Among the excitement surrounding all the high-end products Samsung has been bringing to market lately, like the stunning X360 Notebook and polarising Omnia i900, it's easy to forget the company's reputation for providing bargain-tastic notebooks at the budget end. A while back we looked at the Samsung Q210, which we considered pretty darn good for those looking for an affordable ultraportable, but for many 12.1 inches is too small and 15.4 inches is still the most popular notebook screen size. Cue the Samsung R510.
The first word that springs to mind when describing the R510 is 'decent'. Maybe it's nothing to set geek hearts racing, but it looks dependable, with a simple yet elegant design. The top consists of Samsung's usual glossy black lid, and a cloth is provided to combat the inevitable fingerprint and dust build-up. The base and lower edges are in sensible matte black. Opening the notebook up, however, we have a surprising touch: silver instead of the usual black on the inside.
Not that there aren't any black touches present, the keyboard after all is matte black with a piano-black surround that subsumes the speakers and a large power button set in a blue LED ring. A further design note is the chrome trim around the touchpad. It's not a sophisticated look, but it's simple, aided by the absence of any media buttons. Integrating these into the standard keyboard is a tactic laptop manufacturers employ to lower cost, but it does offer less convenience and some basic controls would be welcome.
However, as if to make up for it, Samsung has included something I've been wishing notebook manufacturers would implement for a very long time: a secondary Function key on the right of the keyboard. The company has this on all their new laptops, like the Samsung R410. This allows you to finally control brightness and volume, which are sensibly located on the arrow keys, using only one hand – hurray!
The rest of the keyboard doesn't let things down either. The surface of the keys is pleasant and won't pick up finger-prints. Layout is excellent, with the Ctrl key on the outside of left-Fn, a full-size Enter key and a dedicated set of Delete to End keys going down the right. Keys also feel quite crisp, giving a positive indication they've been pressed and offering decent travel. A curved front edge further aids comfort and overall the layout and tactile feel makes prolonged typing painless.