely no give underneath the keys, and plenty of return. All this gives the keyboard a very solid feel — touch-typing at top speed is no problem.
A row of half-height function keys sits atop the number row, while a small inverted-T key cluster provides for cursor control. Although it looks perfectly normal, the keyboard is coated with anti-bacterial silver ion powder (Samsung calls this 'Silver Nano' technology).
There are no application shortcut or other buttons beyond the boundaries of the keyboard except for the on/off switch, which sits on the upper right edge. The keyboard is flanked by a pair of speaker, whose output is tinny with no bass to speak of. They would suffice for presentations to a small group, but for larger audiences or entertainment you'll need to use external speakers.
The touchpad incorporates vertical and horizontal scrollers on the right and bottom edges. There are indicative markings to the right, but not along the bottom. The two mouse buttons sit a little way away from the bottom of the touchpad, embedded in the notebook's curved front edge. These are a little awkward to use at first, but we soon got used to them thanks to their very positive action.
The CPU in our review sample of the Samsung Q210 was Intel's 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo P8400, which has a 1,066MHz frontside bus and 3MB of Level 2 cache. It came with 3GB of RAM, expandable to 4GB. There's a choice of two operating systems: Windows Vista Business or Windows Vista Home Premium.
The Q210 has a discrete graphics subsystem, in the shape of Nvidia's GeForce Go 9200M GS chipset with 256MB of dedicated memory.
Connectivity runs to Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g and Draft-N) and Bluetooth (2.0+EDR), along with Gigabit Ethernet and a V.92 modem. The spec sheet lists an option for HSDPA mobile broadband, but this was not included in our review sample.
Hard drive sizes range from 120GB to 320GB, all spinning at 5,400rpm; our review sample had a 250GB unit. There's also a DVD super-multi double-layer LightScribe drive, on the right-hand side of the casing. LightScribe technology allows you to laser-etch labels directly onto suitable CD or DVD media. This could prove useful for delivering professional-looking discs to clients or colleagues.
Above the screen, in the middle, is a 1.3-megapixel webcam for videoconferencing, snapshots and video capture. It automatically adjusts brightness and contrast to match the lighting conditions, but is otherwise unsophisticated in terms of tweaks and options compared to some other webcams we've seen.
Ports and connectors are mostly on the left and right sides of the notebook. The back edge houses the mains power connector plus the modem (RJ-11) and Ethernet (RJ-45) ports.
On the right edge, as well as the optical drive, is a 34mm ExpressCard slot, an SDHC-compatible card reader and two USB ports. The latter are stacked one above the other and, as ever in this configuration, their proximity can make it impossible to use both at once. For example, we couldn't fit both a Vodafone Mobile Broadband USB Stick and our preferred USB flash drive.
The left-hand side carries, from back to front, a VGA-out port, an HDMI port, a third USB port and a pair of audio jacks.
Performance & battery life
The Samsung Q210 delivered the highest Windows Experience Index (WEI) rating we've seen for a notebook to date — 4.4 (out of 5.9). The previous notebook front-runner was the HP Compaq 6910p GC021ET, with 3.6.
The Q210's WEI of 4.4 corresponds to the lowest component score, which was for Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero). Every other element scored over 5: Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance), 5.1; Processor (calculations per second), 5.2; Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate), 5.3; and Memory RAM (Memory operations per second), which got the maximum rating of 5.9.
The system's 6-cell battery sits flush to the back of the casing and incorporates Samsung's usual battery meter — a button that, when pressed, indicates the remaining charge level (LEDs for 20%, 40%, 60%, 80% or 100% ).
We tested the battery by selecting the Samsung Optimised power scheme and asking the Q210 to play a DVD movie continuously, which it did for just over two hours. We easily got a morning's work from the notebook, but would not care to trust it for much longer away from mains power.
If you can live with its unusual design and relatively heavy weight (for a 12.1in. notebook), Samsung's Q210 could be a good choice, particularly for small businesses. It's an excellent performer and LightScribe drive could come in handy if you pass a lot of optical media to clients. The webcam could be better featured, although it performs well enough for basic videoconferencing.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Caption by: Sandra Vogel