Samsung's P-series laptops are aimed primarily at business users, so they don't have the same flash styling as some of the company's consumer efforts. That said, the 15.6-inch Samsung P530 is no ugly duckling and, priced at around £500, it's very affordable.
Rather than the glossy look that Samsung uses on its consumers laptops, such as the Q330, this model has a more scratch-resistant matte finish. Samsung has tried to jazz up the design with a textured pattern on the lid and keyboard surround. The chassis does feel a little plasticky to the touch, but it's far from flimsy and does give you the confidence that it will stand up to a fair bit of abuse.
The keyboard is sort of a cross between an isolated design and a traditional one. It has the wide, flat keys you find on isolated keyboards, but these are packed together in the same way they are on a traditional model. The keyboard doesn't suffer from the flex you find on some cheaper models and the keys have a fair amount of travel, which makes them feel very responsive under your fingers. Samsung has also managed to find space to fit in both dropped cursor keys and a numerical keypad on the right-hand side.
Like many laptops aimed at business users, the P530's display features a matte rather than gloss coating. This helps to eliminate screen reflections, which in turn makes the screen easier to work with for prolonged periods of time -- ideal when you need to pull a late shift updating Excel spreadsheets or fine-tuning transitions on your PowerPoint presentation.
As with most of today's screens, this one is LED-backlit, so it's very bright and colours look impressively punchy. Its resolution of 1,366x768 pixels is a little pedestrian for a 15-inch model, but the display's viewing angles aren't bad, so you don't have to worry about where you position the screen hinge.
The P530 has 801.11n Wi-Fi on board, but unfortunately, it doesn't have Bluetooth, which is a little puzzling for a business machine. It doesn't excel when it comes to the range of ports on offer, either. It does have both VGA and HDMI sockets for hooking it up to external displays and there are three USB ports, but it lacks an ExpressCard slot and an eSata port, so expansion possibilities are a little limited.
When it comes to storage, Samsung has kitted the P530 out with a reasonably roomy 320GB drive, which provides plenty of storage space for work documents and even some media files to keep you entertained on trips away from the office. There's a DVD writer, too, and the front lip is home to an SD card slot, which is handy for transferring files from portable devices like cameras and mobile phones.
Given the business target market, it's no surprise to find the laptop runs Windows 7 Professional (32-bit), rather than the Home Premium version of the OS. Samsung has been a little stingy with RAM, however -- there's only 2GB on board, whereas most of today's machines come with 3GB or 4GB as standard. The processor is an entry-level, dual-core Intel Core i3-330M chip that's clocked at 2.13GHz. This is a pretty modest specification, but the laptop still managed to post a fairly decent score of 5,116 in PCMark05, which shows it has enough grunt to handle all but the most demanding business apps.
No time for fun and games
When it comes to 3D graphics, as with the majority of business laptops, it uses integrated Intel GMA graphics rather than a discrete graphics chip. In our 3DMark06 benchmark test, the integrated graphics only managed to shove it along to a lowly score of 1,630, so you won't be using this machine to catch up on Call of Duty: Black Ops after hours.
If its lack of 3D sparkle isn't much of a surprise, its rather weedy battery life is. In our Battery Eater test it managed to keep running for just an hour and 10 minutes, whereas the majority of 15-inch laptops tend to reach over the hour-and-30-minute mark. While you'll get longer battery life from it under normal conditions, it's still not an ideal choice for those who need a machine that will often be used away from a power plug.
The Samsung P530 is a decent enough business laptop. The screen and keyboard are excellent and the processor has a fair bit of grunt, especially considering the laptop's reasonable asking price. On the other hand, its short battery life means it's more suitable to office-bound workers than those who spend most of their time on the go.
Edited by Emma Bayly