Moving back to the look and feel of the notebook, opening it up reveals a 14.1in display with a 1,280 x 800 resolution. The quality of the screen is only reasonable, not outstanding, with noticeable colour shift when you move to the left and right and up and down. It’s not the brightest or sharpest I’ve seen either. What’s most surprising it’s what’s beneath it. In a strip running above the keyboard is a curious design consisting of circles and curves – others in the office commented that it looked like Artex. Personally I think is looks rather daft but it does at least prevent the notebook from looking too bland.
There are two buttons in this area – one for power and one that launches Samsung’s AV Station Now software. This is essentially Samsung’s own basic version of Windows Media Center, but it feels a little redundant considering that MCE is preinstalled on Premium and Ultimate versions of Windows Vista, the former being installed on the R20. It does launch much quicker than MCE however, so that might be reason enough to have it here. Either way, there’s no remote included or TV Tuner.
Moving down, I was very impressed with the keyboard. It seems that even budget notebooks have decent keyboards these days, which wasn’t the case several years ago. The keys are very firm but springy too, so you can quickly get a quick typing speed up. Pleasingly there are no strangely shaped or oddly placed keys, though I’m not too sure why the F7 and F8 keys are coloured blue when all the others are black. Function/F8 lets you switch between power profiles, giving you Silent, Normal and Speed. Usefully there is a Function key on the right hand side of the keyboard.
The trackpad and the mouse buttons beneath are perhaps the cheapest looking part of the notebook. The buttons are the same piano black as the lid, but as a design motif it doesn’t really work. If it had been repeated in other areas it might well have had more impact. They do the job though and the scroll area on the right hand side of the trackpad is handy.
Connectivity wise you’ll find that there’s only two USB ports on the right hand side, which could be a little limiting. There’s an Express card slot which gives you future proofing and we’re starting to see 3G data cards in that form factor, which is good. I couldn’t help but be disappointed that the Ethernet was limited to 100Mbps speeds and not Gigabit. However, it’s clearly not cost effective enough to release it at this price level. Next along you’ll find a VGA output, useful for presentations and you’ll also find a modem socket.