Editors' note: This review is part of our , which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.
Each time our laptop/desktop retail roundup comes along, we try to keep our eyes out for one laptop whose set of configurations is a surprisingly good deal, a package that's a steal compared to what you might find in other models. In this year's mainstream laptop selection, the Samsung NP-R580-JSB1US seems to be it.
This is the first Samsung laptop we've seen in this size (previously, we've reviewed a small handful of Samsung Netbooks), and the specs are great: an Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics, a 500GB hard drive, 4GB of RAM, and a Blu-ray drive, along with a 15.6-inch screen. Though the cost for this system is higher than other mainstream machines in this roundup, for $829 it's an excellent value for what's being offered, at only $30 more than the larger and lesser-featured Toshiba Satellite A505-S6025, and for less money than either of the other Core i5 mainstream laptops we've reviewed recently.
It's not a spectacularly attractive or ergonomically friendly machine, and the battery life is on the disappointing side, but this Samsung has an ideal base package of features for someone who wants to do nearly everything on their laptop and not pay dearly for it.
|Price as reviewed||$829|
|Processor||2.26GHz Intel Core i5 430M|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce 310M|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15 inches x 10 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.5 / 6.5 pounds|
On the outside, the Samsung NP-R580-JSB1US has a slick finish. Curved lines, glossy plastic, and a deep red-to-black color gradient subtly patterned with "3D" effects lend this laptop a look similar to Samsung's "touch of color" HDTV line. It's reminiscent of Toshiba's high-end laptop design, but the color pattern helps mask fingerprints better on this Samsung.
A standard set of dual hinges opens up smoothly with some soft resistance, and both upper and lower halves lie relatively flush with each other, with the lower lip jutting out slightly. Inside, this Samsung starts to feel like an Asus. The keyboard on the NP-R580-JSB1US is quite similar to the full chiclet keyboard/number pad we've seen on several midrange Asus laptops, and also exhibits the same frustrating folding of the direction arrow keys into part of the number pad, making them hard to locate in a pinch.
The right Shift key is also, as a result, shorter than the Enter key, and shifted slightly to the left to accommodate the "up" arrow key. This could bother gamers or inflexible touch-typers. The keyboard keys are sturdy, but we found they took a sharper, more forceful finger press to consistently connect. The square raised keys are closely fit together, and the board has minimal flex in the center.
The only other button on the expansive glossy interior is the power button on the upper right next to one of two exposed speaker grilles. There's a lot of palm-rest space, but the multitouch pad is curiously small in comparison. In Toshiba style, the pad is flush with the palm rest, differentiated only by its matte surface and four softly-lit blue LEDs in the corners of the pad's surface area. The LEDs are a great idea, helping locate the slightly hidden surface in dim lighting, but the button-bar beneath is as bad as the LEDs are good. Flush with the surface and made of a single piece of plastic with left and right click zones, it's narrow and extremely hard to locate with touch alone, as well as ergonomically awkward.
The Samsung NP-R580-JSB1US' 15.6-inch glossy wide-screen LED-backlit screen has a native resolution of 1,366x768, which is standard for screens this size. Colors look sharp, and the screen brightness was relatively good, though we've seen brighter. Icons and text were easily readable, although in bright environments the screen looked a little washed out for our tastes. Viewing angles can get finicky, and it took us some tilting to get maximum resolution for the best sweet spot.
Stereo speakers, located above the keyboard, provided sound that felt crisper and deeper than most, with a volume that got significantly loud but stopped short of booming. They're perfectly good for casual use, are even decent for music, and were OK when we played back Blu-ray movies. The included Webcam, tested using the Samsung's preinstalled CyberLink YouCam software, displayed decent color range and contrast in anecdotal use but got a little grainy in our office conditions.
Equipped with a Blu-ray drive, the NP-R580-JSB1US can play movies or burn DVDs/CDs. We tested its playback using the included CyberLink PowerDVD 8 playback software and found the quality good both on the laptop and using HDMI-out. No other mainstream laptop we tested had Blu-ray, and it's great to have the feature thrown in for this price.
|Samsung NP-R580-JSB1US||Average for category [Mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA and HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, 1 eSATA/USB 2.0, SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional WWAN|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray player/DVD burner||DVD burner|
Ports and networking on this Samsung model are better than average, especially if you value ExpressCard and eSATA ports. There is no Bluetooth, which is common in many of the retail laptops we review. This model is a retail configuration, so it's not customizable before purchase, but the included 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM fit the bill for a good mainstream value.
With its Intel Core i5 processor, the Samsung NP-R580-JSB1US has great performance for its category. There were only a few Core i5 laptops in this year's mainstream retail round-up, and this Samsung was right at the top in multimedia multitasking and single-task performance.
Adding to this Samsung's performance advantage are discrete Nvidia graphics--a GeForce 310M with 512MB of memory, plenty for any average gamer to play nearly anything available on the market. The 310M is not "gamer-level" graphics, but it's perfect to round out this system's performance specs.
Unreal Tournament III's benchmark netted 45.7 fps at 1,280x752-pixel resolution and 37.3fps at 1,366x768 pixels. These numbers exceeded the performance of the only other two laptops in the category with equivalent graphics, the Toshiba Satellite A505-S6025 and Asus UL50VT-RBBBK05. Those systems had Core i3 and Core 2 Duo ULV processors, respectively.