If it’s odd to see Samsung’s name on a notebook, you’ll likely get used to it. While the company had previously sold its branded notebooks only overseas, it recently entered the U.S. market with no fewer than five notebook lines, ranging from netbooks to the desktop replacement model we review here, the R610.
Actually, desktop replacement is a bit of a stretch, unless your expectations are pretty minimal. Costing little more than a grand, the R610 is better classified as a budget notebook. And on first look, you might be impressed with what can be had for so little cabbage: a 16-inch glossy screen, a large keyboard and numeric pad, three USB ports, HDMI, dedicated graphics, and a relatively sleek and lightweight design.
But just a little time using the R610 is sure to bring out the critic in any power user. Our first disappointment was with the screen’s image quality. There’s a very narrow sweet spot at which the picture looks good. Stray from that spot either vertically or horizontally and the colors fade or reverse and the contrast is diminished—qualities suggesting this is a 6-bit-color panel, and not a good one at that. The keyboard feels similarly low rent.
It’s no surprise then that the R610’s performance also underwhelms. The machine sports a little-known Conroe 65nm Core 2 Duo Mobile CPU dubbed the T5800. The proc runs at 2GHz, which puts it at a disadvantage against our aged 2.6GHz zero-point (not to mention Penryn-based notebooks) in just about every benchmark. In our content-creation tests, the R610’s scores were inferior to our zero-point’s in all but the Photoshop benchmark, where a larger hard drive and more RAM likely helped the R610 achieve its 6.8 percent lead. By comparison, the HP HDX 18 notebook we reviewed last month bested our zero-point in all of the content-creation tests by 15 to 40 percent.
The R610 did score a surprising 33 percent win against our zero-point in Quake 4. But to put that win in perspective, the HP HDX 18 from January and the Gateway P-7811 FX we reviewed in October trampled our test bed in Quake 4 by 235 percent and 375 percent, respectively. Furthermore, the R610’s 9200M GS graphics part did not hold up in FEAR, a better indicator of a chip’s aptitude with more modern games.
The R610’s 6-cell battery provided us with two hours and 12 minutes of DVD movie watching with the machine in power-saving mode.
Despite our criticisms, we’re reticent to say the R610 is a bad buy. There are obvious signs of scrimping and performance is not its strong suit, but we can’t imagine getting much more of a machine for the price. A power-user notebook this is not, but it’s a decent deal for serious bargain hunters.
Samsung R610 Notebook
A multicore notebook for $1,000! Well-rounded amenities.
It looks, feels, and performs like a budget notebook.
Samsung R610 Notebook
Premiere Pro CS3
2,340 sec (20.5%)
2,515 sec (-3.9%)
4,350 sec (-19.6%)
12 fps (-14.3%)
Our zero-point notebook uses a 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2GB of DDR2/667 RAM, an 80GB hard drive, a GeForce Go 8600M, and Windows Vista Home Premium.