Archive: PC and Mac Laptop Reviews 2008-2011

REVIEW / Samsung Q320

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Fabien Pionneau Published on October 3, 2009
Updated on October 3, 2009
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SPECIFICATIONS

  • CPU Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 (2 GHz)
  • Graphics chipset NVIDIA GeForce G105M
  • RAM 4 GB
  • Screen 13.4 inches, 1366 x 768 pixels
  • Storage space 2.5E-7 GB
  • Optical drive DVD burner

According to Samsung, the Q320 “is ideal for style-conscious students or power hungry business users who need to keep in touch on the move.” And with its 13.4” display and black shell, the Q320 is indeed a handsome machine. And with a configuration to match, this notebook is a good, relatively mobile all-around partner.

Handling, design and build

The all-black Samsung Q320 has a somewhat sober appearance. It’s a blend of gloss-finish plastics on the lid and screen bezel and matte plastic on the rest of the shell. A silver stripe runs all around the edge of the machine. The silvered effect is mirrored in the touchpad surround and the display hinge. It’s a simple, effective design. And while we could have done without the glossy plastic, with its tendency to pick up fingerprints and dust, the rest is really quite elegant.

Samsung Q320 keyboard

The keyboard has a nice feel. The keys are firm and respond well. They’ve been kept to normal size, rather than being cut down. The keyboard makes a discreet, muffled clacking sound. We’d really like to see backlit keyboards become standard – they’re very convenient for use in low light.

The touchpad is reasonably sized. Its matte surface is very pleasant to the touch and makes for good scrolling, unlike other models that have glossy-surfaced touchpads. This one is a multi-point model, which some people will find useful.

Samsung Q320 webcamThe Webcam produced good colours, but overexposed areas were burned. Fluidity was fairly good.

This notebook is generally quiet. You can hear a slight whoosh coming from the left rear, accompanied by a few scratching noises during hard-disk access. The fan accelerates when heavy demands are made on the machine, but the noise never reached nuisance level.

The connectors are set along the sides of the notebook. On the front panel are a 3-in-1 memory-card reader and the operating lights. A slot-in type DVD burner takes up most of the space on the right side. Next to it are a USB port and the power connector. On the left are: 1 RJ45 connector, 1 VGA, 2 USB 2.0 including an e-SATA combo, 1 HDMI, 1 microphone jack, 1 headphone jack, and 1 ExpressCard 34 slot. There’s also Wi-Fi b/g and Bluetooth.

Under the notebook are traps for access to the RAM, hard disk, and an extension card.

Samsung Q320 Samsung Q320
Anti-theft, RJ45, VGA, USB, combo USB/e-SATA
USB, combo USB/e-SATA, HDMI, mic, headphones
Samsung Q320 touchpad Samsung Q320
Touchpad mat.
DVD burner slot-in, USB, power supply


Processing power

Vista Index: 4.5. Details: Processor 4.9 - RAM 4.9 - Graphics 4.5 - Game graphics 5.2 - Main hard disk 5.4.

The Intel Core 2 Duo T6400 processor used in the Q320 is a midrange model. Its performance is quite decent for multimedia use. Compared to our reference computer, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (which uses an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400), the Q320 scored a processor index of 72 and an overall index of 79 (excluding 3D).

1080p (Blu-ray equivalent) video plays with no problem with this processor. However, it’s preferable to use the PureVideo HD engine on the NVIDIA GeForce G105M graphics card. It takes over the task of decoding HD video when hardware acceleration is enabled.

Gaming

The NVIDIA GeForce G105M graphics card is an entry-level model, the replacement for the GeForce 9300M. As a result, recent games are too resource-hungry to get constant fluid video in native definition, unless you set all details to the lowest level (and in this case, the results were pretty ugly). The card is good enough to play slightly older games, however, such as Half-Life 2 or other games that use the same engine. You’ll be able to set the details to medium.

Audio

The Samsung Q320’s audio subsystem is poor. The sound from the headphone jack was accompanied by a loud hiss, and sound quality wasn’t up to par. Things were no better with the built-in speakers. They had a tendency to saturate at high volume and bass was non-existent. The overall sound was brittle and lacked definition, and we found it rather aggressive.

Mobility, Battery life

The Samsung ran for 2 hrs. 30 min. playing video (display set at 100 nits, headphones plugged in, and Wi-Fi disabled). That puts it about on a par with the HP Pavilion dv-3525ef (2 hrs. 38 min.) and HP Pavilion dv2-1120ef (2 hrs. 40 min.) But this is still far from the MacBook 13-inch Aluminum, with its 3 hrs. 40 min.

At 2.2 Kg (4.8 lbs.), the Q320 is on the light side. We’ve seen models that are slimmer, but this one is about average for the current run of 13” notebooks.
The Screen
This is starting to get repetitive: another, even glossier glossy LCD panel. They make the colours look better, granted, but at the price of reflections that are extremely bothersome when you’re viewing an image with a dark background. Manufacturers often put in a glossy panel as a way of, shall we say, glossing over a display’s weaknesses. That’s the case once again with this Q320.

The LCD panel is a TN type, as on almost all laptops currently on the market. That means that the viewing angles are narrow, with colours that quickly darken viewed from below and lighten seen from above.

The black level is poor. We measured it at 0.54 nits (Cd/m²), with a white level of 111.7 nits. The resulting contrast rate is 207:1. At 197 nits, the black tested as 0.96 nits.

The default colours were very poor. We measured an average colour difference (Delta E) of 10.7, with a very strong colormetric shift towards blue.

Fortunately, you can correct the default colour settings with a calibration profile from our page.

PROS

  • Restrained looks and matte inner surfaces
  • Dedicated graphics card: plays HD video
  • Good build quality
  • Relatively quiet
  • Slot-in DVD burner

CONS

  • Glossy, poor-quality LCD panel
  • Only average performance
  • Very poor audio

CONCLUSION 4/5

Fully equipped and nicely finished, the Samsung Q320 is a good notebook computer if you want to stay away from the bulkiness of the new 15.6” models. Unfortunately its glossy LCD panel is of poor quality, and its sound is very disappointing. Performance is decent and good enough for all-around use
4 Samsung Q320 DigitalVersus 2009-10-03 00:00:00
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