For a great many people, a notebook doesn’t need to do too any things apart from let them surf the internet, edit documents, play video and perhaps run the odd game. That sort of person should be perfectly happy with the Samsung Series 3 305E7A 17″ notebook. Under the covers is an AMD A6-3420M quad-core APU, with a hefty 6GB RAM supporting it and a 500GB hard drive for storage. It also features a dedicated Radeon HD 6470M graphics card, synced with the integrated GPU in a Crossfire array to accelerate polygon-cranching.
Samsung Series 3 with well-specced config under review here sells for a mere 550 euros. Despite the entry-level price point, the Samsung Series 3 notebook has an attractive appearance, with a combination of black and silver-grey surfaces. For a 17″ laptop the Series 3 is pretty light at 2.65kg. Build quality is acceptable, though obviously higher-priced metal-chassised notebooks feel more sturdy.
The Samsung Series 3 screen features a 1600 x 900 pixel resolution, and while a full HD 1920 x 1080p display would be preferable for multi-tasking or especially intricate software, costs have been kept low with the averagely-bright (211 candela/m2) panel offered. It’s easily on a par with the screens of other similarly-pitched laptops, but the weak depth of black means a poor 118:1 contrast ratio. The anti-reflective coating of the screen makes outdoor use much less problematical, although a stronger backlight would help even more. A basic 0.3MP webcam is perched atop the display for video calls.
That large 17-inch case of Samsung Series 3 notebook means plenty of room for a full-sized keyboard, and a dedicated number-pad is also present for data entry. Decent travel and pressure point translate to a satisfactory typing experience. The Elan touchpad is also good – its lightly textured surface improves accuracy, and various multi-touch gestures are configurable. A sensor detects when a palm is resting on the touchpad, avoiding accidental cursor realignments. The mouse buttons work fine, with good feedback and a satisfying click.
No USB-3 functionality, and the trio of USB-2 ports offer a pedestrian data transfer rate of 33MB/s, which could mean waiting nearly five minutes to transfer a full-length DVD movie… that probably won’t be a deal-breaker for the modest demands of the casual computer user. VGA and HDMI interfaces are both included, and there’s also a 4-in-1 card reader on the front of the Samsung Series 3. WiFi-n connectivity is provided for, offering a max rate of 19MB/s, which should be enough for most people. Shame there is no support for 5GHz bandwidth, but hardly surprising on an low-priced notebook. Bluetooth also misses out.
The recovery DVD is a brilliant inclusion – security problems, operating system reinstalls, component failures a year or four down the line can all be easily remedied with factory re-installs. The Samsung Series 3 has a 24-month warranty and it can be extended to 3 or 4 years for 60 or 100 euros respectively.
The AMD Llano A6-3420M quad-core processor is clocked pretty low at 1.5GHz, though boost-able to 2.4GHz, with an on-chip GPU clocked at 400MHz. That APU combination can run in asymmetrical crossfire array with the 1GB Radeon HD 6470M discrete graphics card. System performance of Samsung Series 3 is pretty snappy with the processor humming along at maximum turbo frequency with around two cores busy – it falls back to its default speed only when heavily taxed. Data transfer is nothing spectacular at 63MB/s.
Benchmarks scores are good for a notebook in this price range but unfortunately the micro-stutter phenomenon, caused by irregular frame rates of the crossfire array, means current games are only playable at reduced detail settings and lowered resolution. A single more powerful graphics card would be faster.
Audio is pretty poor, even for a notebook, though with headphones or external speakers is more than tolerable. Under medium-to-heavy usage battery life comes in at 3:30, which is slightly mediocre.
All things considered, the Samsung Series 3 notebook 305E7A is a good all-rounder for anyone needing a notebook for general use. There are areas (screen quality, gaming prowess, battery life) where it falls down, but not so far that casual users would be disappointed. But a moderately capable 17-inch notebook is still a good deal at 550 euros.
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