Normally, if you want a light, portable laptop, you'll have to compromise when it comes to performance. Recently, though, Samsung has spawned a few exceptional machines that offer surprising performance without splintering your spine every time you try and lift them. The latest effort to slide under the CNET UK microscope is the 14-inch Samsung Q430, which can be yours for around £660.
The Q430 makes a good first impression, sporting a sultry, dark grey lid and a silver, brushed-aluminium effect on the interior. It looks stylish and, even though it's mostly made of plastic, the Q430 doesn't feel too clumsily glued together. Overall, it feels sturdy.
The computer also feels light. Lifting it up, it's immediately obvious that it's been built for taking on the road. It weighs 2.1kg, so, while it's not as light as a netbook, it'll be comfortable enough to lug around in a backpack or satchel. It's pretty thin too, measuring 26mm at its slimmest point and 32mm at its thickest.
The next thing you'll notice is the 14-inch display. We're big fans of this panel. It's a 16:9 affair with a maximum resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. That's all pretty standard, but what's not standard is the delightful brightness that the panel is capable of emitting. It's vibrant too, with colours rendered very vividly. We don't encounter screens this attractive very often, although some other Samsung machines we've seen, like the R780, have similarly impressed us. Staring at this panel all day will leave your eyes so happy they might just dance a jig right out of your head.
You'll notice a few distracting reflections on the display, thanks its glossy coating, but we didn't find these too distracting. The screen's brightness goes some way towards cancelling out these annoyances too.
The Q430's big, chunky keys make for a great typing experience. There's a healthy gap between each key, which will cut down on the chances of you making typos. The arrow keys are sensibly laid out, and there's a massive enter key, so you can send your world-altering missives with a satisfying thump. Lovely.
The trackpad manages to impress as well, even though it's quite small. The touch-sensitive surface is responsive enough to register precise mousing actions, but not so sensitive as to send your cursor flying off into the corner of the screen. The click buttons feel great, and they're less likely to induce crippling thumb cramp than the buttons on many rival laptops.
For a portable machine, the Q430 also does fairly well when it comes to connectivity. It has three USB ports, an Ethernet jack, VGA and HDMI outputs, 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a mic, a three-in-one card reader and a DVD rewritable drive.
On the inside, you'll find a dual-core Intel Core i3-350M CPU, clocked at 2.26GHz. There's 3GB of RAM on-board too, and, excitingly, an Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics card. That's not the kind of GPU that'll set the world alight, but it's cool to see a thin and light machine equipped to tackle graphically intensive tasks.
The Q430 also packs a 320GB hard drive, and springs out the box running the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Premium. Nifty.
How much can it bench?
When we subjected the Q430 to our battery of benchmark tests, we were impressed by its performance. It achieved a score of 6,022 when we ran PCMark05, and 3,857 when we ran 3DMark06. These are great scores for a machine at this price point, and this laptop should be capable of handling the odd spot of gaming, so long as you don't mind dialling the settings back slightly when it comes to new, cutting-edge games. Watching high-definition video is definitely on the cards. Partly thanks to the brilliant screen, we found video looked rather terrific on this machine.
When we ran the Q430's CPU at a constant 100 per cent in Battery Eater's Classic test, it lasted for 2 hours, 11 minutes and 58 seconds. That's quite impressive, and you can expect to get more life out of this laptop with day-to-day use.
We can't find anything that's really wrong with the Samsung Q430. Some aspects of it are bog-standard, such as the trackpad and the port selection, but otherwise it's an impressive machine, and buying one won't cost you the Earth. Overall, then, it's ace.
If you want a machine that's more portable, check out the smaller but similarly excellent Samsung Q330. Bear in mind, however, that the Q330 doesn't offer great graphical performance.
Edited by Charles Kloet