Samsung 15.6" R580 Multimedia Notebook

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Samsung notebooks don't pop up too often around here, so having the opportunity to test one from top to bottom was interesting to say the least. It's hard to compare the R580 to any other Core i5-based notebook on the market right now, and we think that's a great thing for Samsung. Being able to differentiate yourself in the crowded laptop market is no easy feat, but it's vital if you hope to get noticed amongst the throngs of other offerings. It's even more important if you don't have the pedigree of a Dell, HP, Lenovo or Asus compensating for potential shortfalls, and it's clear that Samsung took a ground-up approach to designing this machine.


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On the right side of the rig, there's a DVD/CD optical drive (pull-out tray type) along with two USB 2.0 ports. That's it. We really wish Samsung would've went with USB 3.0 (as we hope for on every new notebook these days), but given the low price point, we understand the decision to use last year's technology. And for most people shopping in this price category, USB 2.0 will be more than enough for their needs.
 

     
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There are no ports at all running along the back, only an exhaust vent. On the left, you'll find a Kensington lock slot, an AC power input, VGA output, Ethernet jack, eSATA port, two more USB 2.0 sockets, an ExpressCard slot and audio in/out jacks to close things out. Along the front you'll get an oddly recessed SD/SDHC/MMC slot that's frankly hard to get to, and underneath you'll find a removable 6-cell Li-ion battery. Open up the lid, and you'll find one of the more intriguing trackpad options that we've seen. The pad itself is simply integrated into the palm rest. It's perfectly flat, and the only notice that it's even there are four dots outlining the edges (and the plastic sticker that ships on the machine). The solid, single trackpad button below it clicks down on the left and the right, but neither feel large enough given the ample space available across the palm rest.

    
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The inside of the machine is delightfully simple. A trackpad, a trackpad button, a keyboard, two speakers and a power button. Along the front edge you'll find small LEDs that show Caps Lock status, hard drive activity, Wi-Fi on/off and power on/off, but otherwise it's a clean slate. We wish those darn palm rest stickers weren't cluttering things up, but otherwise this is a refreshing change from the usual cluttered insiders that we see.

     
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We can't help but note that this machine has a chicklet-style keyboard, which is becoming ever more common on notebooks regardless of size. What's unique about the R580's keyboard is that the keys are squashed somewhat and arranged interestingly in order to make room for a numeric keypad. We'll touch more on the effects of this later, but suffice it to say, it's a keyboard that took some getting used to due to the funky layout.


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The 15.6" LED backlit panel is glossy in nature and has a 1366x768 resolution. We would've much preferred a few more hundred pixels on each axis if we had our druthers, but again, this comes down to cost. These panels are cheapest, and adding a high-res screen would've probably pushed the MSRP over the $1000 mark, and we get the impression that Samsung was doing their best to keep that from happening.


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