Samung SF310 first hit the news back in September, when Lily Allen supposedly swapped
her hacked MacBook for it.
Slick PR opportunism aside, the £750 laptop certainly has its charms, not least of which is its interesting design.
In terms of styling, the SF310 can be thought of as a grown-up version of Samsung's recent NF210 netbook. Both models make use of a manufacturing process called In Mold Rolling, which has allowed Samsung to give the chassis a much more sculpted shape. The edge of the chassis beside the keyboard curls upwards, while the lid has a corresponding curved cutaway so the two fit together perfectly when the lid is closed. What's more, when viewed from the side with the lid closed, the design seems to have a sweeping wave shape that rises towards the rear. It's all very clever stuff and this, combined with the glossy white and brushed-aluminium finish, makes it a classy machine.
A 13.3-inch display means Samsung has been able to keep the laptop relatively compact at 331 by 33 by 236mm. While it isn't the lightest model around at 2.06kg, it's still portable enough to chuck in a backpack or suitcase when you're off on your travels. The build quality is also first rate, and there's very little give in either the chassis or the lid.
Flip open the lid and you're greeted by a keyboard with Scrabble-type keys that look as if they've been stamped out of the chassis. The keys initially feel a little springy under your fingers, but you soon get use to this, especially as the keys are actually very responsive to even lighter touches. Also, the large flat surface of the keys combined with the generous space between them means you're less likely to accidentally hit an adjacent key when you're typing at speed.
We're not fans of the trackpad, however. The pad is quite large, but Samsung has integrated the buttons into the trackpad, which makes it awkward to use. Sometimes when you're just trying to press one of the buttons, the cursor will jump around as the trackpad thinks you're moving the cursor position.
Thankfully, the 13.3-inch screen is more impressive. Although its resolution of 1,366x768 pixels isn't much to get excited about, the screen is very bright and produces rich and vibrant colours. As a result, movies and images look great. That said, the screen has a glossy coating, so it can be a little reflective when used outdoors or inside under bright overhead lights.
The SF310 doesn't have the broadest array of ports, but it does cover most of the basics. It has both VGA and HDMI sockets for connecting it up to an external monitor or flat-screen TV. There are also three USB ports, one of which is enabled for sleep-and-charge, so you can use it to charge portable devices like phones and cameras even when the laptop is turned off.
Naturally, there's an Ethernet
socket, and wireless connectivity is taken care of by 801.11n
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0. Unfortunately, the laptop lacks an eSata port
ExpressCard slot. Storage is provided via a reasonably large 320GB hard
and there's also a built-in DVD writer as well as an SD memory card
One thing the SF310 is not lacking is processing power. Samsung has built it around a potent, dual-core Intel Core i5-460M processor, clocked at 2.53GHz and backed up by a healthy 4GB serving of RAM. This impressive specification helped it rocket its way to a score of 5,714 in PCMark05, which is pretty impressive by 13-inch laptop standards, and shows it will easily cope with even more demanding applications like HD video-editing.
For graphics, the SF310 has both an integrated Intel GMA HD solution as well as an Nvidia GeForce 310M chip. The former can be used when you want to conserve battery life, while the latter can be called into play when you want to enjoy a spot of gaming. In 3DMark06, the Nvidia chip helped it to a respectable score of 4,227, so you may be able to achieve decent frame rates in newer games as long as you keep the detail turned down quite low.
The laptop's battery life isn't wonderful by ultra-portable standards. In our Battery Eater test, it managed to keep running for an hour and 25 minutes. In comparison, the cheaper Asus U35Jc ran for over two and a half hours. Nevertheless, this test runs the processor at full tilt to simulate a worst-case scenario for battery life, so you should get much longer battery life from it with normal daily use.
The Samsung SF310 has an interesting design and plenty of processing power under the bonnet, but it's let down by its annoying trackpad and relatively short battery life. We also think it's a little expensive, especially compared to even thinner and lighter models like the Asus U35Jc.
Edited by Emma Bayly