Unlike manufacturers offering customisable configurations like Dell, Lenovo and (in the US) HP, with Samsung you have to choose a pre-built model. Our specific Series 3 is the NP300E5A, which decides its chassis and screen, while the A01DX affix means our £399.99 configuration has a 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i3-2330M CPU at its heart. This processor doesn’t support the hyper-threading or turbo frequency of its more expensive Core i5 and i7 siblings, but should still cope with daily work and (graphically undemanding) play. It’s backed by 4GB of RAM which is plenty for Windows 7 Home Premium to get along with, and a fairly generous yet slow 500GB, 5,200rpm hard drive.
With Intel’s integrated 3000HD graphics taking care of your gaming needs, you’ll need to limit yourself to older or undemanding titles at medium resolutions or detail settings. At 720p and on medium detail, the NP300E5A managed only 43.6fps in TrackMania Nations Forever, while Stalker: Call of Pripyat (which is more indicative of the requirements of modern games) staggered along with an unplayable 16.6fps average. It’s worth noting that even when under load while running gaming benchmarks, the NP300E5A stayed relatively quiet.
Battery life is the last ingredient for Samsung’s affordable Series 3, and matches the company’s quoted five and a half hour figure exactly. Its removable 4,400mAh/48Wh unit managed five hours and 31 minutes with screen brightness at 40 percent and wireless radios turned off, though this will obviously vary depending on usage.
Finally we come to value, and here the 15.6in NP300E5A doesn’t fare nearly as well as Samsung’s 17.3in RV720. This is simply because there is no shortage of 15in laptops offering similar specifications to the Series 3 around the £400 mark, and the NP300E5A suffers from a few more flaws than its larger brother.
One alternative we reviewed recently is the £430 Acer Aspire 5750, which, despite sharing a similarly mediocre screen, at least offers USB 3.0. On the down-side though, it doesn’t last as long away from a socket.
In terms of productivity, Samsung’s Series 3 NP300E5A is a great budget laptop, thanks to its low price, excellent usability, reasonable specifications and rugged lid. Unfortunately its potential as an entertainment laptop is hindered by its sub-par 15.6in screen, and with plenty of competition, the NP300E5A simply doesn’t stand out enough.