Holiday laptop shopping can be a challenge, as is finding an affordable laptop that covers all the bases for a reasonable price. Samsung's sleek, curvy SF510, at $629, could be a lifesaver for anyone looking for a sweet-spot notebook computer that performs well and actually looks good doing it. With rock-solid specs, Intel Wireless Display, and even an integrated WiMax antenna, it's far more than we'd expect for only a few hundred dollars more than a Netbook, and judging from our time with it, the construction quality hasn't suffered any compromises, either.
A Core i3 CPU, ample RAM and hard-drive space (4GB and 500GB, respectively), a large, bright 15.6-inch display, and even Intel Wireless Display for watching wireless video on an HDTV are all included. The SF510 isn't a tiny laptop, but it's a perfectly priced home computer that instantly rises to the top of our holiday recommendations for buyers on a budget. There really isn't much that's better for the money.
|Price as reviewed / starting price||$629|
|Processor||2.4GHz Intel Core i3 M370|
|Memory||4GB, 1,066MHz DDR3 RAM|
|Hard drive||500GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA HD|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.0 x 10.0 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||15.6 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||5.4 / 6.1 pounds|
Taking a page from home decor more than standard computer design, the cream-colored SF510 has a look and finish reminiscent of a kitchen appliance. That's not a bad thing, especially for anyone looking for a softer design in a laptop. A smooth, curved chrome line graces the outer edges; the glossy finish isn't as fingerprint-prone as you'd expect.
It's a big laptop, though, which shouldn't be surprising, since it has a 15.6-inch display. Inside, coppery-brown plastic around the raised keyboard lends more of those living-room-friendly home tones. The screen looks even larger since there's very little bezel around the edges, making for an attractive use of space. Even nicer, the cream-colored finish extends to the underside of the laptop as well, creating a clean, uniform look. The SF310 has an integrated battery, resulting in a flush bottom with no bulge. Like the similar-looking Samsung NF310 Netbook we reviewed recently, the curved outer shell creates little side lips on either side of the keyboard, which are largely decorative but might serve some dust-preventative purpose when tucked in a backpack.
A wide, well-spaced raised keyboard also includes a full number pad. Its design and feel mimic what we've seen on many Asus laptops, including the weird direction-arrow array at the bottom right which cuts into the Shift and Enter keys. Above the keyboard, dedicated volume and mute buttons are a welcome touch; it's surprising how many laptops forgo such an obvious and useful set of dedicated keys.
Below the generous keyboard is a larger-than-average multitouch clickpad, resembling in many ways the one on current HP laptops such as the Envy. Dedicated button-click zones, delineated on the bottom, work like old-fashioned physical buttons. The entire pad is touch-sensitive, and also works with a preset variety of one-, two-, and even three-finger gestures.
The large, bright 15.6-inch inset glossy display has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is low for laptops close to 16 inches, but understandable considering the price. The picture quality was solid, albeit with limited viewing angles. Viewed head-on, we found text crisp and videos very watchable. On a budget laptop, we certainly can't complain. When playing back DVDs or viewing low-resolution videos in full-screen, however, the pixelation and fuzziness were more noticeable simply because of the larger display size. Black levels tended to look washed out at the edges.
Stereo speakers on the SF310 aren't particularly rich, but they get the job done and sound suitably crisp for movies and spoken audio, with a maximum volume that's higher than average. Music and environmental effects come off flatter. An included Webcam has decent capture quality, a maximum resolution of 640x480 pixels, and comes bundled with CyberLink YouCam software. We looked decent in recorded video, and light levels seemed even.
|Samsung SF510-A01||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 charge), SD card reader||4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, WiMax||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
An included WiMax antenna is a boon for anyone looking to add 4G broadband on the go, and the inclusion of Intel Wireless Display is even better news. A separately purchased Netgear Push2TV box is required, which enables 720p video and audio to stream wirelessly to any nearby TV, HD or otherwise. We've enjoyed using Intel Wireless Display for watching videos on sites such as Hulu or other Flash sites on a big-screen TV, and its presence in such an affordable laptop is a great extra to have--but the current version doesn't stream DVD or Blu-ray content. One oddity: HDMI and USB ports are hidden away behind a small hinged door, which can be annoying to open and close, and cramps access.
The Intel Core i3 CPU inside the SF510 performs much like every other Core i3 in a laptop we've tested over the past year; it's a great entry-level processor for the "basic" everyday computer tasks: video streaming, e-mail, Web browsing, casual gaming, and multitasking use of multiple programs at once. The 4GB of RAM and 500GB hard drive are standard for mainstream laptops, and offer enough memory and storage for anyone's needs.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)