Samsung Series 3 15.6" detailed review (NP300-V5A-A02US)
Recently, I was in the market for a notebook computer to use at school. I will be starting a graduate program this fall, and I did not want to either be tied to the university's computer labs, or have to wait until I got home every day, to work in a digital environment that I controlled.
After much research, but apparently not enough (see below), I bought the Samsung Series 3 "Petronas," model number NP300-V5A-A02US, at a US Costco store. I paid US $700.
This notebook has many innovative and useful features, such as the "Fast Start," which lets you reboot Windows 7 and resume from sleep notably faster than was previously possible. The 1366x768, twisted-nematic panel LCD screen is surprisingly good, being both sharp, clear, and bright, but also usable in outdoor conditions. I can usually still see it even in direct sunlight. Wireless Display (aka "Easy Content Share") lets you stream video to any nearby DLNA-equipped HDTV. Not many laptops have both VGA and HDMI outputs, but this one does.
Perhaps the best hardware feature is the keyboard. With a dedicated number pad, it has a feel and response that is way above average for a portable PC. Other keyboards feel cheap and shoddy by comparison.
The case has understated matte and brushed-look finishes. It lacks the shiny, plastic toy look of so many other notebooks, and won't show dirt, scratches, or fingerprints as easily. Only the touchpad buttons have a shiny, chrome finish.
Strangely, there seems to be NO way to adjust any settings of the touchpad. That's too bad, as it's not your average notebook touchpad. It supports multi-touch gestures, but as there's no way to adjust the movement speed or pointer acceleration, I quickly tired of having to drag my finger over it several times to complete long scrolls. Possibly its software is conflicting with the Logitech notebook mouse I also use with the machine, but I will not be exploring a full solution as I do not think I will be keeping this computer.
Battery life is good for such a large machine. Windows 7 estimates 4.5 hours with a full charge. Here's yet another interesting feature: Battery Life Extension, a mode in BIOS (also accessible through the Samsung Control Panel software) limits battery charging to 80% of capacity. Supposedly, this makes the battery last for more charging cycles through its lifetime. I turned this feature on right away, since I typically use the machine plugged into AC power.
Now the bad points.
I don't care for the AC adapter design at all. The DC power tip plugs straight into the side of the computer, rather than using an elbow connector. So the plug sticks out a few inches, almost guaranteeing it will eventually be broken off accidentally (along with the socket on the system board!) and ensuring that it will take up extra space on your desk. It is a plug type unique to Samsung; I have been unable to find a compatible elbow connector tip for sale anywhere.
Crypto fans may wish to keep looking. The Core i5-2410M is the only member of the Core-i5 family that lacks hardware-accelerated AES execution (AES-NI). I use TrueCrypt, so this was ultimately a deal-breaker for me.
Unfortunately, all the good points above are nullified by the glaring lack of either USB 3.0 or at least one eSATA port. It's mid-2011, this is Samsung's latest design...and they used USB 2.0? Seriously? I don't want to wait on a slow USB 2.0 connection for file transfers/system backups using an external hard drive. My desktop computer from 3 years ago at least has eSATA, as does a relative's Toshiba notebook from about the same time.
Samsung really dropped the ball by failing to provide a fast connection for external HDDs. This is where I apparently missed something in my research. All the other machines at Costco had USB 3.0 or eSATA. For some reason, I thought this Samsung had USB 3.0 as well. But it's clearly listed on both the Costco website and Samsung's website as having only USB 2.0 ports. Examination of my NP300-V5A-A02US, as well as transferring files to a USB 3.0 external drive, seems to confirm USB 2.0 and not 3.0. That is likely due to the Intel HM-65 chipset used. I'm very disappointed in Samsung.
It looks likely that this machine is going back for a refund. I'll probably have to buy a Toshiba or maybe a Lenovo, as they seem to be the only ones offering USB 3.0 at anything close to the same price point.
Last edited by CoreEye5; 6th August 2011 at 09:05 AM.
Re: Samsung Series 3 15.6" detailed review (NP300-V5A-A02US)
Did you end up returning the laptop? I just picked one up yesterday, and I was wondering if you figured out how to change the settings on the touchpad. Something that really bothers me is the sharp edge especially on the left corner of the laptop. I find it quite prickly and rough to the touch and it really bothers me while I'm typing for a long time. Did you find this an issue?
On another note, I received a bsod screen last night too... saying one of the secondary timers on the processor stopped I think? I might run a few tests today to see if there is hardware issue.
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