When you see a laptop with a price hovering around the £400 mark you might start to ask yourself which corners have been cut to get there. In the case of this Samsung Series 3 300E5A laptop there are some tradeoffs, but not so many as to make it completely unattractive. See also Group test: what's the best budget laptop?
There’s a Core i5 processor with 4GB of RAM and we found the combination did a decent job. The integrated Intel graphics pulled things backwards a little, our Fear benchmark racked up just 12 frames a second. Gamers steer clear, then. See also: Laptop Advisor.
If you're after a laptop to double as a TV for BBC iPlayer or watching DVDs, then the matt screen might not appeal. Videos we tested exhibited somewhat washed out colours that purists won’t like. Sound quality was fine though, and in line with most laptops. Visit Asus K55VD review.
The touchpad is large and comfortable, and the keyboard is pleasant to type on. It isn’t the best, but it is very usable and we had no complaints.
Samsung has found room for just three USB ports and none support USB 3.0. That could irritate some people, and you might also feel the 500GB hard drive is a little on the mean side. But both specifications are likely to be fine for undemanding users whose laptops are required for Facebook, storing digital photos and online shopping.
The chassis punches above its weight in the looks department, with a two-tone silver and black lid looking rather stylish in our view. Still, the perennial issue of a fairly flimsy lid could put some people off. To counteract that, if you need to carry a laptop often or for long distances, the 2.3kg of weight might appeal. Often 15.6-inch laptops are closer to 3kg than to 2kg.
If battery life is important to you then our MobileMark result of 331 minutes (five and a half hours) is worth noting. How that pans out in the real world will depend on how you use the laptop of course, but it's perfectly respectable as long as you don't expect the Series 3 to last all day away from the mains.
Review by Robin Morris - 12.06/2012
Computer hardware has moved at such a pace in recent times that these days a cheap entry-level laptop can perform most tasks with supreme ease. This bargain basement 15in Samsung NP300E5A-A01DX aims to make exactly that point, delivering lashings of processing power and a sufficient features list for a mere £420. Read more budget laptop reviews.
The Samsung NP300E5A-A01DX isn’t a brand new model, and it’s worth bearing in mind that the £500 NP300E5A-S01UK is currently available in greater numbers, and includes a faster Intel Core i5-2450M processor and half as much memory again for an extra £89.
The Samsung NP300E5A-A01DX doesn’t look to be built as cheap as some lower-priced models we’ve seen, and the silver and black casing (complete with a corrugated feel) creates a businesslike impression. Read more laptop reviews.
Samsung NP300E5A-A01DX: Build quality
It both looks and feels like a lightweight model – although that's not necessarily a plus point. The lid is extremely thin, and felt brittle to us. We were slightly nervous that it might snap at any moment. And it doesn’t click shut, which is disconcerting at first. It is very effective at switching itself on and off as you close or open the lid, though, which is nice to see, particularly in such a cheap model.
The keyboard has nicely spaced keys that help accuracy, although the stiff feel doesn’t make for a totally satisfying typing experience.
The touchpad on the Samsung NP300E5A-A01DX is undoubtedly large by Windows laptop standards, but this also means there’s little space in front of the touchpad to rest your wrist, so it’s not very easy to use without accidentally touching it, sending the mouse pointer skittering off when you’re least expecting it.
If you don’t mind resting your wrists to the sides of the touchpad, you may find its size a boon.
Ports and connectors are somewhat limited. Gigabit ethernet, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth are included, as is HDMI and an SD card slot. But the three USB 2.0 ports don’t allow for decent transfer speeds like USB .3.0. Nor is there anything like eSATA.
The Samsung NP300E5A-A01DX's 15.6in screen is a good size, although the resolution of 1366 x 768 is miserly for a modern 15-incher. It also lacks somewhat in the way of colour. It’s a matt screen, which means you aren’t distracted by annoying reflections. On the downside, neither do you get the infusion of colour that a glossy panel can bring.
The Samsung NP300E5A's palette is rather murky and overcast and lacks any sort of warmth. Viewing angles are barely adequate; the image is prone to considerable deterioration if you move around more than a little.
Onboard speakers are typical for low-budget laptops. They’ll jsut do the job for email notifications, but the tinny sound and lack of punch will make them an unlikely choice for any musical enjoyment.
Samsung NP300E5A-A01DX: Performance
The Samsung NP300E5A-A01DX comes with a 2.2GHz Intel Core i3-2330M, one of last year’s second-generation (Sandy Bridge) Core i-series dual-core chips.
The Core i3 remains a popular choice at the budget level, and the Samsung NP300E5A-A01DX is actually reasonably fast for the price tag, securing a score of 101 in WorldBench 6.
This is one of the highest scores of any of the models in the budget chart, and beats the Lenovo IdeaPad G570, despite that model coming with 6GB of DDR3 RAM against the Samsung’s 4GB. And 4GB is still more than you should expect for a £400 model. The hard drive is a 500GB Western Digital unit.
Graphics are catered for by the Intel HD 3000 processor built into the CPU. This lacks the firepower of discrete solutions, and the game frame rates were fairly desultory. FEAR produced a figure of just 12fps at Maximum detail settings, although we were able to push it up to 40fps and 67fps when we dropped back to the High and Medium settings respectively.
If you’ll be happy with low graphics detail settings and resolutions, you may be able to get away with using this model for games. We certainly wouldn’t recommend it though.
Battery life is very solid, and in our tests, the Samsung kept going for almost 5.5 hours (321 mins MobileMark 2007 Productivity test).
Verdict: The Samsung NP300E5A-A01DX packs considerable pace for its price, although we had a few issues with the screen and the keyboard. We’re also not sure the lid would stand up to repeated use. If supplies of this one are low, it’s well worth keeping an eye out for its more powerful brother, the NP300E5A-S01UK, at around £500.