by John Ratsey, England
Overview and Introduction
Samsung Q35 ultraportable (view large image)
The Samsung NP-Q35 just about fits into the ultra-portable category, coming in at under 1.9kg (4lb 2.5oz) including the optical drive. Apart from the battery protruding at the back, this notebook is the size of a sheet of A4 paper. The Q35 was announced in March 2006 as the successor to the Q30 with the only refresh since then being a CPU upgrade to the Core 2 Duo series. There are two current versions of the Q35: The silver one with the T7200 CPU and 120GB HDD, and the red one with the T5600 and 100GB HDD, which is less expensive. (At the time of writing this review, one site is listing another version of the silver Q35 with the T5200 CPU and Vista, so this may be yet another version). If you must have a notebook with a built-in microphone then the Q35 is not for you: Unusually, the Q35 does not have one.
The burgundy red colour is very distinctive but is dark enough to not be out of place on a business computer. However, the finish is very glossy (it can almost serve as a mirror) and it remains to be seen how it will look after some travel and heavy use.
Top view of the Q35 – red mirror finish! (view large image)
Reasons for Buying
My 15.4” Samsung X60plus (see review here) is excellent for normal use. However, its size and limited battery life (nearer 2 hours than 3) make it less convenient for short trips and meetings. So I was starting to consider whether to buy a smaller notebook for such occasions (and could also serve as back-up for longer trips). However, I didn’t want to spend too much on a computer that may not be heavily used. So cost and battery life were priorities in my deliberations. I considered a number of computers including the Toshiba U200 (uncertain battery life, no Bluetooth and very small touchpad); Fujitsu -Siemens Si 1520 (uncertain battery life and no dedicated page up and page down keys as far as I could determine); Dell XPS M1210 (relatively expensive in UK, but potentially has a good battery life with the big battery); HP nc2400 (seemingly very light but also quite expensive in UK) and the Samsung Q35 (more than I wanted to pay but reviews suggested good battery life).
When Comet took £200 off their price for the red Q35 so that it (at £799.99) became more than £100 cheaper than other sources, I decided it was time to buy one and stop thinking of the other options. For me, one advantage of the Q35 is that much of the hardware and software is similar to the larger X60, which facilitates swapping between the two computers.
What’s in the Box?
My Q35 was delivered in a blue plastic bag containing a plain brown box marked NP-Q35T008/SUK. Inside this was a more colourful box, which holds the computer.
The box contents comprised:
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The box contents before and after unpacking.
A user guide is provided as a PDF file, with a link on the desktop (strangely, this file contains both the English and Thai versions of the guide).
There is a sticker on both the outside of the box and the underside of the computer advising that some applications may not be compatible with Vista (it is unclear whether this means the applications supplied with the Q35 or software applications in general).
Specification of Q35 as Reviewed:
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The significant deviation from the published specification is in the dimensions. I can understand Samsung not including the feet in their measurements (although the feet at the front are nearly long enough to be called legs) because they make little difference to the volume, but overlooking the battery sticking out of the back is inexcusable (perhaps somewhere there is a 3 cell battery which fits flush, but it is not an option in the UK). At least they got the weight correct including the supplied 6 cell battery, which is more than some manufacturers can achieve. Samsung’s own UK website lists two different values for the battery capacity (57.72 and 53.28Whr). Unfortunately, my Q35 has the lower capacity battery.
Design and Build
This Q35’s colour scheme is black and silver on the inside, with a dark (burgundy?) red cover (display back). There is a black bezel surrounding the display, black in the hinge area and black on the underside of the chassis. On the inside there is a strong family resemblance to the larger X60 except that the keyboard is a different colour. I had expected the display back to be metal alloy, but it is slightly flexible and I suspect that it is some form of plastic. It is possible to push hard on the back and get ripples on the display, but it provides reasonable protection against damage. The display has no latch to hold it closed. There is no magnetic catch and I deduce there are springs in the hinges. This arrangement is quite effective in keeping the computer closed because two hands are needed to open the display. There is negligible wobble in the hinges.
15.4” Samsung X60plus on the left, 12.1” Samsung Q35 on the right (view large image)
The bottom of the computer is stepped, with protruding feet (about 7mm at the front and 5mm high at the back). These feet provide good airflow under the computer. They will also stop the computer from sliding sideways when used as a genuine laptop. In spite of the feet, the middle of the Q35’s underside almost touches the table (hence the need for the long feet). The two protruding points are the edge of the optical drive and the fan housing. Samsung could have slimmed the bottom slightly by using one of the low profile optical drives (but these are more expensive) and a thinner fan (which would be noisier to achieve the required airflow). Overall, the front of the computer is lower than the back, which adds to comfort in use while the thinner front part of the chassis makes it easier to hold the computer by one of the front corners. There is no creaking or flex when the computer is held in this manner.
The Q35’s underside (view large image)
The bottom of the Q35 has three removable covers. These, and the various screws, are clearly labelled. One cover is for the single RAM slot. The second cover is for the hard disk drive (which sits tightly between some rubber pads), while the third cover is over the mini-PCI slot. This compartment also contains what appears to be a small lithium battery. The battery has a charge status indicator using 5 LEDs. Both the base of the computer and the removable covers are plastic, but they fit over a metal chassis. There are also several air vents on the underside as can be seen in the photos. These are in the area of the CPU. The underside of the battery contains a shallow groove that conveniently forms a finger-grip when carrying the computer. The loudspeakers are in the base of the computer near the back. Two screws hold the optical drive in place. A modular bay battery would be a useful option.
The Q35’s underside with the covers off (view large image)
Those big feet on the bottom (and a big fan housing) (view large image)
The layout of the keyboard area is relatively good given the space limitations. Samsung claim that the keyboard has enhanced water resistance. There are 83 keys which have very clear, large white (light blue for the Fn key operations) markings on a black background. Although Samsung say that it is a full-size keyboard, the keys are slightly smaller than on the X60. The travel is adequate - it feels less than on the X60 - and is comfortable to use but is noisier than the X60. There is no significant flex. The front edge of the chassis is slightly rounded so that it does not hurt the wrists. The power button is on the right side close to the back of the keyboard. Next to the power button is a smaller button for launching the AVStation Now software which runs without Windows booting.
The Q35’s keyboard. Note the generous touchpad and the status lights at the front (view large image)
The Fn key is at the bottom left corner of the keyboard and it also doubles up as a Windows menu key. Next to it is an extra wide control key which might go some way to placate those people who believe that control should have the corner seat. Personally, I’m happy with the Fn being in the corner (why can’t notebook manufacturers put an option in the BIOS to change the function of these two keys?). The right shift key is small (on the X60 it is extra-large) so I get some \\’s appearing in my typing when I want capital letters. The US keyboard, with one less key, has a large right shift key. On the X60 the \| key is next to the left shift key so that move may confuse my fingers. I would have preferred a bigger right shift key and a smaller control key. The Windows key on the Q35 has also moved to the right of the space bar. That won’t confuse me since my brain haven’t yet got used to the availability of the Windows short cut keys.
The page up and page down keys are above the cursor left and right keys. For me the important thing is their presence. Some of the smaller keyboards use the Fn + cursor keys for the page movements that is much less convenient. On the Q35, Fn+PgUp = Home, etc.
There are seven indicator lights are on the front edge of the left palm rest. Not a very clever location since I don’t have a transparent wrist. Two larger LEDs are for mains connected/ battery and computer on, and five smaller LEDs are for num lock, caps lock, shift lock, HDD use and wireless on.
Each of the function keys has an additional function. The more noteworthy of these are:Fn+F7 toggles through the SRS audio modes; Fn+F8 enables / disables the wireless; Fn+F9 disables the touchpad; and Fn+F10 enables the etiquettte mode to reduce fan noise. This appears to change the fan operating rules so that the fan operates over a higher temperature range. Something I found out by accident is that pressing the Esc key during initial boot brings up a boot device menu. This is in addition to F2 for entering the BIOS setup.
The Synaptics touchpad is good and is generously sized with a widescreen aspect ratio (the pad is identical to the one on the larger X60 although the buttons are slightly smaller). The touchpad includes a scroll area on the right side. The space bar is the same width as the touch pad. The hard disk is under the right hard palm rest, but doesn’t create any unwanted warmth. The right palm rest contains various stickers (see the photo). The Q35 has no built-in microphone. I wonder why? It is not as if they take up much space.
Overall, the port layout is good, although the total number if ports is limited. A positive comment is that Samsung have avoided squeezing ports so close together that they interfere with each other. Nothing competes for the mouse space (the area on the right side of the computer near the front). The fan exhaust vent is on the right side, but the Q35 doesn’t breath out much heat, even when fully loaded. One USB port is on the right side so it is conveniently accessible for flash disks.
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Left side from back to front: Network (RJ45) port, optical drive, PC card slot and Firewire port. The blanked off port at the back is for a TV antenna in the Korean version. This space could have been used for another port (USB or S-video) in the non-Korean version.
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Back from left to right: Power socket, battery, USB port and security slot.
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Right side from back to front: Modem (RJ11) port, VGA port, USB port, fan exhaust. There are no ports near the front. See those long legs!
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The front has the 6-in-1 memory card slot and the headphone and microphone ports. It would have been useful to have symbols painted on the palm rest above the audio ports to make them easier to identify than the marks on the plastic next to the ports. The Q35 does not have a port for the docking station. There is a “memory stick” label on the palm rest over the memory card slot.
The display is 1280 x 800 (WXGA) “high brightness and glare” “superbright” glossy display with “Samsung exclusive digital imagery enhancement”. The device ID is SEC4141 which I believe means Samsung. It is very bright on the default maximum default brightness setting to the extent that colours are a bit washed out. On battery, the minimum brightness is readable and a brightness of 3/8 is quite usable.
Viewing angles are typical for displays of this type. The horizontal viewing angle range is good and the vertical range moderate. For text work the vertical angle can be adjusted to minimise any reflections without serious impact on quality. Colour images are best viewed at 90°. They become darker when the top of the screen is pushed back and lighter if it is pulled forward.
There is pronounced light bleed along the bottom of the screen visible at the boot-up stage but it is not obvious during normal use. I have yet to see any defective pixels (but it took over a month for me to notice one on the WSXGA+ display on my X60plus).
Light bleed at the bottom of the Q35’s display (view large image)
DVD playback - the camera sees some variation in brightness (view large image)
My old eyes complained about the small text with the display on the default settings. I have increased the DPI setting to 113% (108DPI) and now they are happy.
The loudspeakers mounted underneath the computer give surprisingly good volume when the computer is on a firm surface. The Q35 has high definition audio which combined with SRS provide relatively good audio quality for a small computer. However, the X60’s audio system has a little more bass. The Fn+F7 key combination makes it easy to step through the SRS audio options (Wow XT (for music), Trusurround (for DVDs) and off).
Processor and Performance
This model of the Q35 came with the Intel Core 2 Duo T5600 CPU (1.83GHz) and 1.25GB of DDR2-533 RAM (1 x 256MB fixed on the motherboard and 1GB in the single slot). I hope that the smaller cache on this CPU will result in lower power consumption than I see for the T7200 in my X60plus, while maintaining good performance. The RAM upgrade potential is zero unless a 2GB module (currently prohibitively expensive) will work in the single slot.
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CPU-Z reports for Q35 CPU and memory
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