Stylish Samsung notebook satisfies with seductive style and substance beneath its slender form.
Being a hard-core Mac fan couldn’t dissuade me the task at hand. With the release of Windows 7 Microsoft have upped their game, and although Windows devices lack the cool ‘wow’ factor of the ubiquitous fruit, they are definitely more affordable when compared with Apple computers of more or less the same spec.
Making headway into the notebook arena of late is Korean giant Samsung. The new 15-inch SF-510 notebook is certainly a stylish device: the rounded edges soften the gloss silver-grey aesthetic, and it’s fashionably slim, although definitely not as anorexic as Apple’s Macbook Air.
Skinny notebooks usually mean compromises in terms of robust build quality, and I did feel the screen lid was a touch on the flimsy side. Just don’t pick it up using the lid, okay folks? Weighing in at a diet-conscious 2.45 kilos it’s just the sort of companion for a trip overseas or a holiday somewhere, but the large screen size still means it’ll add bulk to your luggage – and that’s where those tiny little netbooks come in to their own for most. However, I still like the thought of a disc drive while on the move, so on paper the SF-510 would fit the bill quite nicely.
So, let’s talk about specs. It uses the very decent Intel Core i5-460M processor clocked at a respectable 2.53GHz, while the installed 4GB of RAM should allow a reasonable amount of multi-tasking – certainly enough for most of us, unless you want to run Photoshop, Illustrator and Indesign at the same time while watching a high-res movie. Onboard graphics are handled by the nVIDEA GeForce 310M card with a GB of dedicated RAM. This in turn feeds a 1366 x 768 LED screen. The screen gave a decent enough performance, but I did feel dark scenes were a touch washed out while watching movies, although a bit of tweaking did improve matters somewhat. It’s also extremely glossy, so I had to choose my location carefully – light sources appeared from nowhere while using the notebook in a well-lit room in daylight. That’s not uncommon for laptops these days, but I thought I’d mention it for all those farmers and construction workers reading this review.
Otherwise, it’s all good in terms of functionality: Bluetooth 3.0, Gigabit LAN, integrated Wi-Fi b/g/n combine with HDMI, 3 x USB 2.0 and a 4 in 1 card reader for good flexibility. Storage is also a high point on the SF-510: 500GB is good enough in a package as svelte as this (well for now, at least). One of the USB 2.0 connections will also power external devices (and charge them if applicable), and luckily for me my 500GB WD external HDD was jam-packed with my favourite movies and my iTunes collection.
I’ll admit I didn’t gorge on Excel and PowerPoint during my time with the stylie Samsung. This was to be an orgy of audio and movies while on the go. Did you expect anything else from me? Firing up the SF-510 for the first time, I found the boot-up was surprisingly quick (even faster using the advanced sleep mode), while my first brush with Windows 7 was quite a pleasurable experience. I was impressed with the swiftness with which programs opened, and it all seemed very well thought out and sophisticated in terms of navigation and operation. Good resolution AVI files viewed with VLC were pretty impressive. I didn’t notice much in the way of artefacts or motion blur, and stutter-free movies were par for the course.
The only criticism I could level at the SF-510 was its performance while watching movies with dark scenes – these tended to be dark grey rather than the real thing. Also the screen was very pernickety while viewing off axis – moving my head a few centimetres one way or the other and the image tended to ‘posterise’, the resultant picture being almost unviewable. That’s not unique to this notebook, however, as many models from other manufacturers have the same issue. Just remember: it is a personal computer, and as such it’s highly unlikely to be set up in a lounge as a home theatre screen when mates turn up to watch your silly YouTube videos.
So to recap: Samsung’s SF-510 is an upmarket notebook with good specs and a nice slim form factor. It wouldn’t be a first choice gaming device but it makes a very fine multimedia source, with enough processor grunt and RAM to run your favourite boring productivity programs. It’s not a budget notebook, but it has a decent spec for the price. Add those good looks and speedy performance and it’s definitely worth considering. GARY PEARCE