Samsung 15.6" R580 Multimedia Notebook

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User Experience

Using Samsung's R580, to put it bluntly, is a mixed bag. We don't really think the machine has an identity crisis on paper; it's a multimedia machine at heart, with a low-powered discrete GPU that should be good enough for light-duty gaming. It has an enclosure that's relatively compact given the high-power Core i5 inside, and it's got plenty of style. At a glance, and for under $850, the R580 looks to be a great choice if you have room for a 6lb. machine and don't mind having a 15.6" panel with a low 1366x768 resolution.

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But there's more (or less, we should say) to this machine than its specs. As far as usability goes, we were underwhelmed by the R580's performance. We've had equally enjoyable experiences on Core 2 Duo machines; it's hard to believe a Core i5 is in here. It seems Samsungs choice of components (i.e, the slow HD) and OS held the machine back somewhat, and that we never truly got to experience what the mobile Core i5 is capable of. Bootup took between 25 and 40 seconds, and while we suspect this could be made better if you delete some of the bloatware, that's not something an end user should have to worry about.

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We also question Samsung for loading a 32-bit operating system onto this machine. There are 4GB of DDR3 RAM here, but users can only take advantage of ~3GB. We think it was a poor choice to equip a machine with a Core i5 CPU, a discrete GPU and 4GB of memory, yet only provide a 32-bit OS. This machine is begging for a 64-bit OS, and frankly, we have to believe that it would have performed better should that have been the case.

All in all, performance was less than impressive. Bootup took longer than expected, applications loaded more slowly than expected (though the 5400RPM hard drive didn't help matters), and while multitasking seemed decent, the machine wasn't as snappy as some others we have tested, with less powerful components. It's also worth noting that multimedia playback was fantastic (720p and 1080p material never took the CPU utilization above 25%), and even gaming was fine (Half-Life 2 hummed along fine at the panel's native resolution). Still, everyday tasks took longer than they should, and we blame Samsung's decision to load the machine up with resource-hogging bloatware.

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As for the hardware? We didn't think the glossy panel was particularly stunning, with colors feeling a touch muted. We also felt that the 1366x768 resolution was too low for a spacious 15.6" screen, but those with eyesight issues may appreciate this. The trackpad was actually really nice. We loved the flat (non-recessed) design, and even the click bar had a nice amount of travel. Unfortunately, the keyboard wasn't nearly as user-friendly.

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What has happened here is that Samsung has squeezed the keys down in size and tweaked the standard layout somewhat in order to fit an entire numeric keypad. If you badly need a number pad, this may be great for you. If not, you're stuck with an oddly arranged keyboard. The keys are smaller, and although we like the chicklet-style and the lack of overall flex while typing, we never did quite get used to the downsized Shift key and how the Arrow Keys were smashing into the standard keys. The Enter key also has a very strange shape, another thing which takes some getting used to. Overall, it's just not a very enjoyable typing experience, which should never be the case on a 15.6" laptop with so much area to get a keyboard right.

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The port selection was satisfactory. The LCD hinge was also fairly solid, but there's no doubt that you'll notice a lot of glossy plastic (as opposed to metal or some other sturdy material). Thankfully, the machine itself felt really rigid, and we wouldn't hesitate to cram this in a bookbag or briefcase.

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