Samsung R580 review

Samsung's R580 pushes Intel's Core i3 into the limelight with striking looks, solid performance and an alluring price

5
Price when reviewed 
579

Intel's Core i3 processors are set to power budget laptops to performance levels previously reserved for pricey, high-end portables, and Samsung's R580 is one of the first of this new breed. With dedicated graphics courtesy of Nvidia and a price tag that sneaks in below the £500 mark (exc VAT), it looks set to bring portable power to the budget-conscious masses.

There's little question that the R580 makes a dramatic entrance. Samsung's Touch of Colour design makes a big statement, the lid infused with a glossy blood-red finish, and it marks a striking departure from the legions of jet-black notebooks on the market.

The interior is equally fanciful, the Scrabble-tile keyboard surrounded by red curves sweeping from edge to edge. Dab a finger on the trackpad and its corners are lit by glowing-blue LEDs. For a mid-priced notebook, the R580 is quite a looker.

It's no petite stunner, though, and the 15.6in display means it isn't particularly portable. Its 2.5kg weight, meanwhile, means it isn't the lightest on the shoulder.

Look past the Flash Harry exterior and there's little to disappoint. The Core i3-330M processor lacks the Turbo Boost trickery of its Core i5 and i7 cousins, but the 2.13GHz clock speed is enough to propel it to a grand score of 1.32 in our benchmarks. And while the Nvidia GT 310M graphics chipset is no 3D-accelerating goliath, it provides enough gaming grunt for the mid-range market, only stumbling to an unplayable 14fps once we upped Crysis to medium detail and a resolution of 1,280 x 1,024.

Importantly, quality is very good. Viewing angles are narrower than you'll find on pricier notebooks, but they're still wide enough to prevent you from having to tilt the display to and fro on a constant basis. Images, both moving and still, leap from the panel with vivacity, with rich colours and good contrast setting the Samsung above many of its peers.

Samsung R580 rear view

The alliance of a Core i3 processor and dedicated graphics take their toll when it comes to battery life, however, and despite the 4,400mAh battery clipped to the R580's underside, light usage saw it needing to return to the mains after a modest 4hrs 2mins.

The move to a Scrabble-tile keyboard - one favoured by many manufacturers for their 2010 range refreshes - is, on the other hand, entirely successful. The keys each have a nice positive action at the end of each stroke, and as they rest on a firm, solid base, with no undue flex or give, there's no hint of the vague, woolly feel that we've encountered on other laptops. The layout could be a little better, however. We occasionally found our fingers hunting around to locate the needlessly shortened right-hand Shift key.

Connectivity is bang on the money. Four USB ports, one doubling up as an eSATA connection - are shared between the R580s left and right edges, and both HDMI and D-SUB video outputs make an appearance. An SD card reader, meanwhile, nestles out of sight on the laptop's front edge.

On the networking front Samsung has also been generous, with 802.11n and Bluetooth catering for the wireless side of things, and Gigabit Ethernet ensuring blink-of-an-eye transfers as long as you don't mind resorting to old-fashioned cable. One neat touch is that the USB port on the R580 left-hand edge also has the ability to charge USB devices while the laptop is switched off.

Some might find the R580's attention-seeking looks a little too gaudy for their tastes, but there's no doubt that it makes a great case for Intel's new budget-focused processor. Battery life isn't a strength - and it's area where the Core i3-powered Sony E-series fared even worse - but the R580 does just enough to earn a recommendation, providing good ergonomics, great performance and generous connectivity at a very sensible price.

Physical specifications

Dimensions380 x 256 x 37mm (WDH)
Weight2.520kg
Travelling weight2.9kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Core i3-330M
Motherboard chipsetIntel HM55 Express
RAM capacity4.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0
SODIMM sockets total2

Screen and video

Screen size15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal1,366
Resolution screen vertical768
Resolution1366 x 768
Graphics chipsetNvidia GeForce GT 310M
VGA (D-SUB) outputs1
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0

Drives

Capacity500GB
Hard disk usable capacity466GB
Spindle speed5,400RPM
Internal disk interfaceSATA/300
Optical disc technologyDVD writer
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0

Networking

Wired adapter speed1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a supportyes
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno
Bluetooth supportyes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchno
Wireless key-combination switchyes
Modemno
ExpressCard34 slots1
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
USB ports (downstream)4
eSATA ports1
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports1
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks2
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readerno
MMC (multimedia card) readeryes
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typeTouchpad
Audio chipsetRealtek HD Audio
Speaker locationAbove keyboard
Hardware volume control?no
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating1.3mp
TPMno
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Overall application benchmark score1.32
Office application benchmark score1.23
2D graphics application benchmark score1.27
Encoding application benchmark score1.17
Multitasking application benchmark score1.60
3D performance (crysis) low settings47fps
3D performance settingLow

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
OS familyWindows 7
Recovery methodRecovery partition

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