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Samsung Q330 review

Verdict

Combines serious speed with great battery life, and doesn’t cost the earth either

Review Date: 2 Jul 2010

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £497 (£584 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

Striking a balance between power and portability is the toughest challenge laptop manufacturers face, and there’s always been a trade-off. You want long battery life? You’d better be prepared for, at best, mediocre performance and a reduced feature set. You want top performance? Don’t even think about leaving your charger at home.

The 13.3in Samsung Q330 wants to change all that, offering top speed, great battery life and portability in one, reasonably priced package. It gets off to a flying start. A 2.26GHz Intel Core i3-350M processor in tandem with 3GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM helped the Q330 to a rather good score of 1.36 in our application benchmarks.

If that sounds a little unexciting in isolation, let’s just put that into perspective for a moment. This laptop’s closest rival – the Sony E Series 14in – scored 1.27. It won’t match that laptop for graphical grunt – the Intel HD graphics in the Q330 can’t match the ATI Radeon HD 5145, and won’t have you playing modern games at high frame rates – but it will power through even intensive tasks such as HD video editing without a struggle, and high definition media playback won’t stress it either.

Much, much more impressive than this, however, is that it manages to combine the speedy performance with the sort of stamina we’d normally associate with CULV laptops. In our light use battery benchmark, the Q330’s 4,400mAh six-cell battery lasted 5hrs 46mins on a single charge; the E Series managed just 3hrs 50mins. It can’t quite match the Acer Timeline 3810TZ, which managed a Trojan 8hrs 30mins in the same test, but with more than double the performance it’s a compromise we suspect many will be more than willing to make.

Couple that stamina with a light weight of 1.97kg (2.35kg with its charger), svelte dimensions of 328 x 230 x 33mm, a reasonably large 320GB hard disk and (remarkably) a DVD-writer as well, and you could be forgiven for getting a little over-excited.

Samsung Q330 - rear view

So can the rest of the machine keep up the pace? Well, things were always likely to slow down after such a roaring start, but that’s not to say it’s bad; far from it. The lid is finished with a fetching brushed-effect black plastic, and inside the metal imitation continues, with a silver plastic wrapping around the black, Scrabble-tile keys. There’s nothing flimsy about it – we had to push quite hard on the back of the lid before any ripples showed up on the display in front – but it does look and feel like the budget laptop it is.

The keyboard is also perfectly acceptable, with a light yet positive action, well-spaced keys, a firm base and a sensible layout. And the touchpad works just fine too, accompanied by a pair of light, inoffensive buttons. Mercifully, the touchpad is placed just far enough from the spacebar so you don’t brush it inadvertently with your thumb.

Connectivity, meanwhile, is okay without being stellar. We’d prefer one more than the three USB 2 sockets provided, there’s no Gigabit Ethernet, and the Broadcom 802.11n chipset is single rather than dual band, but it picks up again with D-SUB and HDMI outputs, Bluetooth, a card reader and a 1.3-megapixel webcam set into the screen bezel.

Is this the perfect laptop? Not quite: the resolution of the 13.3in LED screen at 1,366 x 768 isn’t the highest, and the narrow vertical viewing angles are such that we had to do a lot of tweaking to get it in just the right position. Black levels aren’t great either, making it difficult to make out detail in dark areas of photos and video. On the other hand, colours are largely accurate, and the brightness is on a par with anything we’ve seen at this price. The speakers, while loud, don’t project sound with much body.

Aside from those grumbles, however, and the noticeably budget chassis, there’s very little that the Samsung Q330 gets wrong. It offers bundles of power and solid stamina packed into a sub-2kg frame with no major design issues, and at a price that’s so reasonable we had to look twice before we took it on board. For great value portable computing power, there’s little that comes close.

Author: Jonathan Bray

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User comments

UFW

Unfortunate that it is only 32-bit Windows. That it has DVD writer is not unique; HP dv3 series notebook come standard with an external DVD writer, USB powered, very handy.

By wiersema on 8 Jul 2010

UFW

correction:
I referred to HP dv3 but that should be HP dm3, the 13.3 inch model.

By wiersema on 8 Jul 2010

Incorrect dimensions stated

Nice review. But the dimensions you have stated are wrong. It actually measures 330 x 230 x 25mm.

By i4cy_ on 22 Jul 2010

longer battery life

I just bought the Q330, but somehow a fully charged battery just last me slightly over 2 hours for surfing the net at half brightness and on the intel graphics card. Maybe my battery is faulty? how can I test that, cheers.

By janifanta on 6 Sep 2010

Great ultra-portable

Having digested numerous reviews and specifications, my choices came down to this Samsung Q330 or the Toshiba R630. Having the chance to compare them in the flesh, the Tosh was definitely a lot lighter (disconcertingly so), and its screen was marginally better. But on most other fronts the Sammy came out tops, and since there was a price difference of £130 I opted for the Q330.

I've not been disappointed - upgrading from a Samsung netbook which has served me well. The other reviewer who suggested there were better notebooks out there for the price is just plain wrong - cramming a good laptop into a 13.3" format costs - comparable 15.6" laptop are cheap as chips. But I wanted portability, performance, battery life, and a DVD player. The Q330 delivers on this. Yes, the screen is annoyingly glossy, and speakers are hardly hifi, but on all other fronts its impressive - lovely keyboard, looks and feels well made, plenty of connectivity.

By K0Warren on 23 Jan 2012

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