Generally, the SF310’s performance was excellent for a thin and light laptop with long battery life. Its speedy Core i5 processor made short work of everything we threw at it, and together with dedicated graphics helped make short work of PCMark Vantage. It also stays fairly quiet under load, which is always a bonus.
Thanks to the addition of an Nvidia GeForce 310M to help out Intel’s weedy integrated effort, this Samsung is quite versatile. You essentially get the best of both worlds: Intel’s frugal chip for when battery life is important, and Nvidia’s more powerful solution to help out with 3D, CUDA and graphics acceleration. Best of all, Nvidia’s Optimus technology will automatically switch to the right card depending on load, without any additional user input being required.
However, while it can handle less demanding titles just fine at moderate settings, this is far from being a gaming laptop, and while STALKER did at least run, it was pretty much unplayable. Then again, the Alienware M11x is the only machine we know of around this size and weight that won’t get a heart attack trying to run a truly graphically intensive game.
However, the SF310’s main advantage over the Alienware – and indeed many direct competitors – is its fairly impressive battery life. In MobileMark’s non-intensive Productivity test with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned off, it managed six hours and 44 minutes. This might not seem like much compared to the whopping 11 hours you could easily squeeze from the Asus UL30A, but considering the Samsung’s more power hungry CPU, this result is excellent – and a good thing too, as a la Apple, the battery here is not replaceable without opening up the laptop’s innards.
If design is all you’re after, something like the sub-£700 HP Pavillion dm4 might be more up your street. However, as an overall package the £750 SF310 offers more, specifically on the graphics front. In terms of specifications, meanwhile, a good match is the Asus U35Jc: for £100 less you get a weaker Core i3 CPU, no optical drive, slightly inferior build quality and more staid design, but similar Optimus graphics performance and battery life with slightly superior ergonomics.
Relatively versatile and powerful while maintaining good battery life, Samsung’s SF310 offers an attractive and unique design but is let down somewhat by average ergonomics.