Samsung has made some slim and stylish laptops in the past, but is also still covering the plain-Jane business sector too with slabs like this Samsung P580

At 35mm thick, it’s a chunky beast. And we didn’t believe our scales readout of 2.48kg at first either – it actually feels heavier in the hand. Yet the Samsung P580 packs some features into its generous frame that may prove attractive to business buyers.

To fulfill Samsung’s ‘performance’ promise, there’s an Intel Core i3-330M processor, clocked at just 2.13GHz and with no turbo potential. It does offer Hyper-Threading though, to allow some apps to take advantage of four virtual cores from the two physical ones.

Backing up the CPU is a sturdy nVidia graphics processor bearing a spookily similar name, the nVidia GeForce GT 330M. In tests, we found this DirectX 10.1-capable card to offer strong performance - averaging 68 fps in our notebook graphics test of FEAR at Max detail settings. Expect this laptop to play any current Windows game – even onerous titles such as Crysis at sensible settings – although it won’t make the most of the very latest DirectX 11 games. But this is supposed to be a business machine, so we’re a little suprised to see a discrete card here at all.

That heavy-duty GPU takes its toll on battery life. And there’s no recourse to switch to the low-power Intel graphics built into the Core i3 CPU either. We saw just 3 hrs 27 mins in MobileMark 2007 Productivity, which is disappointing for a modern laptop with a six-cell battery pack.

Overall performance as measured by WorldBench 6 was not bad, scoring a useful 94 points.

Build quality is a mixed bag - there’s a tough-feeling, almost rubberized, lid finish. But the uninspired black plastic top deck and underside can’t help but give a plasticky overall impression to the whole notebook.

Samsung tries to embue a higher quality impression with the wrist rest area’s brushed-metal-like texture; but this all-plastic notebook still ain’t going to win any style awards.

For OS, Samsung sells the Samsung P580 with Windows 7 Professional 32-bit, and skimps on the RAM accordingly, fitting just 3GB in 1GB-plus-2GB cards. And if you need more speed, the laptop includes ‘downgrade’ rights to install Windows XP Professional.

Connectivity of the Samsung P580 is quite up to date though, listing 11n wireless, gigabit ethernet and Bluetooth 2.1. For storage the Samsung takes one of its own 320GB 5400rpm SATA disks, while external storage could be added via an eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port, complementing another three USB 2.0 around the chassis.

The prize feature of the Samsung P580 is perhaps its display, not especially high resolution at just 1366 x 768, which is rather low for a near-16in widescreen panel. Yet its matt anti-glare finish makes the laptop eminently usable in all lighting conditions. Viewing angles are respectably wide too. Colours are a little bleached by default but this might be adjustable in Windows if you have the patience.

The flat keyboard is usable, if nothing to get excited about, while the trackpad and its buttons are responsive and reasonably comfortable to live with.

A feature that may prove useful to companies or institutions using old equipment is a 9-pin serial port, shyly hidden behind a concealed flap on the rear edge of the Samsung P580.

NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict >>

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Samsung P580: Specs

  • 2.13GHz Intel Core i3-330M
  • 15.6in (1366 x 768) LED-backlit matt display
  • Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
  • nVidia GeForce GT 330M with 1GB GDDR3 RAM
  • 320GB 2.5in 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 3GB (1 x 2GB, 1 x 1GB) DDR3-1066 RAM
  • HDMI, VGA
  • tray-load DVD±RW
  • gigabit ethernet
  • Intel 802.11b/g/n
  • 1 x eSATA/USB 20, 3 x USB 2.0
  • male DE-9 serial port
  • SD card slot
  • webcam
  • mic
  • headphone jack, audio in
  • 48Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 371 x 256 x 30-36mm
  • 2479g
  • 2.13GHz Intel Core i3-330M
  • 15.6in (1366 x 768) LED-backlit matt display
  • Windows 7 Professional 32-bit
  • nVidia GeForce GT 330M with 1GB GDDR3 RAM
  • 320GB 2.5in 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 3GB (1 x 2GB, 1 x 1GB) DDR3-1066 RAM
  • HDMI, VGA
  • tray-load DVD±RW
  • gigabit ethernet
  • Intel 802.11b/g/n
  • 1 x eSATA/USB 20, 3 x USB 2.0
  • male DE-9 serial port
  • SD card slot
  • webcam
  • mic
  • headphone jack, audio in
  • 48Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 371 x 256 x 30-36mm
  • 2479g

OUR VERDICT

The Samsung P580 is an old-fashioned laptop hiding an old-school legacy port, sporting the latest Intel and nVidia silicon inside. Unfortunately mobile workers may also balk at the old-time runtime of little over three hours too. It’s a chunky heavyweight that lacks the build integrity and finesse of HP or even Dell, but that sub-£750 price may win over a business accounts department.

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