The Samsung R410 -- not to be confused with the r410 mobile phone -- is a budget all-round laptop with a 14.1-inch display. It's the smallest in Samsung's R series, so in theory, it's ideal for anyone that wants solid performance in a chassis that doesn't weigh the Earth. More importantly, however, it's dirt cheap at around £499. Let's see what you get for your dough.
The R410 is very ordinary in its design. We've lost count of the number of times we've seen laptops with glossy black lids and matte black interiors -- particularly from Samsung -- so forgive us if we yawn momentarily. As with all laptops with this sort of design, the lid is prone to collecting smudges, so unless you're willing to carry the bundled felt cloth everywhere you go, it'll be permanently dirty.
The R410's 14.1-inch display should mean it saves weight over the more common 15.4-inch laptops that litter the market. In truth, its 2.4kg chassis isn't that much lighter than a similar 15.4-inch machine. In fact, it's slightly heavier than the 15.4-inch Lenovo T60, which clocks in at 2.3kg. Its 335 by 34 by 247mm chassis isn't all that small, either -- it'll just about fit into a rucksack.
Connectivity shouldn't be much of an issue in large laptops, but that's one area the R410 doesn't impress. It only has three USB ports, one of which lives on the right side and will usually be occupied by a USB mouse. The remaining two might be enough for most people, but Samsung has positioned these around the rear of the machine, making them awkward to reach. Don't even think about using the R410 on a plane with USB devices connected to the rear: it probably won't fit on the seatback tray.
Samsung should be applauded for kitting out the R410 with a good core specification. We don't normally expect much for £499, but it packs a 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo CPU, 2GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive, all of which are components you might expect in a slightly more expensive machine.
It's not all good news, though. The graphics adaptor in the R410 is a rather inept ATI Radeon Xpress 1250, which doesn't have any dedicated memory. Instead, it leeches 256MB off the main system memory, leaving you with 1,790MB for the operating system and applications. The graphics card will allow you to watch movies, surf the Internet and edit images, but gaming really isn't its strong point.
The R410 is only average when it comes to helping you enjoy your media. The problem is mostly down to the screen -- it's certainly large enough, but the 1,280x800-pixel resolution is pretty low by today's standards. It also has a glossy coating, which means you can't see the display properly when using it outdoors. On top of that, the vertical viewing angle is rather limited, so you'll need to position the screen so it's just right or the picture will look distorted.
It's also worth noting that the R410's integrated speakers aren't very good -- even by laptop standards. It's barely loud enough to let you hear dialogue properly and the situation is exacerbated if you open a window and let in ambient noise. Get yourself a set of external speakers or some headphones or it'll drive you nuts.
Earlier in the review, we said we weren't overly impressed with the connectivity on the R410 and it's worth mentioning again. In light of the fact the screen isn't particularly great, it would have been nice if Samsung provided a digital video output port. It hasn't. Instead, you get an ordinary, analogue D-Sub output, which isn't too hot by today's standards.
The R410 comes with an 802.11b/g wireless adaptor, though there isn't Bluetooth. You also get a 1.3-megapixel webcam -- great for the exhibitionist in us all -- and a pre-installed copy of Windows Vista Home Premium, which features the Media Center interface.
The R410 isn't particularly quick, but neither is it particularly slow. It failed to run our PCMark 2005 benchmark, but the 1.8GHz CPU should be adequate for most users and provided you aren't doing anything particularly CPU-intensive -- such as video encoding -- then it's zippy enough not to cause frustration.
One thing it won't handle very well is games. It scored a paltry 630 in 3DMark 2006, which is indicative of a machine that will run a mile before it'll run Far Cry.
Battery performance wasn't great, either. It lasted just 50 minutes in our BatteryEater render test, which is very poor. This, we believe, is mostly down to the battery having a relatively low capacity -- just 4,400mAh. Even an Eee PC 901 has a 6,600mAH power cell.
There's no denying the R410 is very good value for money. We'd recommend it to anyone looking for a second, semi-portable PC or to students on a tight budget. It's not very versatile and it has its problems, but if you're a tightwad who can't put up with the tiny screens of an Eee PC, then the R410 isn't a bad bet.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday