So the feature set is pretty solid, but the new design is what really sets the R522 apart since it's probably the most refined notebook in its class - putting the likes of the Toshiba Satellite A350-11N and Dell Inspiron 1545 to shame in the process. It achieves this by keeping things simple.
On the outside Samsung retains its now trademark glossy black lid. Yes, it does attract fingerprints and grime, but it's very classy too and is enhanced by smartly tapered edges that merge seamlessly with the rest of the machine. Inside, things are similarly uncluttered. Gone is the slightly garish 'touch of colour' and glossy black finish; in is an attractive and muted gunmetal-grey effect that has the look and feel of brushed metal, though we rather suspect it actually isn't metal at all. Frankly, whether it is or not is beside the point, since it's very attractive and eliminates the irritants of fingerprints and grease that plagued the last generation of Samsung notebooks.
This contrasts nicely with the sliver of glossy black that surrounds the keyboard, but the really funky touch comes with the touchpad. Not only is it nicely integrated into its surroundings, but it also has a rather nice backlit strip running around it that lights-up blue when in use. It's a really cool feature that elevates the R522 above the usual throng of mid-range notebooks. All-in-all the R522 has all the hallmarks we look for in notebook design: comfort, cohesion and a little bit of class.
This refinement in design is matched by good input devices. Utilising a tile-style keyboard (not be confused with isolation), the keyboard sports an excellent layout. All the important keys are in the right place, while Samsung has even added Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys down the right-hand side of the keyboard - a far more intuitive positioning than seen on many notebooks.
Keys themselves sport a nice amount of travel and a crisp, positive response, though we think this style of keyboard does feel a little light and flimsy. However, it's not a big issue and the touchpad can't be faulted. It's nicely positioned and the two buttons, signified by a single rocker-style button, are crisp and pleasant to use.
Crisp and pleasant are two words that can't be attributed to the speakers, though. Tinny and harsh, they turn rock music into an unbearable mosh pit of noise, while other music doesn't fare much better thanks to a complete lack of bass. So though they're passable for the occasional online video clip, in every other respect they're trounced by the fundamentally superior efforts of the Toshiba A350-11N. Were one to put its speakers on the R522 you'd have one very impressive system.