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.
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.
The 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.
|Anti-theft, RJ45, VGA, USB, combo USB/e-SATA
||USB, combo USB/e-SATA, HDMI, mic, headphones
||DVD burner slot-in, USB, power supply
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.
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.
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.