Everyone likes to find a bargain, not least in the ever burgeoning laptop market.
Some people see the purchase of a notebook PC as a necessary evil, but one for which they would rather not part with a penny more than they think necessary. For those that just want something to get by, there’s the budget sub-£500 category.
Nowadays, you can expect to find a reasonably quick laptop at this price, and with usable battery life. Take this Samsung RV511 for instance, which has an Intel Core i3 clocked at 2.53GHz, certainly pivotal in letting this notebook score 105 points in our WorldBench 6 challenge. The 6GB of DDR3 memory helps here too, as does the capacious 640GB hard disk.
But that decent processor performance didn’t cramp the Samsung RV511’s battery life too much. Fitted with a reasonably sized 48Wh removable battery, we saw up to five and a quarter hours life (315 mins), using the MobileMark 2007 Productivity test.
And that figure is all the more remarkable when you realise this Samsung is also packing a graphics processor capable of some gameplay. It’s often the graphics chip which will demand the power that crumples many a notebook’s battery.
It’s not clear if the Samsung RV511 is using nVidia’s Optimus technology. This is an auto-switching system, where the nVidia graphics are only turned on when required for certain graphics intensive apps or Windows games. At other times, the computer uses the less demanding Intel integrated graphics.
In our tests of the Samsung RV511, we could only see the nVidia graphics engaged, which makes the battery life all the more remarkable.
With the nVidia GeForce 315M and its 1GB of video memory on the case, we saw framerates up to 33fps in the FEAR graphics test at Maximum detail settings. By dropping the quality settings one notch to High, this figure soared to 65fps.
So with healthy battery life, a fast processor and even game-playing capability, what’s not to like? At this price, shortcuts are usually made in materials and build quality.
Don’t be fooled by the textured silver lid back, or the silvery screen bezel and wrist rest area under the lid, the Samsung is a purely plastic affair. That means it will survive the rough and tumble of real life slightly less well. Expect to see some of that silver paint chip and wear off with use.
The 15.6 inch widescreen display is bright and colourful, and very reflective in its high gloss glare finish. And that shine covers up decidedly average contrast, and a washed-out milkiness to some colours. Our usual caveat about using the laptop under overhead lighting or near windows applies.
A very wide keyboard stretches across the top deck’s width, made up of black plastic Scrabble tiles. With the main qwerty keyboard offset to the left, the trackpad is also left of centre, but not quite aligned to the keyboard, being a centimetre to the right of the spacebar.
In our tests with the Samsung, we found our wrists were brushing this trackpad all too often, making touch typing a chore as the cursor was brushed off course. The trackpad itself is quite usable, 90 x 54mm in size, with separate left/right click buttons rebated into the deck but still clickable by the thumb.
Most of the laptop’s ports are ranged along the left side: two USB 2.0, HDMI and VGA video outputs, audio in and out jacks, gigabit ethernet, power inlet and an SD card slot. On the right side is a tray loading DVD±RW drive and one more USB 2.0 port.
The Samsung RV511 is a well specified laptop that provides plenty of the features and certainly most of the performance you can expect of any laptop under £1000. Build quality is also fairly solid, if a bit chunky and plasticky. It’s a well rounded package and certainly worth shortlisting if you’re shopping for a no-frills laptop under £500.