Handling, design and build: pure choco quality
Like a big slab of chocolate, the Samsung R540 certainly makes you lick your lips. Various shades of brown constantly remind you of a chocolate bar and chocoholics will love it! We also like the high level of quality of the matte plastic around the keyboard and screen. As well as giving good comfort and a nice touch, they are resistant to fingermarks and allow you to keep your PC clean and presentable. Only the hood is glossy... like raspberry sauce.
Overall the laptop is well-assembled and seems robust, including on the screen hinging.
The keyboard is comfortable to use and has a number pad. Typing is supple and quiet, while the keys are well-positioned and are a good size (18 x 18 mm base and 15 x 15 mm upper). It just lacks backlighting that would have improved visibility in dark rooms, although the fact that the characters are in white is already a very practical thing.
The touchpad is too small (75 x 45 mm) in comparison with the competition. Thankfully, the glide is fluid and rapid, although you do notice a slight lack of precision. The left and right clicks are of good quality and respond well.
The webcam gives pretty good results with quite accurate colours. Unfortunately there's a tendency towards overexposure which burns the light areas of the image. Fluidity is just sufficient that there's some ghosting on movements without there being any jumpiness. Nothing that'll compromise internet usage in any case.
Samsung claims for the R540 a golden silence and we can confirm that this is the case during processing of office docs. The fan is almost inaudible in silent mode and while it is more noticeable during heavier processing and gaming, it doesn't ever become annoying.
Connectivity on the Samsung R540 is nothing if not standard: 3 USB 2.0 ports, VGA and HDMI video outs, a 3-in-1 memory card reader, an RJ45 (Ethernet 10/100), a mic and headphones socket. There's also Wi-Fi b/g/n. No USB 3.0 though.
Under the PC, 2 panels give access to the RAM (both the slots available are used) and the hard drive. The battery can be removed and has an indicator to tell you the level of power remaining, very practical when you want an idea of how much battery life remains without turning on the PC.
|Samsung R540 from above
||DVD rewriter and 2 USB 2.0 ports
|Anti-theft, power supply, VGA, RJ45, HDMI, USB 2.0, mic, headphones
||Touchpad and clicks
Processing: small but powerful
Windows 7 index: 4.9. Details: CPU 6.3 - Memory 5.9 - Graphics 4.9 - Gaming graphics 6.3 - Main hard drive 5.9.
Although the Intel Core i3 is more of an entry-level chip, it's great to see that the performance levels of the Core i3-350M which equips the Samsung R540, put it very much on a par with our reference machine (tested a year and a half ago). Indeed, in our index it gets a CPU score of 96 while the reference machien, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400) scores 100 on the index.
Other than for office doc usage which it handles with ease, you also can do some photo and video processing with this computer, though of course you'll find plenty of higher performance chips out there now. Best to remain patient for the more demanding tasks.
High definition video playback (HD 1080p, Blu-Ray equivalent) can also be handled by the processor alone or the ATI graphics card which the R540 is also equipped with. We do however advise you to use the excellent video decoding capacities of the graphics card. For that, you'll just need to use software that supports the graphics card hardware decoding. This is the case with Power DVD 9 or Media Player Classic HC for example. The processor is then totally freed up, which reduces energy consumption and makes it available for other tasks.
3D gaming: possible as long as you reduce graphics settings on recent games
Renaming of mobile GPUs is the big thing at the moment on the laptop market. The ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5145 that equips the Samsung R540 is in fact the HD 4570 renamed and clocked at slightly higher clocks.
This doesn't make it a poor model however and it will allow you to play some recent games as long as you don't mind limiting your graphics settings. Thus Far Cry 2 is playable in native definition with graphics settings on medium, while other titles such as Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2 or Left 4 Dead can be played at higher settings. In contrast, it's best to avoid very demanding games such as Crysis, as you then have to set everything to a minimum and this compromises the picture quality of the game significantly.
Audio: no surprise, go for the headphones out
The sound you get from the Samsung R450's speakers is very banal indeed. You get all the usual problems: predominance of high notes and lack of bass. That said, the sound isn't too aggressive on the ears. Whenever you can, use the headphones out as it gives a clean sound with no hiss.
Mobility, battery life: enough to watch a good film
2h21 video playback, this is what you get from the Samsung R540's 6 cell 4000 mAh battery This is ok for this category and allows you to watch a film without having to worry about the power supply cable. You get a few more minutes out of it when working on office docs but you won't be able to stray from a power socket for too long whatever your usage.
It's a nice surprise to see that the R540 only weighs 2.5 Kg. This is really reasonable in view of the size of the screen. The R540's charger is relatively small (107 x 45 x 30 mm) and therefore easy to carry around.