Samsung R20 Review

by Reads (116,117)

Overview and Introduction

The Samsung NP-R20 was announced at CeBIT in March 2007 but had been available in some European countries a few weeks earlier with very competitive pricing. Perhaps the key feature of the R20 is its use of the ATI chipset (ATI Radeon Xpress 1250, also known as the RS600). The R20 has a 14.1? display and provides a slightly smaller alternative for people who do not want the ubiquitous 15.4? models. The R20 has been the subject of a long thread in the NBR forums.


Samsung R20 (view large image)

Reasons for Buying

I didn?t buy this R20. I arranged to borrow it from DigiUK, from whom I had bought my Samsung X60plus in November 2006. This particular unit had been passed around internally for review and use (it?s good to know that people selling these computers have actually used some of them). However, it came to me looking like new. The cost of this version of the R20 at the time of the review is about ?£540.

So why would I buy an R20? At the time this model was released, in February 2007, the combination of a reasonable dual core CPU, 1GB RAM, a generous 160GB HDD and a DVD burner in a medium sized unit was unbeatable at the price. The 14? size is appropriate for a WXGA display. It is clear and easy to read. Going to 15.4? just makes the pixels bigger. However, until very recently, the vast majority of notebooks at the budget end of the market were in the 15? size range. The R20 has helped to change that situation.

The reviewed version of the R20 (NP-R20F000/SUK) was the first to be released in the UK. Since then, other version have appeared in various combinations using a Core 2 Duo CPU, a Celeron CPU and 80GB or 120GB HDDs, plus a version with XP for the Vista sceptics.

This review makes comparisons with my two other Samsung notebooks, the Q35 and the X60plus. The reader should be aware that the Q35 costs 50% more than the the R20 and the X60plus 100% more.

What?s in the Box?

The R20 was delivered in a plain brown box marked NP-R20F000/SUK. Inside this was a more colourful box, which holds the computer.


(view large image)

The box contents comprised:

  • The computer, in a plastic bag and held between two cardboard spacers
  • The PSU, mains cable and battery
  • A system recovery media DVD for Windows Vista Home Premium
  • A System Software Media DVD for the Samsung R20/R21
  • A modem cable with RJ11 plug at one end and a UK telephone plug at the other end
  • A multi-language Safety Instruction booklet
  • A multi-language booklet ?Samsung Recovery Solution II / Reinstalling Windows Vista?
  • Samsung Warranty Information
  • Windows Vista Home Premium quick start guide
  • A piece of paper about the Microsoft Office trial demo

A user guide is provided as a Flash .SWF file, with a link on the desktop. I suppose that having animated turning pages is consistent with the Vista experience, although I would prefer a simple PDF file.

Specification of R20 as Reviewed:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T2250 1.73GHz
  • ATI Xpress 1250 chipset (ATI RS600ME + SB600) with 533MHz FSB
  • 1GB PC4200 533MHz DDR2 RAM (2 x 512MB)
  • 160GB 5400RPM SATA HD (Hitachi HTS541616J9SA00 = Travelstar 5K160 series)
  • 14.1-inch  ?SuperClear? glossy WXGA screen (1280 x 800)
  • ATI 1250M integrated GPU ( using up to 256MB system RAM)
  • Fixed 8X+-DVD multi-writer (Toshiba-Samsung TS-L532D)
  • Realtek RTL8139/810x Family 10/100 Ethernet
  • Atheros ?Super G? AR5006X bg wireless network adapter  
  • SENS LT56ADW V92 modem
  • Realtek high definition audio with single loudspeaker
  • Widescreen format Synaptics touchpad
  • Ports: 3 x USB 2.0, 100Mb/s network (RJ45), modem (RJ11), VGA, microphone, headphone / SPDIF, 1 x PCI Express Card Slot (54mm Type)
  • 6 in 1 media card slot (Memory Stick / Pro, SD, MMC, high speed MMC, Xd card)
  • 4 cell battery (14.8V, 2600mAH, 38.48WHr)
  • 60W PSU with 2-pin connector and mains / power leads each 1.8m (6ft) long
  • Dimensions: Advertised 340.4 x 259.6 x 27.7~38.7 mm (1? x 1? x 0.94 ~ 1.30?), actual 340 x 260 x 37 ~ 41mm (13.4? x 10.2? x 1.46 ~ 1.6?) (including battery and feet)
  • Weight: Advertised 2.39kg (5.27lbs), actual 2.29kg (5.05lbs) (according to my digital kitchen scales)
  • Total actual weight with PSU and power cables: 2.73kg (6.02lbs)
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • 1 year collect and return warranty
  • Samsung software collection (see below for disc contents)


(view large image)

The most significant deviation from the published specifications is that the weight is only 2.29kg. I don?t think my scales are wrong: I checked a 1.5kg bag of flour and it was 1.53kg (0.03kg for the bag is reasonable). Less than 2.3kg weight is very competitive within this price range, although this is with the relatively small 4 cell battery.

Design and Build

This R20?s colour scheme is black. Most of the black is matte black but the display back is a mirror-like shiny black.


The R20?s shiny display back (view large image)

The R20?s construction is plastic. However, it is a very rigid plastic and the only part with a little flex is the cover to the hard disk compartment.  The battery, which is long and narrow, is fixed onto the back of the computer behind the hinges. It is necessary to push very hard on the display back to cause any ripples on the screen. There is no wobble in the hinges. The display is held closed by a sliding latch with two hooks. This is also plastic but appears to be quite strong.

The bottom of the computer is stepped, with protruding feet (about 5mm at the front and 3mm high at the back). These feet enable airflow under the computer. 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.


The R20?s underside with battery detached (view large image)

The bottom of the R20 has two removable covers. These, and some of the screws, are clearly labelled. One cover is for the RAM slots.  The second cover is for the hard disk drive. The battery has a charge status indicator using 5 LEDs. There are also several air vents on the underside as can be seen in the photo and the single loudspeaker is in the centre near the back. One screw holds the optical drive in place.


(view large image)

A look inside  the HDD compartment reveals a metal plate over the HDD. The HDD slots onto the connector (no ribbon cable) and perhaps the metal plate helps to hold the HDD in place when the two screws holding the cover are fixed. There appeared to be space beneath the HDD sufficient to accommodate a thicker drive.


(view large image)

A look in the memory compartment reveals two SODIMM slots generously separated and what appears to be the end of the wireless module. Only one antenna is connected and should there be a screw in that screw hole at the end of the wireless module? Next to the wireless card is an empty socket. Would this be the home for the Bluetooth module which is not included on this model?

The Keyboard

The UK keyboard has 83 keys which are plain black plastic (so no paint to wear with time) except for the F7 and F8 keys which are a dark blue plastic (but look like black under fluorescent lighting). The size and layout of the keyboard area is identical to the keyboard on my X60plus but the keys feel as if they have a little more travel and are more comfortable to use. The front edge of each key is slightly rounded. Samsung claim that the keyboard has been treated with silver nano technology so that it is less likely to spread bacteria. This may be true, but the treatment is not obvious. There is no significant flex and my overall impression of the keyboard is good quality for a budget notebook and better than the keyboard on my X60plus. The front edge of the chassis is bevelled so that it does not hurt the wrists. The area between the keyboard and the screen is a plastic panel with an embossed swirl pattern. The power button is in this panel on the left side. Next to the power button is a smaller button for launching the AVStation Now software which boots into a limited functionality version of Vista.


(view large image)

The R20?s keyboard. Note the generous touchpad, the status lights at the front and the scroll pattern behind the keyboard


(view large image)

The front overhang increases the overall dimensions but eliminates an uncomfortable edge

The Fn key is at the bottom left corner of the keyboard. Personally, I?m happy with the Fn being in the corner and IBM / Lenovo seem to agree. [Why can?t notebook manufacturers put an option in the BIOS to change the function of these two keys?]. The left shift key is small. On the US keyboard, it is larger because there is one less key.

There are seven indicator lights on the front edge of the left palm rest. For me, this is not a very clever location since I don?t have a transparent wrist but perhaps right-handed people will have their left hand on the palm rest less often. The indicator lights are not very bright and are best viewed straight on.


(view large image)

Each of the function keys has an additional function. Fn+F7 activates the Samsung Magic Doctor software, Fn+F8 selects between three operating modes: silent, normal and speed, Fn+F9 toggles the wireless and Fn+F10 toggles the touchpad.  Fn+F8 appears to change the fan operating rules so that the fan operates over a higher temperature range and also changes the power scheme to power saving. 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 in size to the one on the larger X60. 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). There?s no Centrino sticker because the R20 doesn?t have all the necessary Intel hardware.


(view large image)

The Ports

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 and the majority of the ports are on the left side.


(view large image)

Left side from back to front: Power socket, fan exhaust vent, VGA port, modem port, network port, 2 x USB port and the Express card socket.


(view large image)

Back from left to right: Security slot, battery, 1 x USB port.


(view large image)

Right side from back to front: Optical drive. There are no ports near the front adjacent to the mouse area.


(view large image)

The front has the 6 in 1 memory card slot and the headphone and microphone ports. The sliding latch for the display is also visible.

The Display

The display is 1280 x 800 (WXGA) ?SuperClear? glossy (glare type) panel.  It is significantly brighter than the displays on my X60plus and Q35 (see the group photo below – all displays were on maximum brightness) and I think it has better contrast.  On battery, the minimum brightness is readable and a brightness of 3/8 is quite usable.


Left to right: 12.1? Samsung Q35, 14.1? Samsung R20, 15.4? Samsung X60plus (view large image)

Viewing angles are typical for displays of this type. The horizontal viewing angle range is good and the vertical range is 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-degrees. They become darker when the top of the screen is pushed back and lighter if it is pulled forward.

There is some light bleed along the bottom of the screen visible at the boot-up stage but it is not obvious during normal use.


(view large image)

Audio Quality

The R20 has Realtek high definition audio. There is one loudspeaker mounted underneath. This is a strange location but it appears to be very effective since the computer gives surprisingly good volume and audio quality. I think there is a little more bass than on my X60plus with its SRS-enhanced audio and I suspect that the bottom speaker location filters out some of the high frequency bias associated with small loudspeakers. The sound appears to come up through the keyboard.  There is no built in microphone.

Software

This R20 came with Windows Vista Home Premium. A version of the R20 with XP Pro has also been introduced. The software supplied with the R20 has been listed above. ?Bloatware? is limited compared with some brands and the main constituent is the Microsoft Office 2007 trial. A trial version of McAfee Security Center is also provided. A few comments on the less common software are given below:

  • CyberLink DVD Suite which contains PowerDVD 7
  • Samsung Play AVStation which is a multi-media video / music / photo viewing package
  • Samsung AV Station Now which is started using the small button next to the on button but seems to end up in Vista (the XP version is a separate system)
  • Samsung Recovery Solution II: This creates system restore points on a hidden partition on the hard disk. It appears to include some useful features, such as selectively restoring the operating system.


    (view large image)


    (view large image)

The Samsung software package contains several simple utilities such as the network manager and battery manager. The Samsung Update Plus software found and installed two new graphics drivers during the review period. Unfortunately, its report of installed updates gives a very brief description without the software / driver version number.

Processor and Memory

This version of the R20 came with the Intel Core Duo T2250 CPU (1.73GHz with 533MHz FSB) and 1GB of DDR2-533 RAM (2 x 512MB).


(view large image)

(view large image)

CPU-Z reports for R20 CPU and memory

The GPU

Details of the GPU are a little uncertain as shown by the information provided by the Catalyst Control Center and the ATI Driver. CCC shows the core clock speed as 501MHz but the display settings report that the internal DAC is 400MHz. Perhaps they are not meant to be the same. There is agreement about the 256MB memory. This is shared system memory and if system memory is 667MHz RAM then the memory speed increases accordingly.


(view large image)

(view large image)

 

So I asked FutureMark?s 3DMark06 for a third opinion: 375MHz!

 

Benchmarks for Samsung R20 (Core Duo T2250)

Windows Vista Experience Index

The R20 scored 3.8 on the Windows Experience Index. The weak links were the 3D graphics and the 533MHz memory.

SuperPi

SuperPi is often used as a test for raw CPU performance. The T2250 in the R20 needed 1 minute 27 seconds to complete the calculation to 2 million digits. This is 1 second faster than the T2300 in my old X60. Perhaps the extra background tasks under Vista are reducing the impact of the faster CPU although the T2300 also has a faster FSB.

The table below compares Q35?s SuperPi score with some other notebooks

Notebook Time
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 with 533MHz FSB and memory speed) 1m 23s
Samsung Q35 (1.83MHz T5600 with 667MHz FSB and 533MHz RAM) 1m 16s
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200 with 667MHz FSB & memory speed) 1m 02s
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Due (T2300) with 533MHz memory speed) 1m 29s
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 16s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300) 0m 59s
Fujitsu A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500, with 667MHz memory speed) 1m 22s
Asus F3Jc (1.73GHz Intel T2250) 1m 28s

 

It has been suggested that SuperPi should be superseded by wPrime which is multi-threaded. The T2250 completed the 32M calculation in 47.563s. However, I should point out that the time is sensitive to the number of other processes running.


(view large image)

 

SiSoftware Sandra from http://www.sisoftware.co.uk/ is another software package which contains benchmarking modules and includes a database of test results.

The results graphs for the CPU tests are given below. These results suggest that the T2250 is similar in performance to the T2300.


(view large image)

(view large image)

SiSoftware Sandra CPU test results

It is also worth checking up the memory performance of the ATI chipset using Sandra?s memory bandwidth benchmark. The measured is speed of just below 3000MB/s.


(view large image)

 

PCMark05

The PCMark05 score was 3,498. The table below compares the PCMark05 test results with some other notebooks.

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU) 3,498 PCMarks
Samsung Q35 (1.83GHz Core 2 Duo T5600, Intel 945GM) 3,059 PCMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700) 4,555 PCMarks
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo T2300, ATI X1400) 3,456 PCMarks
Asus V6J (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7400) 4,265 PCMarks
Fujitsu Lifebook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500, Intel GMA 950) 2,994 PC Marks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, nVidia GeForce Go 7400) 4,234 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, nVidia Go 7400) 3,646 PCMarks
Lenovo Thinkpad R60 (1.66 Core Duo T2300E , Intel 950) 2,975 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300) 4,084 PCMarks

 

The detailed PCMark05 test results for the R20 are:

Test Result
HDD – XP Startup 5.07 MB/s
Physics and 3D 94.83 FPS
Transparent Windows 3021.78 Windows/s
3D – Pixel Shader 22.64 FPS
Web Page Rendering 1.5 Pages/s
File Decryption 42.54 MB/s
Graphics Memory – 64 Lines 466.35 FPS
HDD – General Usage 4.14 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 1 / Audio Compression 1491.46 KB/s
Multithreaded Test 1 / Video Encoding 253.33 KB/s
Multithreaded Test 2 / Text Edit 78.35 Pages/s
Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Decompression 19.92 MPixels/s
Multithreaded Test 3 / File Compression 3.79 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 3 / File Encryption 19.77 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 3 / HDD – Virus Scan 41.99 MB/s
Multithreaded Test 3 / Memory Latency – Random 16 MB 6.2 MAccesses/s

 

Overall, this is a very respectable performance considering the relatively low rated CPU and an integrated graphics solution.

3DMark05

The R20 managed a score of 1151 3DMarks for 3DMark05. This is well ahead of the 447 3DMarks which I measured for my Q35 with the Intel 950 GPU. It is also ahead of the 911 3DMarks measured for the X3100 in the T61. The table below compares some results for 3DMark05.

Notebook 3DMark05 Score
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU) 1,151 3DMarks
Samsung Q35 (1.83GHz Core 2 Duo T5600, Intel 945GM) 447 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 4,150 3DMarks
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 2,264 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, nVidia GeForce Go 7400) 2,013 3DMarks
Fujitsu C1320 (2GHz Pentium M, Intel 915GM) 410 3DMarks
IBM Thinkpad T43 (1.86GHz Pentium M, Mobility Radeon X300) 727 3DMarks
Lenovo Thinkpad T61 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo Intel T7300, X3100 GPU) 911 3DMarks

 

3DMark06

The 3Dmark06 score was 476. This gets into the territory previously owned by dedicated GPUs and is roughly equivalent to the ATI X1300 or GeForce Go 7300.

Notebook 3DMark06 Score
Samsung R20 (1.73GHz T2250 and ATI 1250M chipset / GPU) 476 3DMarks
Samsung Q35 (1.83GHz Core 2 Duo T5600, Intel 945GM) 106 3DMarks
Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB) 1,831 3DMarks
Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB) 2,144 3DMarks
Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB) 1,819 3DMarks
HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400) 827 3DMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 794 3DMarks

 

Cinebench

Cinebench is a good rendering benchmark tool based on the powerful 3D software, CINEMA 4D. Its rendering tasks can stress up to sixteen multiprocessors on the same computer. It is a free benchmarking tool, and can be found at http://www.cinebench.com.  The basic CPU test provided the following results. The results for the T2250 in the R20 are in the same range as other Intel dual core CPUs and demonstrate that the R20 can handle CPU intensive tasks such as video processing reasonably well although a little behind the faster CPUs.


(view large image)

Cinebench 9.5 Benchmark Samsung R20 (1.73GHz Core Duo) Samsung Q35 (1.83GHz Core 2 Duo) Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo) Lenovo ThinkPad T61 (Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz)
Rendering (Single CPU) 256 CB-CPU 299 CB-CPU 322 CB-CPU 331 CB-CPU
Rendering (Multiple CPU) 474 CB-CPU 528 CB-CPU 582 CB-CPU 616 CB-CPU

 

Hard Disk Performance

The supplied hard disk is a Hitachi HTS541616J9SA00 (160GB 5400RPM SATA). The performance is above average for the current generation of 5400RPM 2.5? HDDs with a maximum transfer rate of over 40MB/s. HD Tune?s results for this disk are below. The CPU usage is relatively low and the maximum burst transfer rate is little over half the theoretical interface capacity of 150MB/s. I find the Hitachi HDDs to be slightly noisy, but this can be reduced using the Feature Tool software. The HDD comes pre-divided into two main partitions, plus a hidden system partition.


(view large image)


(view large image)

 

Optical Drive

The X60plus includes the Toshiba-Samsung TS-L532D optical drive that supports DVD-RAM and both +R and ?R dual layer at up to 8 x burning speed. I have not tried burning any discs in this drive but it is the same burner as in my Q35 which has performed OK with the current firmware (SC03). The previous firmware (SC02) had some incompatibilities.

Wireless

The R20 includes the Atheros ?Super G? AR5006X bg wireless network adapter. I had to work out how to set up a wireless network connection in Vista, but once that was done the R20 would hold the connection without difficulty anywhere in my house. There is no hardware wireless switch. Fn+F8 toggles the wireless on and off. There is an option in the BIOS to set whether the wireless starts automatically on bootup, stays off or uses the previous status.

Battery and Power Supply

The power supply deserves a mention because it is an acceptably small 60W (19V, 3.16A) unit with a two pin (?fig 8?) mains connector and a thinner mains cable than those provided with 3-pin connectors. Both leads are 1.8m (6ft) long. A Velcro strap is provided for tying up the cables for storage. It is the same PSU as provided with the Q35. A small PSU keeps the travel weight down and is easier to stow away.

The R20 is provided with a small 4 cell battery is rated at 14.8V, 2600mAH, 38.48WHr which is fixed on the back of the computer. An 8 cell battery is advertised as an option with a price of about 25% of a new computer. The battery has an external gauge with 5 LEDs to give an indication of available power without having to turn the computer on. The battery is fixed securely without any wobble by two spring-loaded latches. The specifications in the User Guide does not make any claim about the running time but the Samsung UK website states ?Max 1.9h / DVD Play 1.5h?. A modular bay battery would be a useful option and could be common across the whole range of Samsung notebooks.

I used a mains power meter to monitor what is going into the PSU. Under light load the power drain is about 25W and under heavy load it can get up to around 50W. This power drain is surprisingly high for a computer with an integrated GPU. There is about 4W difference between the maximum and minimum display brightness.

Playing a DVD takes 30 to 32W when running on mains power. On battery, in the ?Power Saver? mode, I played a DVD with the backlight on 3/8 and it stopped at 89 minutes with 5% battery remaining. On light load and 3/8 backlight, with Vista?s visual effects disabled and a full battery, the power management system is predicting about 2hrs 10 minutes from a full battery. This is slightly better than indicated by Samsung but is not very good since it indicates a power drain of about 16W. This is about the same as I was seeing with my old Samsung X60 with its X1400 GPU (but is a lot less than the 24W drawn by my current X60plus with its X1700 GPU). My Q35 gets down to about 10W under the same condition.

There could be two explanations for the relatively high power drain. First, there is no obvious power management for the integrated GPU. Second, Windows performance monitor shows that the CPU never goes into the C3 (deep sleep) state.

ATI?s website claims this about the 1250M chipset:

Low Power Consumption and Industry Leading Power Management

Radeon Xpress 1250 supports a whole range of industry standards and all new proprietary power management features. In addition to comprehensive support for the ACPI specification and Intel features such as SpeedStep, ATI’s exclusive technologies including PowerOnDemand™ and PowerPlay™

It seems that somewhere in the design and development process Samsung & ATI didn?t get the power management aspects to deliver on all the promises (I hit exactly the same problem with my X60plus and the X1700 GPU). I tried enabling the C3 state using the RMClock Utility, but there was no change.

Heat and Noise

Under normal use the fan on the R20 runs intermittently. The fan seems a little louder than on my Q35 and X60plus but I would not describe it as noisy compared to notebooks with smaller fans which have to run faster. The ?silent mode? will further reduce fan activity at the expense of slightly higher temperatures but it does not stop the fan from coming on, even under light use when the CPU temperature is around 50C. However, under heavy load the fan noise becomes much louder as the fan speeds up but the CPU temperature did not exceed 73C, which indicates a good cooling system (there is a German version of the R20 with the T7200 CPU, so the thermal system will be designed for the worst case). The computer itself stays very cool, even under heavy load. This computer is safe to use as a laptop without risk of burns while the warm palm rests of the X60plus are not a feature of the R20.

I explored the CPU?s undervolting potential using RMClock. The T2250 in this R20 was set as 1.262V at 1.73GHz. The undervolting test revealed that Intel has been somewhat generous with the voltage rating. I left two copies of the Prime 95 torture test running with the CPU set to 0.95V at maximum speed and the computer crashed after about 6 hours. This showed that 0.95V was a little too low. However, giving a small margin and using 1.0V means that at full load the maximum CPU temperature dropped from 73C to 62C and the fan never went above its lowest speed. The power drain at the mains socket also dropped from 50W to 36W, indicating that 14W less is being used by the CPU and emitted as heat. Unfortunately, the voltage at minimum CPU speed is locked at 0.95V.

Potential for Performance Improvement

The R20 is a good performer for the price. However, I looked into the potential to enhance the performance. The first area of investigation was the impact of upgrading the RAM, using different modules from my collection. I have obtained too many results to include here, but the key findings are:

  1. Since the GPU uses system memory, having faster system memory tends to boost performance. However, some results actually got worse.
  2. Using one RAM module reduces system performance. However, using two modules of different sizes did not reduce the RAM performance relative to two modules of the same size. I suspect that the GPU normally tries to use RAM from both modules in order to maximise its bandwidth, but is not worried about them being the same size.
  3. More than 1GB of RAM is likely to be beneficial in reality by reducing use of virtual memory. This aspect is not tested by the benchmark programs I used.
  4. Only 512MB of RAM severely reduces performance because the GPU uses only 64MB RAM. (Some R20s are sold with this configuration).

Which brings me to the final option for performance enhancement: Overclocking. A forum member pointed out that the ClockGen program works with the R20 so I thought this worth of investigation. ClockGen recognises the R20?s Clock Generator as an ICS 951416. Then, by adjusting the slider control in ClockGen it is possible to change the FSB. This is one way to boost the benchmark results and convince yourself that you have got a T2500 or faster. That T2250 which can run at below 1V can also run at 2.6GHz at the design maximum voltage! At that speed the PCMark05 score went up to 4408 but the 3D benchmarks showed little increase. However, I would not recommend significant overclocking as a permanent arrangement as the temperature because the CPU temperature gets higher and the effectiveness of the cooling system will reduce with time as it collects dust. It is also possible to use ClockGen to reduce the minimum CPU speed to 600MHz, which reduces the power consumption by about 1W and adds a few minutes to the battery life.

I also tried a 2GB SD card set up as ReadyBoost. I could not see any improvement in performance but I could also not see any evidence that Vista was using the card, so there may be configuration issues.

Warranty and Customer Support

Samsung provides a one year limited international warranty as standard. I haven?t determined what the ?limited? really means, but Samsung has fewer global service locations than many other computer manufacturers. Warranty extensions for one or two years can be purchased. The standard warranty is a collect-and-return service. I have had correspondence with Samsung UK technical support regarding my other computers. However, I am still waiting for the power management fix for the X60plus, but I think that problem had to be passed to Korea. Other forum members have had variable quality of support and service from Samsung.

Conclusions

The R20, while being of plastic construction, is well built. Personally I am not a great fan of the all black colour scheme but it does not go out of fashion and is less likely to show wear than other colours. The display is very bright and has excellent contrast. It would be nice to have a version with a WXGA+ display (1440 x 900) to add to the range. The ATI 1250M GPU is more than a match in performance for the new Intel X3100, but power management when running on battery has considerable potential for improvement.

The R20 is a good choice for people who need an easily affordable notebook with good portability but will be moving between power sockets. If more than 2 hours battery run time is a requirement then it is probably best to look elsewhere because of the high price being charged for extra and higher capacity batteries.

The R20 also opens up the possibility of playing games which were unplayable on other budget priced computers which usually have the Intel 850 GPU.

Thanks again to DigiUK for loaning me the notebook. I have bought several items from them and find them very responsive to enquiries.

Pros

  • Under 2.3kg for the computer and 2.75kg complete with PSU and power cables
  • A very bright display
  • Effective and fairly quiet cooling system under normal use / keeps cool on the underside
  • Very good keyboard (provided you like the Fn key in the corner)
  • Generously sized touchpad
  • Solid build quality although plastic
  • Excellent value for money

Cons

  • Small battery and limited battery run time
  • Limited audio volume
  • No S-Video port, Firewire or Bluetooth
  • Limited 3D graphics capability but is the best performing of the integrated graphics solutions.

 

Postscript to R20 Review (20 May 2007)

Since the review was prepared, Samsung have released another BIOS update (11SH) for the R20. This update was installed and the computer was checked to see if there was any change to the power management. There is progress since the CPU now enters the C3 state when running on battery (but not when running on mains). However, as shown by the graph below, something is stopping the CPU from getting the full benefit of the C3 state so the increase in battery run time is small. I have not been able to work out what is causing the regular cycles of increased CPU activity. I reinstalled the latest available Catalyst (7.4) and there is still no sign of PowerPlay.


(view large image)



LEAVE A COMMENT

0 Comments

|
All content posted on TechnologyGuide is granted to TechnologyGuide with electronic publishing rights in perpetuity, as all content posted on this site becomes a part of the community.