Samsung R580 review
Samsung's R580 pushes Intel's Core i3 into the limelight with striking looks, solid performance and an alluring price
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.
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.
|Price ex VAT||£493|
|Price inc VAT||£579|
|Features & Design||5|
|Value for Money||4|
|Dimensions||380 x 256 x 37mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Core i3-330M|
|Motherboard chipset||Intel HM55 Express|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||2|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,366|
|Resolution screen vertical||768|
|Resolution||1366 x 768|
|Graphics chipset||Nvidia GeForce GT 310M|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||1|
|Hard disk usable capacity||466GB|
|Internal disk interface||SATA/300|
|Optical disc technology||DVD writer|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|Wired adapter speed||1,000Mbits/sec|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|USB ports (downstream)||4|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||1|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||2|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||no|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||yes|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad|
|Audio chipset||Realtek HD Audio|
|Speaker location||Above keyboard|
|Hardware volume control?||no|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.3mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Overall application benchmark score||1.32|
|Office application benchmark score||1.23|
|2D graphics application benchmark score||1.27|
|Encoding application benchmark score||1.17|
|Multitasking application benchmark score||1.60|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||47fps|
|3D performance setting||Low|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit|
|OS family||Windows 7|
|Recovery method||Recovery partition|