Samsung P580

  • Editors' rating
    7.5 Very good

Pros

  • Robust, solid chassis
  • Good keyboard
  • Decent performance
  • Webcam

Cons

  • No fingerprint scanner
  • Average quality screen
  • Consumer-focused webcam software
  • Moderate battery life

Samsung's P580 is a chunky 15.6in. business notebook with a solid feature set. It doesn't stand out in any particular area, but that's not necessarily to its disadvantage: a workhorse system with a reasonable turn of speed is often precisely what a business user requires. And at less £650 (ex. VAT) the P580 could prove a solid investment.

Design
The Samsung P580 is a pretty bulky and heavy — it's not a notebook you're going to want to pack in your bag every morning. It weighs a hefty 2.5kg and measures 37.1cm wide by 25.5cm by 2.99-3.53cm thick. There's no clasp to hold the lid and base sections together in transit, so if you do take this notebook on your travels, it will need its own carrying case or compartment in your bag to prevent anything from slipping between keyboard and screen and causing damage.

This is an unobtrusive notebook. The lid carries Samsung branding, but the matte-black chassis material is bland and no-nonsense. The lip that makes it easy to open the lid overhangs a long strip of status lights. This arrangement allows you to see when the notebook is charging, in hibernation, has Wi-Fi on, and so on when the lid is closed.

The screen measures 15.6in. across the diagonal and has a native resolution of 1,366 by 768 pixels (a 16:9 aspect ratio). The LCD has a non-gloss finish, so it's easy to view in a wide range of lighting conditions. We've seen better viewing angles, but the screen's visibility is perfectly adequate. Colours are a little less vibrant than we'd like, and the definition isn't great either. A good screen is vital to comfortable computing, but the P580's is on the average side.

The wide chassis means there's room for a separate number pad to the right of the keyboard. The keys themselves are large and well spaced. There's also room for a near-full-size set of direction keys onto which are overlain brightness and volume controls, accessed via a Fn key. The main Fn key is in its usual place to bottom left of the keyboard, but there's a second one next to the direction keys, making it easy to use these secondary functions with just the right hand. A row of full-height number keys is topped by three quartets of Fn keys.

The keyboard is reasonably comfortable to use. The keys depress a long way — a little too far for our own preference, but others will like the robust feel. There's almost no flex in the keyboard, so even the heaviest-handed of typists should find it solid enough to work with.

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The touchpad offers pinch-to-zoom and rotation features with suitable applications support. Pinch-to-zoom comes in especially handy for web browsing, for example. There are also scroll zones built into the right and bottom sides of the touchpad. The touchpad itself is responsive, but its two buttons sit flush to its edges and to the wrist rest, and so they aren't the most comfortable or ergonomic to use.

There's a webcam mounted above the screen, for which Samsung provides Cyberlink's YouCam software. This is distinctly consumer-level software whose features include frames and animations for photos, image distortion, photo and video capture and video upload to YouTube. You also get a range of 'wacky' avatars. There is no fingerprint scanner.

Features
Samsung offers just one P580 configuration: it runs Windows 7 Professional 32-bit and has a 2.13GHz Intel Core i3-330M processor, supported by 3GB of RAM. Graphics are handled by a discrete GPU, Nvidia's GeForce GT 330M, with 1GB of dedicated video memory. The hard drive is a 320GB unit spinning at 5,400rpm, with shock protection to help it survive knocks and bangs.

Wireless connectivity includes Bluetooth (2.1+EDR) and Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), but not mobile broadband. Gigabit Ethernet is available for wired networking.

The P580 isn't overburdened with ports and connectors, but there are enough for most business needs. The left edge carries VGA, HDMI, powered USB 2.0 and combination eSATA/ USB 2.0 ports. The powered USB port allows you to charge peripherals directly from the notebook's battery when the notebook is switched off. The audio jacks are also on the left side.

The front edge houses a reader for SD- and Memory Stick-compatible media — this edge slopes inwards and the slot is on the lower edge, making it a little awkward to reach.

The right edge has a SuperMulti Dual Layer drive and, towards rear, two further USB ports stacked vertically. As usual with this configuration, you may find it difficult to use both ports at the same time if your peripherals are in any way chunky.

The Ethernet (RJ-45) port sits on the back edge to the power connector.

Performance & battery life
The Samsung P580's Windows Experience Index (WEI) is 5.5 (out of 7.9). This is higher than the 4.0 achieved by the Toshiba Portégé M780-106 which shares the same processor but has less RAM, and also higher than the 4.6 achieved by the Toshiba Satellite Pro S500, which has the same CPU but more RAM (4GB).

The P580's WEI of 5.5 corresponds to the lowest component score, which was for RAM (Memory operations per second). Primary hard disk (Disk data transfer rate) rated 5.9, while the other components rated over 6: Processor (calculations per second) (6.2); Graphics (desktop performance for Windows Aero (6.5) and Gaming Graphics (3D business and gaming graphics performance) (6.5).

Most business users spend most of their time in mainstream productivity software such as Microsoft Office, or doing email, or browsing the web. All this, the Samsung P580 will handle with ease.

The P580 comes with a 6-cell Li-ion battery, but Samsung offfers no estimate of its mains-free longevity. We tested battery life by setting the notebook to play a DVD video from a full battery charge under Samsung's Optimised power plan with Wi-Fi on. Under these conditions, the 6-cell battery struggled to keep the notebook going for very long. We got 2 hours 2 minutes of video playback, which puts this notebook well below average. On the plus side, the speakers produced plenty of volume and ought to be loud enough to handle a small group in a meeting room.

Conclusion
The Samsung P580 has a decent specification, including a nice keyboard, and delivers respectable performance. Battery life could be better though.

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