Back in March we looked at the Samsung Aura R20 notebook, which provided staggeringly good value for money, as well as a shiny black finish that belied its budget roots. Back then I was aware that there was more to come from the Aura range, and today, in line with the launch of Intelâ€™s new Santa Rosa platform, Iâ€™m casting my eye over the new R70. This particular article will however be a preview, since the R70 in my possession is a very early sample, sent directly from Korea â€“ I will be writing a full review of the UK retail spec machine in the next couple of weeks.
One thingâ€™s for sure about Intelâ€™s new Santa Rosa platform â€“ itâ€™s going to bring some key benefits to notebook users. A few weeks ago I wrote an in depth feature on Santa Rosa, so if you havenâ€™t heard about Intelâ€™s new and improved Centrino, take a look at that. But today notebook manufacturers are actually allowed to announce products based on the new Centrino Duo and Centrino Pro standards, which should mean that youâ€™ll be able to buy hardware very soon.
However, despite the fact that Santa Rosa adds a plethora of great features to the notebook computer, itâ€™s important to remember that not all of them are mandatory â€“ something that became very clear when review samples started to arrive in the lab. So, although Samsungâ€™s R70 is based on the new Centrino Duo platform, it actually lacks some of the more cutting edge features, but to be fair to Samsung, itâ€™s also a complete bargain, like the R20 before it.
So letâ€™s start with which bits of the Santa Rosa platform Samsung has picked for the R70. First up, thereâ€™s the new Core 2 Duo chip â€“ in this instance a T7100 clocked at 1.8GHz and sporting 2MB of shared cache across both cores. This chip sits at the lower end of Intelâ€™s latest Core 2 Duo range, but itâ€™s a wise choice when you consider the price point that Samsung wanted to hit with this notebook. Itâ€™s also worth remembering that this latest incarnation of the Merom chip has some nifty new features, like Enhanced Deeper Sleep state, to prolong battery life while the CPU is idle. While one of the best new features is Enhanced Dynamic Acceleration, which allows the CPU to overclock one core when the other is idle, making it better for hammering through single threaded applications.
The pre-production sample that I was sent actually had a T7300 chip inside, running at 2.0 GHz and sporting 4MB of shared cache. Obviously this meant that my R70 is a bit swifter than the initial production units will be, but Samsung will no doubt release a high-end version with this faster chip at a later date. Likewise, the sample in front of me is running Windows Vista Ultimate, while the retail units will come pre-loaded with Windows Vista Home Premium instead â€“ one of the perils of getting the first sample off the production line is that it often doesnâ€™t match the retail spec!
The new CPU is backed up by the latest incarnation of Intelâ€™s 965 Express chipset which now supports an 800MHz front side bus â€“ this means that the T7300 CPU in this R70 only requires a 10x multiplier to reach its 2GHz core frequency rather than the 12x multiplier it needed previously. The FSB can also switch dynamically now, so if youâ€™re on battery power and not running anything too demanding, the FSB will throttle back to save battery life.