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Where once the 15-inch laptop ruled the roost, now all the main manufacturers seem to want to produce are humungous entertainment machines with 17-inch screens or tiny netbooks for those with pixie-sized fingers. We suppose this makes the Samsung R560, with its 15.4-inch display, something of a back-to-basics offering, but, priced at around £700, does it represent good value for money?
The R560 is part of Samsung's 'Touch of Colour' line-up, which encompasses a range of products, from TVs to laptops. The colour comes in the form of a red streak that runs across the palm rest and gradually blends into the glossy black finish on the rest of the laptop. It's a pleasant change that helps the machine stand out from the crowd, without appearing ostentatious.
In terms of ergonomics, the R560 is well laid out. The large keyboard is comfortable to type on and the smooth trackpad and chunky buttons are a pleasure to use. Some may bemoan the lack of a dedicated keypad, but, on a laptop of this size, we think it's wise of Samsung to use the extra space for the main keyboard.
The Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 ticks over at 2GHz and, although it's not the fastest processor in the world, it will handle most day-to-day tasks with ease. Samsung has added a generous helping of RAM -- 4GB. It's not surprising then that the R560 posted a score of 4,480 in PCMark05, which is highly respectable for a laptop in this price bracket.
Also, given the R560's price, the powerful Nvidia GeForce 9600M GS GPU is something of a surprise. It helped the R560 score 5,693 in our 3DMark06 test, which is good for a laptop in this class and means that, if you turn down the detail in new games, it will make a fair fist of running them.
The R560's battery life isn't half bad either. In the intensive Battery Eater Classic test, it managed to keep going for 2 hours and 5 minutes before needing a recharge.
In terms of connectivity, the laptop puts in a decent showing. It has both HDMI and D-Sub sockets for connecting it to an external display, three USB ports for hooking up peripherals such as smart phones, and a multi-format card reader to make shifting photos to and from a camera as straightforward as possible. The presence of an ExpressCard/54 slot also means the laptop has some expansion potential.
While the R560 is pretty well equipped with ports, there's one noticeable omission. It lacks an eSATA port -- something that's becoming increasingly common on laptops from other manufacturers -- for hooking up high-speed external hard drives.
Also, although the screen is relatively bright and produces natural-looking colours, it only tends to do this within a relatively tight viewing angle. As you move at an angle to the screen, you'll notice that it loses colour fidelity and contrast. Plus, because the screen uses a glossy coating, it's quite reflective, which is something to bear in mind if you're planning on using the R560 for work.
The stereo speakers on the R560 aren't all that good either. They sound excessively tinny and tend to distort sound quite easily when run at higher volume levels.
The Samsung R560 isn't exactly what you'd call a flash laptop, but it offers up a well-balanced combination of performance and features at an attractive price. If you're in the market for a desktop-replacement machine and are working to a limited budget, it's worth serious consideration.
Edited by Charles Kloet