With prices for laptops tumbling year on year, it’s now easy to get a perfectly good machine for the price of a high-end netbook. Samsung’s R519 is a great example of this, and although you won’t be able to play games, it could be the ideal laptop if you simply need a tool to watch movies, browse the Internet or create and edit documents.
As with most of the other laptops we’ve seen in the past few months, the R519 features a screen with a 16:9 aspect ratio, in this case measuring 15.6 inches. It’s perfect for watching films on, with black bars at the top and bottom kept to a minimum, and good colour reproduction on offer.
It’s not that bright, however, and coupled with a Super-TFT coating it makes viewing tricky when out on the road. The 1366 x 768-pixel resolution is to be expected at this price point, and although not overly sharp it offers enough space on screen to view a couple of windows simultaneously.
At this price, we weren’t expecting a design to rival the likes of Apple’s MacBook Pro, but the R519 still disappoints. It’s finished throughout in sombre black plastics, with not a hint of colour or style anywhere. It is well-made, however, proving easily tough enough for use in the home or on the road.
The keyboard is also up to the impressive standard we’ve come to expect from Samsung laptops – and although the plastics are a slightly cheaper grade, it provides exceptional usability. All of the keys are large and well-spaced, and it’s easy to type at speed. The touchpad could be larger, as could the touchpad buttons, but all are responsive and accurate.
The thoughtful and comfortable design is less in evidence when it comes to ports – the main issue being the fact they’re all on the left-hand side. While this does keep your desk looking tidy if you have lots of peripherals connected at once, it also means bulkier peripherals can get in the way of each other – which can be especially problematic with the three USB ports.
If you want to connect an external display, you’ll have to use the analogue-only VGA port, with no support for digital or high-definition connections. A DVD rewriter is the only feature on the right-hand side of the chassis, letting you easily make copies of files from the spacious 250GB hard drive. Connectivity comprises 802.11b/g Wi-Fi and 10/100 Ethernet – neither of which are the quickest adapters – but should provide reliable and reasonably fast connections to wireless and fixed networks.
Within the chassis, costs have been kept to a minimum by using a budget Intel Pentium dual-core processor. Running at 2.16GHz, and backed by 2GB of memory, it provides acceptable performance for regular office tasks. That said, it could really do with another 1GB of RAM to get the best out of the Windows Vista operating system. Once up and running, however, you’ll be able to carry out multi-tasking with relative ease, and there’s only noticeable lag when carrying out demanding tasks – such as running virus scans. Battery life, at just over 3 and a half hours, is reasonable.
The Samsung R519 definitely won’t bring excitement into your life, but it does provide an awful lot of laptop for the same price as a well-equipped netbook. Unlike most netbooks, however, it also provides a much more usable screen and user interface, decent office performance and an optical drive. If you’re in the market for a bargain-basement new laptop, then the Samsung R519 is a compelling choice.