Though the average person might not normally think of Samsung when it comes to laptops, that's likely to change if he sees this new favorite of ours. The electronics giant has a huge reputation in HDTVs, smartphones, and other gadgets, and its 2010 forays into notebook computers have become just as notable. We were bullish about the sleek, affordable Samsung Q430 in our back-to-school retail laptop roundup, and now, topping even that model, we love the QX410 more.
A full set of features, including an Intel Core i5 CPU, Nvidia GeForce 310M Optimus-enabled graphics, and Intel Wireless Display, are paired with a high-end metal chassis and edge-to-edge glossy display for $849. That's significantly less money than the forthcoming $1,079 Toshiba Satellite E205-S1980 we just reviewed, with the same specs, and the Samsung has a better-looking design to boot. Dell's entry-level XPS 15 costs the same and offers better graphics and speakers, but the XPS is far larger and has worse battery life.
Aside from lacking Blu-ray or more-advanced graphics, there really isn't anything this laptop lacks. It's a bargain for a borderline high-end machine, and a great holiday laptop pick this year.
|Price as reviewed||$849|
|Processor||2.53 GHz Intel Core i5 M460|
|Memory||4GB, 1066 MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||640GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce 310M + Intel GMA HD (Nvidia Optimus)|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.7 x 9.7 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.9/5.1 pounds|
At first glance, the sleek brushed-metal look of the Samsung QX410 resembles a high-end Asus. Clean lines, smooth contours, and a thin body give the QX410 a great feel in the hand. The integrated battery fits seamlessly into the laptop's interior, with no added bulge. The whole package feels premium, on par with the HP Envy, and like the sort of deluxe Vaio laptop we'd have expected to pay at least $1,200 for just six months ago. Few people would look at the QX410 and ever guess it only cost $849, making it the fancy frugal laptop pick of the season.
Inside, the QX410 feels exactly like the carefully planned offspring of a MacBook Pro and a Sony Vaio. An edge-to-edge glossy display is even thickly bezeled in black like a MacBook Pro, although the added bezel and higher-than-normal screen elevation make for a deeper, wider 14-inch laptop than we're normally used to. The expansive bottom half features a slightly recessed raised-island keyboard that's extremely MacBook Pro reminiscent. Even the surrounding keyboard deck is covered in the same matte aluminum. We're not complaining, though; the QX410 feels great and is very comfortable to use.
Though the keyboard isn't backlit and the right-hand column of the page up/page down buttons cramps access to the Enter and Shift keys, we otherwise found it great to type on. Additional controls such as screen brightness aren't function-reversed for easy access like they are on some Apple, HP, and Dell laptops, but a small set of dedicated volume/mute buttons above the keyboard take care of any practical loudness-adjustment issues. There's even a dedicated and blue-lit Wi-Fi on/off button, which is practically useless (we thought it was a dedicated Wireless Display button, which would have made slightly more sense).
A wide multitouch touch pad is also a welcome surprise, both responsive and larger than average. The range of multitouch gestures the pad recognized were limited, but worked better than on other Windows 7 laptops we've recently tested. It's yet another feature that makes the Samsung QX410 feel modern and upscale compared with similar midprice competitors.
The 14-inch glossy 16:9 LED-backlit display has a maximum resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, standard for a laptop this size. The screen's slightly higher-than-normal elevation actually afforded a better view in normal desktop use. The brightness and color were average, but everything from mainstream games to office work to movie-streaming on Netflix looked good, although we'd have preferred an even higher screen resolution to make for a truly premium experience. The stereo speakers embedded in a grille right below the screen's hinge sounded much louder than in some recent competitors, suitable for music, games, or video playback.
The included Webcam has a maximum video resolution of 640x480 pixels, and had suitable contrast and picture quality to pull off a decent Web chat, but is far from high-definition.
|Samsung QX410||Average for category [Mainstream]|
|Video||VGA-out, HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0 (1 with sleep charging), SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, WiMax antenna||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
Despite a thin body, the Samsung QX410 has a standard supply of ports, which cover most bases. An unusual dust-shielding plastic hinge reveals two concealed USB 2.0 ports and HDMI. One of the two USB ports has Samsung's version of sleep-and-charge, and can be used to USB-charge a smartphone or other gadget even when the QX410 is hibernating or powered down. A third USB port is hidden on the right side, behind the DVD drive. There's no ExpressCard slot or eSATA, but all normal bases are covered.
Connectivity perks on the QX410 notably include both Intel Wireless Display for audio/video playback of laptop content on a HDTV, and a WiMax antenna for high-speed mobile broadband compatibility where available (in the U.S., users are limited to Sprint and Clear for WiMax service). However, the QX410 lacks Bluetooth; you'll need a plug-in USB adapter for that.
Intel Wireless Display, as we've written about before, is a useful wireless protocol for transmitting audio and HD video content to a TV without wires. WiDi requires the use of a $99 Push2TV box from Netgear, which is sold separately. Other technologies such as Apple's own AirPlay and bulky solutions from HP and Asus' WiCast offer slightly different solutions, also wireless. Wireless Display blocks content from DVD or Blu-ray playback, but it remains useful for home users looking to make their laptops effortlessly work as part of a home entertainment setup. Considering the already low price of the QX410, it's a nice add that's not really costing any extra.
The 4GB of included memory can be expanded up to 8GB, and the larger-than-normal 640GB hard drive is a bump up from the 500GB most manufacturers currently offer.
The Intel Core i5 CPU in the QX410 is a great mainstream processor, as close to a perfect choice for the average laptop consumer as there is in 2010. Its speed is appreciably fast and multitasking is a breeze for most programs. The QX410 performs at least as well as any other laptop with a Core i5 that we've recently reviewed, and at a lower overall price.
The Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics in the QX410 are entry-level, but suitable enough for basic mainstream gaming. Unreal Tournament III at native 1,366x768-pixel resolution played at 38.1 frames per second, a performance that was nearly identical to the similarly equipped Toshiba Satellite E205-S1980. We played Activision's Blur at native resolution and medium graphics settings, and though the framerate wasn't silky smooth, it was good enough to be immersed in. These graphics are better than none at all, and Nvidia's Optimus automatic-switching technology enables some battery conservation, too.