Samsung Series 3 £479.99
7th Dec 2011 | 10:28
Dependable AMD-powered budget laptop ideal for family use
This AMD-powered portable PC uses less powerful components than its older siblings, but comes in at half the cost too, making it better suited to families and users with more basic needs.
After reviewing a long line of black and silver laptops, the Samsung Series 3 was immediately refreshing, with its friendly blue design. This colourful metallic finish covers the lid and the keyboard, with a white interior giving it a fresh appearance.
Anyone with small children will be relieved to hear it's solidly built too, so can withstand a bashing by tiny fists. The Samsung Series 3 laptop's palm rests are firm, and we only noticed a little flex around the DVD drive. The screen is held firm by some strong hinges, while the lid itself is rigid enough to absorb any bumps, to protect the display.
As usual, the laptop's isolation-style keyboard is comfortable for all-day typing. Keys are firmly mounted and spaced apart to prevent typos, and none of them are particularly crushed - even the arrow keys are given generous space, instead of being crammed into a single row.
Spreadsheet lovers rejoice - the Samsung Series 3 laptop also has a numeric keypad for those sweaty number crunching sessions.
We did find the very centre of the board a little spongy, but while this cheapens the feel of the overall quality, it doesn't impair your typing in any way.
The touchpad is similarly well-endowed, covering the full width of the palm rests. The smooth surface is responsive, and supports multi-touch gesturing for zooming in and out of photos and documents. If you rub your finger up and down the right-hand edge, you can also scroll through files.
At 2.5kg, the Samsung Series 3 is fairly average for a 15.6-inch laptop, proving light enough to throw in a backpack and carry around all day.
Specifications and performance
If you're constantly on the move and want a portable computer to keep you entertained or productive, the Samsung Series 3 is a great option. One massively useful feature is the matt 15.6-inch screen, which lacks the shiny gloss coating of many modern laptops. This might not seem like a big deal, but the difference when you're outside is impressive.
While glossy Super-TFT displays are a massive pain to use outside, reflecting light straight back into your eyes, the Samsung Series 3's screen is almost completely non-reflective. You can work on it even in hideously bright conditions.
This is also helped by the brightness levels of the display. Turned to maximum, the panel is comfortable to use even for extended periods. It's vibrant enough to bring your photos and movies to life, although viewing angles are a little tight.
Cinephiles can enjoy HD movies on this PC laptop, with 1080p videos playing perfectly. Of course the 1366 x 768p resolution doesn't produce the sharpest visuals, but we didn't notice any grainy-looking images.
However, the Samsung Series 3's built-in speakers are typically rubbish, lacking any real oomph. A gunfight in The Dark Knight sounded more like a barrel of damp firecrackers going off.
We love carrying our entire media collection with us wherever we roam, and the Samsung Series 3's dual hard drives don't disappoint. You get 750GB of storage - enough for hundreds of HD movies and hundreds of thousands of music albums. It's definitely a generous amount, considering the relatively low cost of this laptop.
Features are a little slim on the ground, but you get three USB ports for hooking up your own peripherals, and both VGA and HDMI options for attaching an external monitor. Built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi means you can hook up to the internet.
Cinebench 10: 7,198
3D Mark '06: 5,330
Battery Eater '05: 136 mins
The Samsung Series 3 laptop slashes its price by using budget components, compared to the Sandy Bridge-powered Series 7. This laptop features an AMD A6-3410MX quad-core processor, running at 1.6GHz, backed up by 6GB of RAM.
Our Cinebench tests confirmed that the Samsung Series 3 isn't much of a performance heavyweight. You can happily browse the web, tinker with word processing documents and enjoy your media, all at the same time, but anything more strenuous causes the odd stutter.
This will suit most families fine, but don't expect a laptop that'll last you for years to come.
The Samsung Series 3's AMD chipset also handles graphics, and the integrated AMD Radeon HD 6480G GPU is surprisingly capable. Our 3D Mark score was comparable with many low-end dedicated graphics cards, and the Samsung Series 3 laptop can comfortably run older games.
New releases will struggle, however, so gamers should look to up their budget to find a computer with dedicated graphics.
On the other hand, if all you want to do is edit your photos and movies, and watch the occasional HD film, the Samsung Series 3 is a dependable laptop.
If you're strapped for cash but want a more powerful machine, we'd recommend the Acer Aspire 5750G, which comes kitted out with Sandy Bridge processors. Not only that, it costs roughly the same as the Samsung Series 3.
Sadly, the battery life is less impressive. We were hoping for over three hours of life from a charge, as we got with the Samsung Series 7, but the Samsung Series 3 died after just 136 minutes of playing HD video on loop. This is below average for budget laptops like this, and means you'll have to drag the adapter with you on longer journeys.
Limit yourself to less intensive activities, such as office software and web browsing, and you'll eek out three hours. It's still unimpressive, and definitely disappointing.
On a more positive note, the Samsung Series 3 is a quiet machine. And we didn't notice any hotspots during use - keep the vents clear and it stays reassuringly cool.
The Samsung Series 3 is a cut-price laptop that banks on the latest AMD quad-core technology, but does it set itself apart from the budget laptop hordes?
The Samsung Series 3 NP305V5AI's design is appealing, considering so many laptops at this price point feature a dull black or silver finish. The metallic blue lid and keyboard stand out among its peers, and the Samsung Series 3 is solid enough to survive a reasonable amount of abuse.
Just as colourful is the 15.6-inch widescreen panel. It's also comfortably bright and shuns a glossy coating, making it perfect for working outdoors.
The keyboard is comfortable to work on all day, or if you'd rather kick back with a film, the Samsung Series 3 plays HD films smoothly.
The integrated AMD graphics are surprisingly capable, and while you can't play recent games, you can certainly waste hours on older or more basic titles.
Video editing is also perfectly possible.
Finally, you can carry a sizeable media collection, thanks to the 750GB of internal storage.
However, the AMD processor is still highly limiting, and will quickly become out of date. This isn't uncommon for a budget machine, but the likes of the Acer Aspire 5750G offers Intel Sandy Bridge performance for the same price.
We were also massively disappointed by the Samsung Series 3's battery life, which barely lasts long enough for a two-hour film. If you suffer a long commute like us, you'll need to carry your charger and power it up at work.
By cutting down the specs of the Series 7 laptop, Samsung has produced a more pocket-friendly laptop that should appeal to families and anyone looking for dependable budget performance.