The low-cost Samsung R510 laptop is definitely worth considering. Its large 15.4-inch screen and stylish design may appeal as much as its affordability: it starts as low as around £390, rising to around £550 -- the price of our review sample.
The R510's outer shell has a shiny piano-black finish. Inside, the black is repeated on the keyboard surround, slowly transitioning to a blood-red colour at the front. The shiny finish attracts fingerprints, and may prove scratch-prone in the long term. Samsung provides a cloth to deal with the former.
The front of the chassis curves downwards slightly, which adds to the R510's stylish look but means there's no clasp to hold the laptop closed in transit. The R510 is no lightweight, at 2.7kg. It's also pretty bulky, measuring 358 by 39 by 265mm. This is no surprise considering the R510's 15.4-inch screen, and it's not out of line with other 15.4-inch laptops.
At least there's plenty of space for a good-sized keyboard, which has a positive action and is comfortable to type on. There's a row of full-sized number keys topped by a row of slightly smaller function keys. The inverted-T cursor control keys double up to offer some additional controls with the Fn key, allowing you to adjust screen brightness and volume. There's also a shortcut to Internet Explorer here, plus a second Fn key to complement the main one on the bottom left of the keyboard.
The keyboard has an anti-bacterial coating that uses silver-ion particles. We've seen this on other Samsung laptops, but it's still a worthwhile selling point. The slightly recessed touchpad has a smooth finish and integrates both vertical and horizontal scrolling, although only the former is indicated by markings on the touchpad area. The mouse buttons are large and comfortable to press, delivering a slightly hollow-sounding click.
The screen is sharp and bright. Horizontal viewing angles are good, while vertical angles are slightly less so. The native 1,280x800-pixel resolution isn't as high as we'd like, but it'd be churlish to complain given the R510's price tag. The LCD has Samsung's SuperBright gloss finish, which helps to boost clarity and sharpness but causes the usual reflection problems when there's a light source behind you.
Fitted into the top of the screen frame is a 1.3-megapixel webcam. Samsung provides an application to help record video and take snapshots. It was unable to render our face clearly with a light source (a window) to the rear, but coped well in more uniform lighting conditions.
Because the Samsung R510 runs Windows Vista Home Premium it lacks some features that business users might like. Windows Complete PC Backup and Restore is missing, for example, although there's a simple file backup facility.