Samsung Q330 review

2 Jul 2010

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

Price when reviewed: 
584(£584 inc VAT)
5

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.

Details

Price ex VAT £497
Price inc VAT £584
Overall rating 5
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 6
Performance 5

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 328 x 230 x 33mm (WDH)
Weight 1.970kg
Travelling weight 2.4kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i3-350M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM55 Express
RAM capacity 3.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD graphics
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA 300
Optical disc technology DVD writer
Battery capacity 4,400mAh
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 100Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
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 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 3
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Pointing device type touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Above keyboard
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 56min
Overall application benchmark score 1.36
Office application benchmark score 1.24
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.35
Encoding application benchmark score 1.25
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.60

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
OS family Windows 7