Samsung R780 17.3" HD+ LED (Intel Core i5-430) Notebook Review
As a recent graduate from Seneca College’s Computer Networking and Technical Support program, I could not help it reflect at how I even graduated without a notebook. Every time I attended class, I would see a majority of students with a notebook. Whether it be a MAC or PC made no difference, (although in a computer program, you see mostly PC’s), but I guess I’m an old school learner as I believe the paper and pen to be the most effective way to study. Judging at how those students were either surfing the internet, chatting online, or playing video games, that would have just distracted me.
One of the reasons why I haven’t purchased a notebook in the past is because of the compromise factor; it was always too great of a compromise. If you wanted a notebook that was just as capable as your desktop computer (Intel Q6600 quad core in my case), you had to pay a hefty price, end up with something fat and bulky, the battery life was never good, and the overall performance of the notebook was never at the same level that you were used to.
However on the flipside, one of the reasons why I would love to own a notebook is because of the portability factor. To be able to be free of a confined space and be able to use a notebook anywhere you like, without wires, is just amazing in my eyes.
Thankfully with technology advancing at such a rapid pace, the notebook world has never looked more inviting to be involved in. Notebooks have gotten lighter, slimmer, performance has increased to where there isn’t as much compromise, and multimedia options such as HDMI make it easy to interconnect PC and television.
Today marks the first time I will be reviewing a notebook on ModSynergy.com and being excited to share with you my experiences on Samsung’s latest and highest model offered in their performance notebook segment. I have dedicated about three months of long term testing on this R780 and can give you fair assessment of how the R780 really is. The R780 is Samsung’s latest notebook that features a capable Intel Core i5-430 processor, elegant red Touch of Color exterior and displays on a large 17.3” HD+ LED display. The system model number I am reviewing today is: NP-R780-JS01CA.
About Samsung: The Samsung Philosophy (excerpt from Samsung.ca)
‘At Samsung, we follow a simple business philosophy: to devote our talent and technology to creating superior products and services that contribute to a better global society.
Samsung R780 Product Overview
‘Is it too much to expect your mobile computer's appearance to reflect its performance? Samsung doesn't think so. That’s why the Samsung R780 boasts a high-end design that parallels its high performance features like the 16:9 HD+ LED display that delivers sharp images and bold Colours. Highlighted by its New Touch of Colour finish, an appealing crystal-S pattern, and a durable casing engineered to reduce the risk of scratches and fingerprints, the Samsung R780 makes sure your on-the-go lifestyle stays stylish. And with touchpad lighting, a low profile keyboard and a 17-key numeric keyboard, using it is as enjoyable as it is productive.’
Samsung R780 Product Specifications
Specifications tell us that the Samsung R780 is a very capable notebook and will be plenty enough processing power for most consumers. It features the latest generation dual-core ‘Arrandale’ Intel Core i5-430 32nm processor (i5 is mid-range between i3 and i7) which operates at 2.26GHz and has 3MB of L3 cache and has a thermal design power of 35 watts. One of the cool things about the new Intel Core i3, i5 and i7 is about Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology which will automatically overclock the CPU when you really need it. The maximum speed that you can see with the Intel Core i5-430 (depending on CPU temperatures) is 2.533GHz.
Rounding the main system components off is 4GB of DDR3 1066MHz Samsung memory, a 500GB Seagate 5400RPM hard drive (no SSD), NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics card with 1GB of gDDR3 video memory and a Samsung 8x DVD+/-RW DVD burner.
I think one of the best features on the R780 notebook is the inclusion of the 34mm ExpressCard slot (only on premium notebooks), which will allow a user to run an ExpressCard based SSD card on this notebook. The result is superfast file transfers and the possibility of running program applications off the card, instead of using the non-SSD hard drive. Running applications off the SSD will give you the benefits of SSD, which are super-quick access times, just overall faster in every way.
First Impressions and Thoughts
The Samsung R780 comes in a simple corrugated box. The box isn’t too snazzy or glittering with design unlike an Apple product but I suppose you wouldn’t really care since you won’t be using the box but rather the contents inside.
Purchasing the R780 will provide you with the following contents in the box…
The R780 bundle is typical of the competition; you get what you really need and no extras. It would have been splendid if there was a ‘free’ notebook sleeve; however, that was not the case.
With the R780, you don’t receive any type of CD’s in the package. That means you don’t get any type of CD’s that contain drivers, software or even a recovery CD. This is because all the recovery you need is on the system hard drive and can be accessed prior to boot-up or in Windows through ‘Samsung Recovery Solution 4’. It’s a great program and I will talk more about it later on.
The first time you lay eyes on this machine, it will captivate your senses. I’ve seen Touch of Color implemented on Samsung’s HDTV line and they were not as prominent as it is with the R780 because it was placed on the bezel of the screen, but with the R780, the whole case (minus the bottom) and surrounding keyboard area is injected with red Touch of Color with a pattern Samsung calls crystal-S design. The pattern resembles waves in my opinion and being so fluidic in motion, makes it look all the more better. The bezel of the machine is dark red and gradually brightens.
The paintjob on this machine is superb and looks almost holographic at times when the system is shining in the sunlight. Additionally, depending on the brightness of the light that shines on the case, the color tone will either get darker or brighter. Talk about being super impressed! It looks so nice that words cannot express. That is why you’ll have to see the gallery for high quality pictures!
The case is obviously made from plastic material and for a consumer notebook exhibits great fit and finish, good build quality but typical average chassis case strength. The strength of the chassis doesn’t stand out from the crowd as it can flex if you want it to, the keyboard does tend to dip a little if you push the keys hard enough, lifting up the notebook will make typical plastic click clack noises and opening and closing the screen will make noises due to the pressure from the hinges. The screen does have some play but what is annoying about it is that it will produce a clicking noise once the screen eventually moves from the slightest movement of the notebook. All this to me is average among its competitors, unless we’re talking about an aluminum exterior notebook like an Apple Macbook, which isn’t a fair comparison.
The Samsung R780 notebook weighs around 6.2lbs and for a 17.4” notebook, my experience has told me that it’s rather easy to lug around and doesn’t pose any type of problem. It’s really not that heavy and that is a good thing.
Looking at the bottom of the R780, we find a good number of vent holes to ensure that the R780 will not overheat but run at optimal operating temperatures. Also notice the labeling of all the important parts of the case, things like the memory, optical disc drive, and hard drive are labeled and will help take out the guess work for future upgrades. I’ve seen laptops with no labeling and that makes it a pain in the rear sometimes.
Rounding off, we have four rubber feet at each corner that helps to elevate the machine just a tiny bit to further help with exhausting the heat. I would have liked the feet to raise the machine a little further because the problem is with one of the exhaust vents to the left of the machine, it doesn’t have enough clearance to be effective when you place the notebook on a sofa or even on your thighs. Sometimes your own thigh will block the vent and sometimes you’ll forget to re-adjust.
Let us look from the profile of the machine, starting from the left to right. From the left profile we have the bulk of the connectivity present. This includes…
An additional thing you don’t see but will use is integrated 802.11 bg/n adapter and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR.
From the center profile we see to the left, two vents that sandwich the Multi-Card Slot. It handles SD, SDHC and MMC memory variations.
From the right profile, we have two additional USB ports and the DVD burner optical disc drive.
HDMI connectivity on the Samsung R780 allows the individual to display whatever is on the notebook on their own HDTV. The R780 makes it easy as plug and play and this is partly due to Windows 7 being a much simpler operating system for the regular user. Literally all that needs to be done is plugging in the HDMI cable (not included) into the side of the notebook and then setting your HDTV source to HDMI.
The notebook, Windows 7 and your HDTV will then automatically communicate with each other and output to the television at the highest resolution (1920x1080) available. Once the handshake is complete, whatever is on the notebook will be displayed on the HDTV by default, with these handy little controls at the bottom of the screen to make things easier. These three boxes allow you to choose whether or not you want to clone output from notebook and HDTV, use DualView (like extended desktop), use only the notebook as the lone display and/or use the HDMI output by itself as the display source. The second box shows the optimal resolution and the third box has features that pertain to presentation mode.
These three boxes take all the guesswork out of what once was harder to achieve on Windows XP. XP never had these simple boxes pop up automatically when you output the signal and you would have to go inside the display properties to attempt to get it to work. With the R780, just a two-step plug and play is all that needs to be done. Fantastic!
Opening Input Layout
I don’t really have anything bad to say about the type of layout the R780 presents because where your wrists will lay and where the keyboard is positioned, I don’t think anyone will have issues. The keyboard on the R780 is a 100+1 type and features a bunch of shortcut Fn keys for controlling things such as brightness, speaker volume, scroll lock, touchpad on/off, wireless LAN on/off, speed modes, Samsung Support Center, sound off/on, backlit on/off, display output for VGA/HDMI, sleep and battery capacitor indicator.
Above the keyboard you have two up-firing speakers providing 2w each for a total of 4w. You can distinguish them by the chrome colored paint that spans across the speaker. The speakers are nothing to get excited about. Although they do sound plenty loud to fill a regular sized room, there is no subwoofer present and thus bass is truly missing from the speaker system. To mimic bass and to make the speakers appear to sound fuller, the onboard Realtek HD sound features SRS Technology and once enabled does make a difference for the perception of sound quality. SRS is on by default and for good reason.
The keyboard buttons have a good feel to them. Each button is relatively quiet, easy to push, provides good tactile feel with little travel and is generally without issues. The only issue I’ve had with this keyboard is that the space bar only seems to work when you press the middle and will not execute if you tap the bottom corners.
Another small thing you need to get used to is the where the keypad is placed. The keypad is squished right beside the keyboard. This is different from a regular keyboard where there is a small gap in between the two. The result is I’m always accidentally pushing the number 0 because right beside the 0 key is the right directional button. It just takes some getting used to. But other than that, everything else seems to be placed where you won’t accidentally hit them.
The touchpad on this R780 is a good one as well with little issues. The whole plastic panel is smooth and maintains the same design. To distinguish the touchpad, Samsung decides to place four small blue LED’s and that indicate the touchpad area and also a transparent textured surface to further reinforce the touch pad location.
The touchpad is powered by Synaptics and makes it possible to zoom, pinch, rotate and scroll by way of finger gestures. Also when using the touchpad, you’ll notice that the rightmost side of the touchpad can let you continually scroll down vertically. The same can be said for the bottom-most edge of the touchpad that can let you continuously scroll horizontally.
To the bottom of the touchpad are the left and right click buttons. These ones click rather loud than silent and for me makes me annoyed when using them, so I try not to use them. I would have been happy if they were silent or less noisy but it’s manageable. They are of good quality and I would venture you would have a hard time of breaking them or getting them stuck. I have seen click buttons on some HP laptops that have broken off or gotten stuck in the notebook, but I have a hard time of seeing that happen on this Samsung and that is a great thing to know.
The sensitivity on the touchpad is high and it always seems to know where your fingers are. I haven’t had any issues with it skipping or acting abnormally so I feel it is a good touchpad. The gestures on the other hand take some getting used to and sometimes will register incorrectly.
The power button that is on the R780 is beside the right hand speaker and is covered also with the same chrome paint that distinguishes the speakers on the notebook but also a small blue LED on top. However, after three months of turning on the system, the chrome paint has already begun to fade and is half gone. This is due to the oils in our fingers and soon enough all the chrome paint will be gone. I wish Samsung would have used longer lasting paint that can withstand oils because what they used reminds me of toy paint that chips off easily.
Samsung includes what they call their HD+ LED LCD display. This 17.3” LCD screen uses LED as its backlight to save energy and provide better color rendition. I don’t know the specifications on the contrast ratio or brightness rating but from experience, there are 8 bars of brightness you can reach and the screen gets bright enough that the intensity of the whites on screen can begin to hurt your eyes. At night time, I would have liked it if the brightness could have gone down even further (make 10 bars, instead of 8) as the lowest brightness is still bright in my opinion.
The display also features a glossy finish. It seems like everything nowadays is glossy and that it is getting harder to purchase a matte screen. Your obvious disadvantage of a glossy screen is using it outdoors. It still is tough to use it out doors and I would avoid it at all cost because of ALL the reflections you’re bound to receive, it’ll be so distracting.
Another possible disadvantage is the perception of color. Glossy screens can make colors look more colorful than they really are. They can make the panel look better than it is actually performing. In the case of the R780, that isn’t the case. The saturation on the panel is actually lacking a little for me. I feel that I do need to up the saturation when I’m watching movies in order to get a better experience. The default color saturation on this screen looks a little flat for my tastes and I don’t know if it’s done on purpose to save energy and extend battery life (possibly), but once I increase saturation levels, I feel the experience is better. The screen on the R780 exhibits sharp text and sharp icons so that is a positive.
Viewing Angle and Clouding
Let me answer the latter first instead of the former. The screen on the R780 does exhibit some clouding but it really isn’t much of any issue on the R780 notebook as it could have been. All LCD’s exhibit some form of clouding and this is in the nature of LCD technology, it cannot be fixed. Some displays will show it less while some displays will exhibit an unusual amount of clouding. Fortunately with the R780 that I was reviewing, it really wasn’t an issue. There was minimal clouding on the edges but nothing in the middle which was a pleasant surprise.
So how about the viewing angle? In this case, the viewing angle is more of a problem on the R780 than the clouding issue was. You have to be on-axis for your experience to be pleasurable or else you will get sudden drop-off in color and readability when viewing from horizontal or vertical positions, much more when viewing from the top. I find it disappointing that if I shift the machine a few degrees, that readability begins to drop from the edges and the color begins to shift. I’ve noticed this on other notebooks as well so I would have to believe that notebook manufactures don’t make it a top priority but they should because we need consistency of what is shown in the screen.
There’s not that much to say about the integrated 1.3MP web camera. If you have a cell phone with a camera, this one on the R780 is basically the same thing. You can’t expect much from something that is enclosed in such a small area. It’s certainly not the best (by a long shot) but it’s basic and gets the job done. It doesn’t have the best image quality or color rendition but you can’t really expect much from a notebook web camera. In daylight, it operates smooth but in poor lighting conditions, it becomes choppy and intolerable. Check the gallery for examples of the web camera quality.
If the Samsung R780 notebook does something right, its quietness is one of its biggest attributes going for it. Once you power up the system for the first time the notebook fan will spin for a brief second and quiet down for normal mode operation. Once that is under way, you don’t hear anything except for a faint hum, and you only hear the faint hum if you’re in a dead silent room, which usually never happens.
Samsung has three different modes that affect system noise and system performance, all being a part of its energy profile settings. The choice of modes include: silent mode, normal mode and speed mode.
System Performance Consumption (Quick Look)
Using my Motomaster Eliminator 200W power inverter (converts 12v DC to 120 AC); I wrote down the amount of wattage the Samsung R780 takes under non-battery operation. The power inverter includes a LCD display which tells me how much wattage is being output.
With wireless LAN on and Bluetooth off…
Samsung Recovery Solution 4
So as I stated a while back in the review, no type of recovery CD is included in the box, but most notebook manufactures nowadays, because of Microsoft and their new policies on piracy, have now made a hidden recovery partition on the hard drive that will restore the computer to its original state when accessed prior to boot-up or in Windows itself.
With the Samsung R780 you can access Samsung Recovery Solution 4 by pressing F4 when the notebook is booting or while in Windows open the same program.
I’ve used Samsung Recovery Solution 4 during boot-up to get the system back to its original state and it does work wonderfully well. It’s super easy to use and you just follow the couple of steps, let it do what it needs to do and you’re back up and running
Windows 7 on the Samsung R780
Samsung installs Windows 7 Home Premium on the R780. Although the Intel Core i5-430 is a 64-bit processor, I was disappointed that a 32-bit version of the operating system was installed. The disadvantage of having the 32-bit version over the 64-bit version (as is the case with the R780) is the ability to utilize more than 4GB of system memory. The Samsung R780 has 4GB of system memory installed and because of the choice to bundle the notebook with a 32-bit version of Windows 7, only 3.48GB of system memory is actually usable. The rest is unused or unallocated, which is a shame.
Home Premium is the entry level offering of Windows 7 available. It’s fully functional and not an entirely stripped down operating system. About the only important thing you are missing is the ability to run programs in Windows XP compatibility mode but that in it isn’t much of a problem now since most programs are now made for Windows 7 in mind.
Performance, Benchmark Results and Overall Thoughts
Being privileged of running a quad-core based system, I know what fast feels like. I have used the Samsung R780 as my main computing system for about three months straight (without touching my quad-core system) and honestly I am surprised at how fast the Samsung R780, with the Intel Core i5-430 really is. I don’t have any reservations after my testing that I could use this notebook as a replacement if I needed to. I was expecting more of a drop-off than I actually experienced, which is remarkable.
The Samsung R780 can do just about everything that I was accustomed to doing. The only thing that I found it couldn’t do was play Blu-Ray content, since the lack of Blu-Ray drive and that you couldn’t play high-bitrate 1080p files. The 1080p content on YouTube is perfectly suited for the Samsung R780 because the bit-rate isn’t the highest out there. If you played real 1080p sourced files on the R780, the playback suffers from skipping.
The interesting thing to see is if the Samsung R780 is strong enough to play high-bitrate, high-resolution files if the operating system was taking advantage of the full 4GB of system memory that is on the R780. Remember that with the 32-bit Windows 7 operating system, it can only take advantage of 3.48GB of system memory, leaving the rest of the 500+MB unused by the system, which is a large amount.
Other than that, the Samsung R780 allowed me to do everything I wanted to without making me wait abnormally long or making me frustrated. I was never frustrated by the performance of the R780. I could play my video games with ease (Age of Conan, World of Warcraft, Street Fighter IV, Need for Speed, etc), I could use Adobe Photoshop, I could use Dreamweaver, I could edit my videos, I could do basically whatever I wanted.
Could you render animation with the Samsung R780? Judging by the CINEBENCH (Cinema 4D) benchmark program that you can find in the gallery, you probably could, but it wouldn’t be the fastest in the world. But the point with the Samsung R780 is that it’s not even targeted as that type of machine, yet it can do it if need be.
The NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M video card inside the Samsung R780 is nothing to be ashamed about. It’s actually much faster than what most of the competition is offering. It’s actually a great graphics card for a notebook.
To be fair, the battery life on the Samsung R780 is average at best. You would be lucky to achieve 3-hours. I find that these types of notebooks all offer the same amount of battery life. I frequently recorded around 2:30 hours of battery life with the Bluetooth off, WiFi on and the brightness set 3 out of the possible 8 bars.
What would even help the Samsung R780 even further is if you upgraded the machine with an SSD type hard drive, that alone would help the performance even further with encoding/decoding operations. But as it stands, the Samsung R780 is a very capable machine for most individuals out there and that says a lot.
I will leave you with some of the benchmarks run on the Samsung R780 that goes over the main system components and I will leave it to you to visit the gallery to see the full list.
The Samsung R780 is something that I wouldn’t mind owning. I wouldn’t mind using it as my main system as well. It’s surprised me at how capable it really is and has allowed me to do just about everything I was used to previous. After three months of extensive testing it has proved to be a reliable system exhibiting very little if any major issues.
The exterior of the Samsung R780 is tremendously attractive, the keyboard and touchpad layout is done well, the simplicity of HDMI connectivity is excellent, the inclusion of an ExpressCard port is beneficial, the notebook is an overall joy to use.
I have to say that the best part was when I found out the price of the Samsung R780 notebook. Beingoffered at Best Buy in the United States of America, the R780 sells for $849.99US which is completely bananas as that is not even the sale price! In my opinion, even for $849.99US, it’s a complete steal for what you get!