We've been looking at quite a few ultra-portable laptops recently, like the 13.3in Toshiba Satellite Pro T130-15F and Award-winning Sony VAIO Y Series Y11M1E. But it's in the budget 15-16in sector that most purchases are made, so today we're checking out a very affordable entrant: the 15.6in Samsung R530-JA03UK.
Coming in at less than £500, the R530 range is just a step below Samsung's R580 line, where the last entrant we reviewed won one of our coveted Recommended Awards. Obviously, hardware specs are down a notch compared to that model, with a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 running the show. This CPU is getting rather long in the tooth, but should still be adequate for the average consumer's needs.
It's backed up by just 3GB of DDR2 RAM, which is less than we're used to seeing on laptops these days but understandable given the price. Consequently it will come as no surprise that the R530 is rocking the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. Graphics are handled by Intel's GMA 4500M chipset, which again is acceptable for daily use but absolutely rubbish for gaming or 3D work.
A 320GB, 5,400rpm hard drive is adequate for storage, while a simple DVD-Rewriter takes care of optical duties. Of course Wireless-N Wi-Fi is on-board, but Bluetooth is another budget casualty. Even Ethernet is not up to Gigabit standards, and you get a standard 0.3-megapixel webcam. In a nutshell this Samsung can be summed up as functional, offering the basics but nothing more – and for many users that's just fine.
Connectivity is suitably low-key to match: four USB 2.0 ports, a memory card reader, VGA and HDMI outputs for video, headphone plus microphone jacks and an Ethernet port are hardly going to set the world on fire, but cover the basics well enough.
As if to make up for it, the design seeks to offer something a little exciting, with a patterned lid sporting an attractive combination of red and black. Unfortunately it's as glossy as ever, so fingerprints, smears and dust will be a problem. While we're not expecting brushed metal lids like on Acer's Timeline range (though we can but hope), many laptop manufacturers could do worse than taking a leaf out of Sony's book here and offering a matt overall finish like on the VAIO Y Series.
At least Samsung hasn't gone Toshiba's route of glossy insides. The bezel is plain silver, while the keyboard surround is imitation brushed metal, which provides a pleasant surface to rest your palms on while typing. We would have liked a little more consistency, but as a whole the R530's looks are nothing to be ashamed of.