by Elvin Tsang
Samsung R40 Review
R40 packaging (view large image)
The Samsung R40 is a 15.4" widescreen notebook which focuses mainly on multimedia, and which Samsung places under the category Mobile Professional. The notebook uses the ATI chipset with the ATI Radeon Xpress 200m graphics card, and weighs 2.7kg (5.95lbs), about average for this type of laptop. The model reviewed here has the following specifications:
Reasons For Buying
I am a student just about to start university, and was looking for a laptop to take with me, as I didn't want to have to take my desktop which would be bulky and inconvenient. I wanted this computer mainly for word processing, web browsing, burning dvds/cds and some Photoshop work. I did not intend to play any games on it. Other laptops I considered before buying this particular model were the ASUS A8JC from shoplaptop.co.uk and the HP DV2036 from comet.co.uk. After visiting a Micro Anvika and playing with equivalent models of these (A8F and DV2058ea) with the same chassis', I found the ASUS quite flimsy and there was a lot of flex in the lid. Also, the laptop was quite cheap looking, and not really to my tastes. The HP however was a very slick looking machine which was definitely very stylish and well made. The build quality was excellent. But I didn't think the slightly larger HD was worth an extra £50, plus the fact that it had an AMD processor which I was unsure of.
Where and How Purchased
I did quite a lot of research before buying, and was on a pretty tight budget (about £600-700). I came across this laptop and thought it was quite a good deal (I bought it for £620) from www.digi-uk.com. Their service was pretty good, they are quite a small company compared to other online stores. For me buying online was the best option as I was looking for the best deal, and didn't think I would be able to get it on high street. The laptop actually failed to arrive on the date specified by digi-uk, and this was blamed on the courier, saying that it had been lost. However all emails sent by me were replied to very quickly and in a nice manner. I received the laptop around 4 days after I expected it. Overall, I would recommend this store, especially as they offer free UK delivery on all items.
Build and Design
(view large image) R40 packaging contents
(view large image) top view
(view large image) front view -- screen off
(view large image) front view -- screen on
The Samsung R40 is made entirely of plastic, and feels quite sturdy. The colour scheme is black and silver, with the lower part of the chassis and the back of the lid silver, and the underside and area surrounding the screen black. Personally I find the design quite pleasing and elegant looking. There is also hardly any wobble in the lid, with the hinges feeling very solid. I can lift the laptop by one of the bottom corners with little if any flex in the body, although of course I wouldn't do this on a daily basis. However, there is noticeable flex and twisting in the lid, and ripples appear at the sides of the screen and some at the top when the back of the lid is pressed, albeit quite hard. In everyday use though I don't think this would cause any major concerns. Considering this is a budget laptop, I did not expect superior build quality such as what you would find in a Thinkpad, and neither should you.
Similar to the Samsung X60, the bottom of the computer is stepped, with protruding feet at each of the 4 corners. This is good as it provides a better flow of air under the notebook to help dissipate heat more effectively. Overall the design is quite similar to the X60.
Because the laptop is quite large, there is a fair amount of space on the main part of the body, with space around the keyboard, giving it quite a minimalist look. The laptop definitely doesn't look or feel cluttered. For a laptop of this size I think its weight is about average, 2.7kg. I can quite comfortably have it sit in my lap and work, and can easily carry it around. However, I wouldn't feel comfortable carrying it around with me all the time, as the weight would eventually catch up to me. Another small note is that the DVD drive is quite flimsy when open, although this is no different to most other laptop DVD/CD drives.
The screen of the R40 is much brighter than my desktop LCD's screen (view large image)
The screen on the R40 is a 15.4" widescreen matte display with a max. resolution of 1200 x 800. Before buying the laptop, I was under the impression that the screen was glossy, as this is what it said on the Samsung product page for the R40. However, since the laptop had only recently been released, there was no UK product page, just German and Korean. So I was quite surprised when I opened it up and found a matte display. However, I am not really that bothered about it, a glossy screen would have been nice, but not essential. The screen's resolution is pretty standard in this size notebook, and features Samsung's SuperBright technology. It is quite a bright screen with sharp and vivid colours, and has a very wide viewing angle so that having many people sit round to watch a movie wouldn't be a problem. There are eight levels of brightness you can choose using the battery manager software, and I find that a brightness of 5 is sufficient. There does seem to be some light leakage at the bottom of the screen, which is quite noticeable at times. Overall the quality of the screen is very good.
The laptop has in built speakers which are located just above the keyboard. These speakers, as expected in a notebook, aren't amazing, but are sufficient for things like watching movies etc. I would recommend getting some travel or desktop speakers if you plan to use them as your sole audio source and wish to listen to music etc.
Processor and Performance
When doing everyday tasks such as word processing and web browsing, the notebook is very quick and responsive, even when running several programs at a time. This is due to the dual core processor installed in the machine which is able to effectively double the workload of the processor at any given time. The notebook comes with an Intel Core Duo T2300E processor with a clock speed of 1.66GHz. Bootup time is very quick. The hard drive is an 80GB (formatted capacity 67.4GB) 5400 rpm drive and I find it to be perfectly fine for what I do. There is 1GB of PC2-4200 (533MHz) DDR2 RAM installed, which shows up as just under 900MB due to the graphics card taking 128MB of it. For running XP, I think 1GB should be the minimum, not least for future proofing yourself for the arrival of Vista, but also since multitasking can often take up more than 512MB. Overall performance is very snappy, although it can hang for a few seconds on some occasions, but not very often.
I ran the Super Pi program which records the time it takes for the processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits.
Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Samsung R40 (1.66GHz Core Duo T2300E)
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16GHz Core Duo T2600)
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo T7600)
ASUS A8Ja (1.66GHz Core Duo T2300)
Dell Inspiron E1505 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7200)
HP Pavilion dv6000z (1.8GHz Turion X2 TL-56)
Lenovo T60 (1.83GHz Core Duo T2400)
Lenovo Z61t (2.00GHz Core Duo T2500)
I ran the PCMark05 Benchmarking test (free version) and obtained the following results:
I also ran the 3DMark05 test, and obtained a score of 602, a low score but not surprising given the integrated graphics:
I also ran HD Tune 2.52 and obtained the following results for the Fujitsu MHV2080AH hard drive:
The R40 uses the ATI chipset instead of an Intel Centrino chipset. I have been told that when making a decision this shouldn't affect your choice as the only difference between the two is basically the Centrino sticker and branding you get with the Intel.
The graphics card used by this machine is the ATI Radeon Xpress 200M integrated card, which means it is integrated into the motherboard. However, the card actually has 128MB of dedicated memory installed, which is unusual for an integrated card. It then borrows a further 128MB of system memory to make up a total of 256MB. You can change the amount of system memory being used in the ATI Catalyst control centre, being given a choice of 128 or 256MB. The amount of system memory shown in System Properties would hence be 896 or 768MB.
There are 4 different types of 200m cards with different amounts of dedicated memory. However they are all advertised as the same card, along the lines of ATI Radeon Xpress 200M max. 128MB. Therefore be careful when you come across a laptop with this card.
Heat and Noise
Heat and noise levels are important when choosing which laptop to buy. Fortunately, this laptop stays relatively cool and is also quite quiet. During normal use, the laptop usually heats up a bit mainly in the top left hand corner where the CPU is located. This is also where the fan is located. Idle CPU temperature usually hovers around 50 degrees Celsius, and the hard drive around 37 degrees. As already mentioned, there are feet on the bottom of the laptop leaving a small gap between the laptop and the work surface, which should allow for better air flow under the machine. I can use the laptop on my lap without the heat becoming uncomfortable. The areas where your hands rest when typing also get a bit warm, the bottom right more so, but again it is not uncomfortable.
In an everyday environment, noise levels are practically undetectable. In a quiet environment you can hear the whir of the hard drive and fan, but it is certainly not loud or annoying like my desktop can sometimes be.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Getting used to a laptop keyboard can sometimes take a while, but for me it wasn't too hard with this particular one. There is no flex in the keyboard, i.e. it does not sag' when you press a key, and keys around the pressed button don't go down. Each key feels individual and give a satisfying click when pressed.
One of the things I've noted about some of the notebooks reviewed here is that the function (Fn) key is located in the very bottom left hand corner of the keyboard, where the Ctrl key is normally found. This can be a little hard to get used to at first for people who use a lot of keyboard shortcuts. The Fn key provides several shortcuts which are the similar to the ones found in the Samsung X60:
Shortcut use shown on screen (view large image)
Below the keyboard is a small touchpad which is quite tactile and easy to use. It feels very similar to the main body of the laptop and has a kind of matte feeling. There is a handy scroll function to the right side of the pad which can be a bit tricky to use at times as it sometimes doesn't respond the way you expect it to. Personally I don't use the touchpad very much, and find a mouse much more comfortable.
Input and Output Ports
Front: memory card slot (view large image)
Right side: DVDRW drive, modem port (view large image)
Left side: PC card, headphone-out, mic-in, 2 USB ports, Ethernet port, fan (view large image)
The laptop has the following ports:
Unfortunately, there is no firewire port.
The laptop comes with in built wireless capabilities, and uses the Atheros (Super G) AR2423 802.11b.g chipset. Reception of wireless networks is good and it works well. There is no in built Bluetooth module, and no IR port.
Since I mainly use the laptop on the desk with it connected to the mains, battery life wasn't that important when buying this laptop. Using the preset max battery life' option in the battery manager software, the laptop is able to achieve around 3 hours of battery life which is very average. The battery used is a 6 Cell: 11.1V / 4000mAh (44.4Wh) unit, but you could purchase separately a 9 Cell: 11.1V / 7800mAh (86.58Wh) which would increase battery life.
Operating System and Software
The machine came preloaded with Microsoft XP Professional. There are 2 discs provided, one is a system recovery disc and the other is a DVD labeled system software media. One of the first things I did after switching on the laptop was to uninstall any of the preloaded software that came with the laptop such as Norton Antivirus which is a huge drain on system resources. Here is a list of the software that is provided:
Samsung Battery Manager Software (view large image)
I haven't had any experience with Samsung's customer service so far. The laptop comes with a 1 Year FastGuard Collect and Return warranty.
The Samsung R40 satisfies my needs very well. For a budget laptop, it is good value for money, having a generous amount of ram and, although one of the slowest core duo processors, much faster than the previous generation of notebooks. For my needs the integrated Xpress 200m graphics card is more than sufficient, and I recall some people reporting that some popular games can be played at low settings and resolutions quite smoothly. Plus it is windows vista capable. I would recommend this laptop to anyone looking for a fast reliable machine on a tight budget.
Overhead shot of keyboard and screen (view large image)
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