When it comes to connectivity, the SF310 is nothing out of the ordinary. Along its left side are a Gigabit Ethernet port, VGA video output, 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks and a memory card reader, while two USB 2.0 ports and an HDMI socket are hidden under a soft-hinged flap. There is an aesthetic benefit, but practically it’s slightly annoying. Along the right you’ll find a third USB 2.0 port (which you can use to charge your gadgets even when the laptop is turned off) and the DVD Rewriter, while wireless duties are catered for by Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 3.0.
The keyboard looks similar to that found on previous Samsungs such as the Q330, which is a good thing as it maintains the same impeccable layout with intelligent shortcuts and a convenient second function key just to the left of the cursor keys – a feature we wish more manufacturers employed. Unfortunately we didn’t find the key action particularly satisfying, as it’s rather shallow and lacks crispness. The huge touchpad is also a real pain where typing is concerned, as we found our palms hitting it and causing the cursor to jump about. While there is a shortcut to turn the pad off, ideally this shouldn’t be necessary in the first place.
On its own, the touchpad leaves us with mixed feelings. Its large, smooth surface, high sensitivity and flawless multi-touch performance lend themselves excellently to navigation. However – just like Apple’s touchpads on its Macbook range and HP’s ClickPad as found on the ProBook 4720s – its buttons have been incorporated into the pad itself. This looks great, offers more usable area and is fine for casual use, but working with it for extended periods reveals a few potentially major irritations, such as unreliable scrolling and the pad moving the cursor because it mistakenly registered a press on one of its ‘buttons’ as a touch movement. Even worse, pressing it in certain areas fails to register as a click despite it feeling like the button underneath has been pressed, and after pressing the bottom left corner it occasionally sticks for a second before popping up again, preventing fast double-clicks.
Despite some notable negatives, the SF310’s 13.3in screen is generally good enough. It sports a standard 1,366 x 768 resolution and features a glossy coating that causes distracting reflections, but also lends colours extra vibrancy and enhances perceived contrast. You get decent dark detailing in films despite the display’s inability to distinguish between the closest dark shades, though this leads to less detail in lighter shades. Backlighting isn’t even but there’s no sign of bleed, sharpness is good and banding almost unnoticeable. While vertical viewing angles are almost inevitably weak, horizontal ones are above par.
Sonically, this Samsung laptop is surprisingly accomplished considering its size. The speakers manage a decent amount of depth, detail and even some bass, at very audible volumes – though you’ll want to keep them below maximum to prevent distortion.