The 17.3-inch Samsung R780 recently charmed our socks off. The R530 is that laptop's smaller cousin, sporting the same distinctive red lid, but with a 15.6-inch display and some less powerful hardware inside. The lower price compensates for this, however. Our configuration of this laptop packs an Intel Pentium T4400 CPU and 500GB hard drive for just shy of £500.
The T4400 is a dual-core, 2.2GHz CPU. These days, we don't get out of bed for anything that's not part of Intel's Core i series, so we were bummed to see a processor that's starting to knock on.
The CPU is backed up by 4GB of DDR3 RAM, which is a decent chunk of memory for your cash. Graphics are handled by the on-board Intel GMA 4500M, which means there's no dedicated graphics card in play.
Despite its boring components, the R530 scored a pretty decent 3,309 in the PCMark05 benchmark test. Without a dedicated GPU, however, its graphics performance is much weaker -- this laptop scored a dismal 877 in 3DMark06.
These scores indicate that the R530 will serve you well as long as your computing requirements aren't too ambitious. We certainly didn't notice any slowdown when browsing the Web or editing documents. When we tested out some 1080p video content, we found it played very smoothly. Any kind of gaming or graphics-intensive software will probably push this humble machine off the deep end, though, so bear that in mind if you're looking to enjoy some casual gaming.
When we caned the laptop's CPU using Battery Eater's Classic test, we were able to extract 1 hour and 57 minutes of precious use. That's pretty much what we expected, and we're confident you could eke a fair few hours more out of this beast with more restrained use.
Lid lifted, gloss gawped at
Essentially, this machine is a cut-down version of the larger R730. As such, it suffers from some of the same design shortcomings, namely that the glossy red pattern on the lid doesn't extend to the interior. The lid's red finish still rocks our socks off though, and we like the scaly pattern lurking just below the clear plastic surface. The inside is less attractive but still pretty fancy, consisting mostly of plastic with a brushed-aluminium finish. This is one of the better imitations of real metal we've seen.
The R530 is well constructed -- it doesn't feel as if it might self-destruct in your children's faces. Solid build quality is surprisingly rare in laptops, considering how much the bleeding things actually cost.
The R530's LED-illuminated display measures 15.6 inches across the diagonal, and offers a maximum resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. It looks remarkably similar to the screens we've seen on other Samsung machines, but that's no bad thing. The display is crisp, bright and vivid, with a wide viewing angle and a pleasing lack of annoying reflections.
The keyboard feels slightly shallow, and there's not much travel to the keys. The trackpad more than makes up for that, however. While it might not be the largest trackpad we've ever seen, it's more responsive than most, and minimal exertion is required to actually click its buttons.
Around the edges of this plastic beast, you'll find the usual connections. There are VGA and HDMI outputs, an Ethernet jack, two 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a mic, a multi-format card reader, and three USB ports. It also sports a rewritable DVD drive.
Storage is handled by a 500GB, 5,400rpm hard drive, which is a decent amount of space for the price. The machine runs the 32-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Premium.
The Samsung R530 is a well-built machine, and offers a pretty spiffy design. Its performance, however, is rather weak. While this laptop is fine for everyday use, it'll quickly prove to be out of its depth when it comes to more intense computing tasks.
Before parting with your cash, make sure to also check out the HP Pavilion dm3-1105ea, which is similarly stylish.
Edited by Charles Kloet