Very small businesses or one-person operations may find a notebook like the low-cost Samsung R510 worth considering. Its large 15.4in. screen and stylish design may appeal as much as its affordability: it starts as low as £338 (ex. VAT), rising to £477 — the price of our review sample.
The R510 is not your average business notebook. The outer shell has a shiny piano-black finish; inside, the black is repeated on the keyboard surround, slowly transitioning to a blood-red colour at the front. The shiny finish attracts fingerprints, and may prove scratch-prone in the long term. Samsung provides a cloth to deal with the former.
Samsung's R510 is an affordable 15.4in. notebook with a shiny piano-black finish.
The front of the chassis curves downwards slightly, which adds to the R510's stylish look but means there's no clasp to hold the notebook closed in transit.
Samsung's 'Protect-O-Edge' casing may suffer from a cheesy name, but the build quality is actually very solid.
The R510 is no lightweight at 2.7kg; it's also pretty bulky, measuring 35.8cm wide by 26.52cm deep by 3.85cm thick. This is no surprise considering the R510's 15.4in. screen, and it's not out of line with other 15.4in. notebooks.
At least there's plenty of space for a good-sized keyboard, which has a positive action and is comfortable to type on. There's a row of full-size number keys topped by a row of slightly smaller function keys. The inverted-T cursor control keys double up to offer some additional controls with the Fn key, allowing you to adjust screen brightness and volume. There's also a shortcut to Internet Explorer here, plus a second Fn key to complement the main one on the bottom left of the keyboard.
The keyboard has an anti-bacterial coating that uses silver-ion particles. We've seen this on other Samsung notebooks, but it's still a neat selling point.
The slightly recessed touchpad has a smooth finish and integrates both vertical and horizontal scrolling, although only the former is indicated by markings on the touchpad area. The mouse buttons are large and comfortable to press, delivering a slightly hollow-sounding 'click'.
The 15.4in. screen is sharp and bright. Horizontal viewing angles are good, vertical angles slightly less so. The native 1,280-by-800-pixel resolution isn't as high as we'd like, but it'd be churlish to complain given the R510's price tag. The LCD has Samsung's SuperBright gloss finish, which helps to boost clarity and sharpness but causes the usual reflectivity problems with a light source behind you.
Fitted into the top of the screen frame is a 1.3-megapixel webcam. Samsung provides an application to help record video and take snapshots. It was unable to render our face clearly with a light source (a window) to the rear, but coped well in more uniform lighting conditions.
Because the Samsung R510 runs Windows Vista Home Premium it lacks some features that business users might like. Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore is missing, for example, although there is a simple file backup facility.
There are several versions of this notebook. Our review sample was based around a 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 processor with 4GB of RAM. Graphics are handled by the X4500HD module integrated in the Intel GM45 Express chipset.
Our review sample came with a 250GB hard drive spinning at 5,400rpm; other options are available at 120GB, 160GB, 200GB, and 320GB. The optical drive supports LightScribe, so you can produce professional-looking media with logos and suchlike etched onto the disc's surface (so long as you purchase LightScribe compatible media).
The R510's integrated wireless connectivity runs to 802.11a/b/g and Draft-N Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth (2.0+EDR), but not mobile broadband (for which you'd need a USB dongle). For wired connections, there's Gigabit Ethernet and a V92 modem.
The R510 has a reasonable set of ports and conenctors, including both VGA and HDMI. However, there are only three USB ports.
Despite the R510's size, Samsung has only found room for three USB ports. Two sit on the back of the casing where they are stacked vertically. They ports are quite close together, and it's possible that a connector for one USB device will obscure access to the other port.
The back of the chassis also houses the Ethernet (RJ-45) and modem (RJ-11) connectors. The third USB port is on the back of the left edge; further forward there's a VGA connector for an external monitor, an HDMI port, microphone and headphone jacks and an ExpressCard/54 slot.
The right edge is free of connectors, housing only the optical drive. At the front there's a flash card reader for SD-compatible media.
The R510's overall Windows Experience Index (WEI) rating of 3.8 (out of 5.9) is quite impressive, although only one subsystem scored more than 5.0. This score (5.3) was given to Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate). Processor (calculations per second) and RAM (Memory operations per second) both scored 4.9, while Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero) got 4.1 and Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) brought up the rear with 3.8.
Samsung does not make a claim for the life of the 6-cell Li-ion battery. To test it, we fully charged the battery and chose the Power Saver plan. Then we played DVDs continuously until the notebook expired, which turned out to be after 2 hours 34 minutes.
The stereo speakers deliver good volume and reasonable quality.
Samsung's 15.4in. R510 might not be an automatic choice for business use, but it could fit the bill if you need to combine work and leisure on a stylish yet affordable notebook.