Samsung may be reticent about entering the netbook market, but it's going full steam ahead with its thin-and-light laptops. The latest of these is the Samsung Q210, the successor to the acclaimed Q70. It weighs in at under 2kg, has a 12.1-inch display and some fast Centrino 2 internals. Let's get under the proverbial bonnet and see whether this £700 beast is worth investing in.
Looking at the Q210, the word 'Bizm' springs to mind. Confused? So were we when we first heard it, but please allow us to explain. We visited Samsung's design centre in South Korea earlier in 2008, where instead of telling us what design techniques they used to create laptops, they simply said they relied on 'Bizm' -- a Korean word that doesn't have an English translation.
We were none the wiser, obviously, but now the Q210 has surfaced, we can have a stab at translating Bizm ourselves. We reckon it means 'take an existing idea, tweak it slightly and hope nobody notices', because the Q210 looks very much like the Q70, but for a splash of red along the edge of the wrist rest. In theory, adding colour is a good idea -- we've seen it work to good effect on Samsung's TVs, but on the Q210, it looks horrible. It's as if Samsung ran out of glossy black paint and had to finish the tip in red nail varnish.
Aside from the misguided splash of Bizm, the Q210 looks good. Most of its surfaces, aside from the screen bezel and keyboard keys sport a glossy finish, which look great when the laptop is clean. Lay a hand on it, however, and it'll suck up grime, grease and fingerprints quicker than a vat of Cillit Bang. The same goes for the screen itself, whose glossy coating makes it difficult to see what's going on when not in perfectly diffuse lighting.
We've got to give Samsung props for the Q210's keyboard though. It's just as finger-friendly as the Q70, but Samsung has listened to our feedback (and that of our fellow journalists) and changed its keyboard layout slightly. Now, the Ctrl key is at the far bottom left of the keyboard and the Fn key is just to its right, instead of it being the other way round. Thanks for listening, Samsung.
The Q210 has some exciting internal components. It's among a wave of new laptops to feature new Intel Centrino 2 technology, the full ins and outs of which you can read about here. It uses a new 2.26GHz P8400 Core 2 Duo processor, which is part of the 'power-optimised performance' series -- hence the P in its name.
Samsung has sensibly supplied 3GB of high-speed DDR2 800MHz RAM, which is near the 3.12GB maximum recognisable by a 32-bit operating system. It's also used the PM45 chipset, which has a fast 1,066MHz front-side bus (FBS), which is the highway along which data flows between memory and CPU.
All-in-all, the Q210 seems ready for most tasks. It'll even turn its hand to some light gaming, thanks to the Nvidia GeForce 9200M adaptor. It has 256MB of dedicated DDR3 video memory, and it'll comfortably run games such as World of Warcraft, or even realistic 3D shooters such as Far Cry -- so long as you use a low resolution and low detail levels.
It's rather a shame then, that the 12.1-inch screen isn't so great. There are several issues, including its over-reflective surface, which Samsung says is mainly present due to consumers' obsession with all things shiny -- they simply look better in the shops. Then there's the very limited vertical viewing angle. If the screen isn't tilted at the perfect angle, it looks as if you're staring at it through fog.
If the screen isn't to your taste, you can always pipe the video signal to a TV via the HDMI or D-Sub ports at the left side. Doing so turns the Q210 into a pretty competent media centre -- the 320GB hard drive really comes into its own here, as it's able to store a couple of hundred movies at standard resolution, or dozens of high-definition films, or hundreds of thousands of music files.
The Q210 comes with an optical drive, but not just any optical drive. This one uses HP Lightscribe technology, so you can burn discs, then flip them over, place them back into the drive and laser-etch any image of your choice on to the chemically reactive label.
Wireless is an ever-present feature in Centrino laptops, and it's no surprise Centrino 2 models have even better support for cable-free Internet connections. This one has 802.11b,g and high-speed 300Mbps 802.11n wireless. Oh, and Bluetooth, which is a bonus.
All that Centrino 2 goodness helps the Q210 post some very strong benchmark figures. It achieved 5,184 in PCMark 2005, which is very good considering the Dell XPS M1730 gaming behemoth achieved 5,830.
The Q210 never felt sluggish in day-to-day use and should serve most users very well -- even in 3D applications. It's by no means the best gaming PC we've seen, but it will certainly try its hand at games, so long as you're willing to turn the detail levels down a notch. It racked up a 3DMark score of 2,086, which pales in comparison with the M1730's mammoth 8,870.
Battery life is another of the Q210's strong points. Its six-cell
battery helped it last an excellent 3 hours 14 minutes in our intensive
BatteryEater rundown test, which runs the CPU at full tilt. In the
BatteryEater reader test -- which simply involves scrolling through a
text document -- it lasted a whopping 5 hours 28 minutes.
The Q210 is another solid laptop from Samsung. It improves on the Q70 in many ways, offers solid all-round performance and even has good battery life. Anyone in the market for a portable machine should definitely take a look -- so long as they don't mind that splodge of red on the front edge.
Edited by Nick Hide