Monday, June 20, 2011

Samsung R540

The R540 was tested by us and excelled when placed against similar systems in terms of processor performance, overall system performance, and did reasonably well in our storage tests. To give you an example, the included Core i3 CPU did better than the Dell Inspiron 15R and the system outranked the Lenovo G560 (budget notebook) in terms of overall performance. This system would be good as a general use notebook and will react quickly for every day tasks but should not be considered for modern gaming.

In our review of the R540 we also liked the full-sized keyboard with a mix between Chiclet-style and traditional keys. We said the keyboard feels solid, did not flex, and works decently well. The touchpad is also good; it features some basic multi-touch features such as pinch-to-zoom.

Our Samsung R540-JA02 review unit has the following specifications:

15.6-inch 720p (1366x768) glossy panel with LED backlighting
Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Intel Core i3-370M dual-core processor (2.40GHz, 3MB L3, 4.8GT/s QPI, 35W TDP)
Intel HM55 chipset
Integrated Intel HD graphics
4GB DDR3-1066 dual-channel RAM (2x 2GB)
500GB 5400RPM Western Digital hard drive (WD5000BEVT)
Atheros AR9285 802.11n wireless LAN
DVD burner (TSSTcorp CDDVDW TS-L633J)
1-year limited warranty
6-cell battery (11.1V, 4000mAh)
Weight: 5.29 lbs.
Dimensions: 14.9” x 10.1” x 1.17~1.42”
MSRP: $699.99

This R540 model has entry-level specifications; competing notebooks with a similar configuration can be had for $100 - $150 less online. The R540 is also offered in a higher-end configuration featuring a Blu-ray drive, low-end ATI Radeon graphics card and a more powerful Core i5 processor for MSRP $999.99 (a little on the pricey side).

Build and Design
The R540 has a generic design with an attractive-looking faux aluminum finish. Design features are minimal; the R540 does not even have volume up/down buttons. The notebook is constructed entirely of plastic; as a result it weighs only 5.29 lbs. The chassis has an average thickness for a 15.6” notebook at about 1.4 inches. The R540 is covered in mostly glossy plastic, which smudges up quickly and is difficult to clean.

The build quality of the R540 is below average. The chassis of our review notebook was warped; the notebook did not sit evenly on a flat surface. The plastic covering the top of the notebook flexes easily under slightly more than normal pressure. Additionally, the entire chassis seems to cave downward when pressure is applied on the top of the notebook, indicating the internal frame lacks strength. Rounding out the list, the chassis flexes easily when twisted by the corners; flex is bad because it allows the circuit boards inside the notebook to bend. Circuit boards subjected to bending will not last that long.

The lid shares the lackluster build quality; it flexes easily when gripped by the corners. Ripples appear on the screen when pressure is applied from behind; the screen is not well protected. Overall, even for a budget notebook the R540 falls short of expectations.
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