The rush for the latest, greatest, thinnest, most powerful laptop — sometimes with optional attachment for opening horses' hooves — often leaves more ordinary fare by the wayside. In pretty much every respect, Samsung's R519 is that kind of laptop. The latter ordinary fare laptop, that is, before you go getting all excited.
Measuring in at 376.0x255.5x30.4mm with a carrying weight of 2.5kg, this isn't an ultraportable, ultralight model. The basic trim is exactly that — basic. Or, as the sticker on the base of the R519 wishes to inform us, it's "Minimalism Design", if you prefer marketing terms. Either way, this is a plain looking notebook with a silver trim around the basic keyboard, and a black bezel around the 15.6-inch TFT screen.
Likewise, the features list for the R519 reads like a what's hot list for a notebook a couple of years ago. The sole differentiator there is that it ships with Windows 7. According to Samsung's website, the R519 should come with Windows 7 Basic, but our review system shipped with Windows 7 Home Premium. Either way, that's enough to tax the R519's very basic Pentium dual core T4300 2.1GHz processor. The inclusion of that processor is enough for Samsung to go fully retro on us and slap a "Pentium Inside" sticker on the case, which was something of a shock to us. Our review sample came with 4GB of on-board memory, a 15.6-inch (1366x768) TFT display screen, three USB 2.0 ports and a three-in-one card reader. Otherwise, it is as the price suggests, an exceptionally ordinary system.
There's still a place for ordinary laptop systems in the marketplace. Not everyone wants or needs a high speed video editing or gaming rig, after all. If all you wanted was a basic office tasks-style machine with portability, then the R519 might just fit the bill. In informal use the keyboard had reasonable travel, the trackpad worked well and Windows 7 delivered pretty much everything you'd want out of a modern operating system. That's backed up by the R519's benchmark scores. Its score of 4054 in PCMark05 denotes it as a reasonable workhorse, although its 3DMark06 score of only 869 means it's certainly not a gaming workhorse. Blame the integrated Intel GL40 chipset for that score.
So, the R519's reasonably priced and can perform basic office tasks, as long as they're not too graphics intensive. What's the catch?
The catch, it turns out, is battery life. We ran our standard and quite intensive DVD playback test on the R519 with all battery-saving measures disabled and screen brightness at full, and the R519 lasted a very poor one hour and 35 minutes before hibernating. Certainly, you could eke out more with less intensive use, but given we're seeing more and more systems with six or more hour battery lives, giving up just north of an hour and a half is rather woeful.
The R519 is a genuine trade-off machine. If you just want the form factor of a notebook, without the genuine battery life that marks out a portable machine, or for that matter the weight, it's a fair buy at its asking price. If you do want portability, you'll have to look elsewhere.