Business people eh? Ruthless, bloodthirsty? Maybe in the 80s. The modern businessman of today is a trendy fellow, teleconferencing his power brunch over a goatee and a grande macchiato. That's why this Samsung P580 -- ostensibly a business machine -- packs a few neat features that separate it from the rest of the boring boardroom crowd. It's yours for around £680.
Down to business
The P580 is as black as the blackest of dark nights. From the matte black coating over the lid to the black brushed-aluminium effect on top of the chassis, this laptop practically swallows light it's so black. There are faint hints of colour, in blue LEDs on the power button for example, but the absence of any kind of tint or hue will be your overwhelming impression.
Whether you think this makes the P580 look boring or understated will be a matter of opinion, but despite being pretty unambitious in the design department, the whole laptop feels pretty sturdy, and the velvety finish on the lid feels rather pleasant in the hands.
The trackpad deserves a mention because -- as you'll notice when you use the P580 for yourself -- it's impressively smooth and responsive, despite not being particularly large. The click buttons also feel springy and not at all stiff. With a sensibly laid-out and decently sized keyboard, we'd say this laptop scores high when it comes to usability.
Curing the reflection infection
Like the body design, we can see the P580's display being divisive. This 15.6-inch, 1366x768-pixel panel has a non-gloss coating. Most laptops boast extremely glossy displays, and while they are a trap for annoying light reflections, that gloss does tend to go hand in hand with a brighter, more colourful display. The P580's non-gloss coating makes the whole display look a little muted, but if you plan on using this laptop outdoors it will help stave off reflections.
Elsewhere, it's worth mentioning that the viewing angle on the P580 is pretty terrible, so don't expect to get a clear view of the on-screen action unless your eyes are positioned precisely front and centre.
This laptop packs a dual-core Intel Core i3-330M CPU, though a Core i5 option is available too, if you have extra cash to spend on souping up performance. We're not convinced that's totally necessary however -- backed up by 3GB of DDR3 RAM, the P580 scored a respectable 6,433 in our PCMark05 benchmark test. With that kind of score, we expect this laptop will handle most multitasking challenges you care to throw at it without breaking a sweat, and it'll certainly prove nippy enough for all typical business applications.
Happily, it's not all business for this authoritative machine -- Samsung has seen fit to throw in an Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphics card too, giving the P580 proper multimedia potential. In our 3DMark06 test this laptop scored an extremely decent 7,130. In practical terms, expect this hunk to handle high-definition movie playback and a good deal of gaming with aplomb. Don't expect cutting-edge games to run on their highest settings or anything, but, for the casual gamer, that extra hardware gives the P580 an edge over other boring business laptops.
When we caned the P580's battery using our Battery Eater classic test (which runs a laptop's CPU at a constant 100 per cent) this machine lasted one hour and 36 minutes. That's not very impressive, but it's not diabolical either. With more moderate use, you'll get a few extra hours before the P580 gives up the ghost.
In other, slightly less dramatic news, there's a 320GB hard drive lurking just below the P580's surface, and it comes with Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. Around the edges, you'll find VGA and HDMI outputs, two USB ports, an eSATA/USB port, multi-format card reader, P-Dock port, SIO and two 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a mic. Finally, there's an integrated webcam sitting above the P580's display.
We didn't really have high hopes for the Samsung P580, with its uninspiring design and businessy pretentions. Nevertheless, we found it to be really usable, with better performance than we'd perhaps expect from a machine of this ilk. It's quite pricey, though, and unless that extra graphical performance is important to you, we'd recommend you check out similarly spec'd, cheaper laptops like the Acer Aspire 5741 before committing to a purchase.
Edited by Emma Bayly