Samsung R580 review

1 Mar 2010

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

Price when reviewed 
579
5

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £493
Price inc VAT £579
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4
Performance 4

Physical specifications

Dimensions 380 x 256 x 37mm (WDH)
Weight 2.520kg
Travelling weight 2.9kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i3-330M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM55 Express
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 15.6in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Nvidia GeForce GT 310M
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 466GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 1
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 4
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel 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
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

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