Samsung Q330 £599
14th Oct 2010 | 13:28
A stunningly well made and powerful ultraportable at a great price
Samsung Q330 review: Overview
In 2010, Samsung has produced a strong range of laptops, spanning from entry-level portables that offer fantastic value for money, such as the Samsung R730, to excellent Blu-ray multimedia machines, such as the Samsung R780.
The Samsung Q330 fits neatly in the middle as a mid-range laptop that packs impressive power and specs for a great price.
This 2kg machine just about fits into the ultra-portable category (any laptop weighing 2kg or under qualifies), despite featuring a solid brushed aluminium chassis that looks a lot heavier than it feels.
You can find plenty of ultra-portables that weigh less, such as the Sony VAIO VPCZ12V9E/X and the Packard Bell Dot U, which both tip the scales at just 1.4kg. However, with a compact 13.3-inch chassis that measures just 30mm at its thickest point, the Samsung Q330 will still comfortably slip into most bags and briefcases without weighing you down.
The Samsung Q330's silver chassis is highly attractive and tough enough to take some punishment. The lid, featuring a streaked black finish, is also reassuringly solid. Unfortunately, it only bends back 45 degrees past the vertical position, which can make it tricky to find a comfortable viewing angle on your lap.
An excellent isolation-style keyboard sits atop the chassis, with individual keys poking up through separate holes. This separates out the keys for a comfortable typing experience, while also preventing crumbs and other debris invading the Samsung Q330's insides.
It's a solid board and the keys are all well sized, with the exception of the left-hand Shift key, which is a little squashed. The Samsung Q330's wide palmrest also aids comfort, and we found we could type for hours with no strain or fatigue.
There's also enough room for a reasonably sized touchpad, which is both smooth and responsive. Beneath the touchpad, you'll find a short row of indicator lights that display when Caps Lock and Wi-Fi are turned on, if the hard drive is active, and if the Samsung Q330 is plugged in and charging.
Samsung Q330 review: specifications
The Samsung Q330's 13.3-inch screen features a glossy Super-TFT coating that's highly reflective. If you regularly work outside, this will prove distracting and may strain your eyes.
The upshot, however, is that images are more lifelike, with pleasingly warm colours. The Samsung Q330's display is also crisp, with the 1366 x 768 WXGA resolution proving more than sufficient for intricate photo editing and working on spreadsheets. Movies also look great, with deep blacks and no motion blur.
Another strong feature is the 320GB hard drive, which offers plenty of storage despite the slim chassis. Only users with large media collections will quickly fill that much space, which is enough for hundreds of albums and feature-length movies.
There aren't too many other features here, but there is enough space in the Samsung Q330's chassis for a DVD drive so that you can watch movies on the move. Alternatively, VGA and HDMI ports are both available for attaching an external monitor – handy if you want to stick on a film at home but need a bigger screen.
If your camera or other portable devices use SD cards, you'll be pleased to know that you can plug them straight into the Samsung Q330's SD card reader, enabling you to access your media without fiddling around with cables. However, some devices use different media cards, such as Sony's Memory Stick Duo technology, so you'll have to check their compatibility first.
802.11n Wi-Fi is on board for the fastest possible wireless networking, while Gigabit Ethernet provides its wired equivalent. The Samsung Q330 also includes Bluetooth 2.1 for transferring files with compatible devices, or attaching peripherals, such as Bluetooth headsets.
Samsung Q330 review: Performance
One of the best aspects of the Samsung Q330 is its excellent performance, courtesy of the Intel Core i3 350M processor. It's part of Intel's latest range of entry-level, dual-core processors, which vastly outperforms previous budget efforts such as the Celeron CPU and its ilk.
Running at a clock speed of 2.26GHz, we found the Samsung Q330's processor raced through every task we threw at it, even with several applications open at once. Office tasks are dispatched with ease, while more intensive software– programming and design suites, for instance – are just as smoothly handled. This is undoubtedly helped by the 3072MB of speedy DDR3 memory.
Compared to other ultra-portables, the Samsung Q330 comes out favourably too. It outdid the similarly priced AMD Athlon II Neo CPU-toting Dell M101z, and the Fujitsu Lifebook P770 , which has a low-voltage Core i7 on board.
In fact, the only ultra-portables to really blow the Samsung Q330 away were Sony's Z-Series. However, the likes of the VAIO VPCZ12V9E/X cost over two grand, so you're certainly paying for that extra power.
The Samsung Q330's processor may be good, but there's no dedicated graphics card on board here. Instead, the laptop uses the Core i3's integrated graphics for rendering images. Multimedia performance is therefore restricted compared to a laptop with a dedicated card, but we still found the Samsung Q330 had enough power to run simple multimedia tasks, such as photo editing and basic video editing.
Intel's Core processors also provide full support for high-definition graphics, so the Samsung Q330 can comfortably handle HD films. While recent games are out of this laptop's scope, we managed to run some older games, including the first Modern Warfare, with some of the details turned down.
As with all ultra-portable laptops, battery life is an important factor. We found that we got around 255 minutes of life from a single charge, which is above the average three hours we expect from modern laptops.
Over four hours of use away from the mains is enough for the daily commute and most short to mid-range journeys, but there are several ultra-portables out there that can last longer. For instance, the Packard Bell Dot U and VAIO VPCZ12V9E/X managed almost five hours apiece.
Meanwhile, the Dell M101z lasted 346 minutes on a single charge, while the Fujitsu Lifebook P770 survived for a mighty 427 minutes. In the end, it comes down to your own personal requirements and budget, so be sure to check out our other reviews if you're still undecided.
Samsung Q330 review: Conclusion
The compact Samsung Q330 only just fits into the sub-2kg ultra-portable category, but it's all the more impressive considering the quality of the solid chassis. While there are undoubtedly slimmer and lighter laptops out there, the Samsung boasts a Core i3 processor and a premium build that few laptops at this price range can match.
Build quality is excellent, with a firm brushed aluminium chassis that feels as solid as it looks. Despite this, the Samsung Q330 is highly portable, with a weight of just 2kg and a maximum thickness of 30mm.
An Intel Core i3 processor provides great performance for the price, and can capably multi-task with a variety of applications. This beats most other ultra-portables in this price range and even above.
Usability is another strength of the Q330, with the isolation-style keyboard providing a comfortable typing experience. Networking and features are impressive, with a 320GB hard drive providing plenty of storage space.
Although this is a highly portable laptop, the 255 minute battery life is less than you'd get out of some other ultra-portables. Even so, the Samsung Q330 will do you for the daily commute and shorter journeys.
The glossy screen is too reflective in bright light, which hinders use outdoors. This is a laptop best used inside or in darkened train carriages.
Finally, although the Core i3 CPU provides great performance, there's no dedicated graphics card on board. You'll still have enough power for photo and light video editing and even running older games, but that's the limit.
The Samsung Q330 is a fantastic mid-range laptop and a strong ultra-portable. Its performance particularly impresses given the slim chassis and slimmer price, while the overall build quality is something we'd expect from a more expensive machine. We'd highly recommend it to anyone who wants a reliable machine for use on the go.
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