Samsung RF511-S03AU desktop replacement notebook
An inexpensive, yet speedy notebook that can be used for a little bit of everything, including gaming
- Battery life
- Glossy screen
- 'clicky' build quality
If you're in the market for a fast and comfortable to use desktop replacement notebook, Samsung's RF511 is a good choice. It can be found for only just over $1000 if you shop around, and this includes a 2nd Gen Intel Core i7 CPU, NVIDIA graphics and a Blu-ray player.
Price$ 1,299.00 (AUD)
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Samsung's RF511 is a 15.6in laptop that's useful for a little bit of everything — including gaming. It has powerful specifications (including a Second Generation Intel Core i7 CPU), it feels comfortable to use and its features list is a good one. You get modern conveniences such as USB 3.0, Blu-ray and HDMI; however, you don't get a Full HD screen. Instead, you're stuck with a glossy old 1366x768-resolution screen. This, plus some aspects of its build quality, are our only criticisms of this otherwise worthwhile unit.
The physical dimensions of the RF511 are standard for a 15.6in laptop: it is 380mm wide, 260mm deep and almost 40mm thick with its lid closed. It can be uncomfortable to use on your lap — they're not called desktop replacements for nothing — so you'll need to find a nice piece of desk real estate to rest it on. It weighs 2.6kg and it can be a bit of a pain to carry it (and its power supply) to and from the office or classroom, but with the amount of grunt you get under the hood, it can make for a nice (and affordable) mobile workstation.
It runs an Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU, which has four cores, Hyper-Threading and a 2GHz frequency, and it's joined by 6GB of RAM, a 720GB hard drive and an NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M graphics adapter (1GB). It recorded 25sec in our Blender 3D rendering test (using all eight threads), 52sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding test and 47min in our DVD-to-Xvid video transcoding test. What all this means is that the RF511 is fast when undertaking processor-intensive tasks, but it's not the fastest desktop replacement we've seen all year (that honour belongs to HP's Pavilion dv7). The laptop's hard drive performance was also quite fast in our tests, recording 40 megabytes per second, even though it's not a 7200rpm drive.
Its graphics performance of 9219 in 3DMark06 shows that it can be used as a gaming machine, and this was further reinforced in games such as Left4Dead2, in which the Samsung recorded 60 frames per second. We played at the native resolution of the screen (1366x768), but other games may require a lower resolution or tweaking of the graphics quality in order to run as smoothly. You'll have to plug in a mouse and maybe even a different keyboard if you want to get the most out of playing games on this laptop though, otherwise you'll always end up being the first to die in whichever game you're playing.
That said, the keyboard and touchpad are very comfortable to use. The keys respond sharply to being hit and they make it a joy to type on this laptop. The keyboard isn't perfect though: numpad and arrow keys all run into each other and there is no way to tell them apart unless you are looking at the keyboard. If you're typing at night, you'll need to leave a light on as the keys have no backlighting. The 90x53mm touchpad feels smooth and responsive and it recognises two- and three-finger gestures easily.
The build quality of the unit feels decent overall, but the left palm rest did sometimes make clicking noises when we put pressure on it while gaming or typing. The location and build quality of the power socket is also questionable as it sits up high on the left side of the chassis above part of the air vent. We accidentally knocked the connection when it was plugged in and made it 'click' — it separated the bottom and top parts of the chassis. It didn't break, and if you're careful you'll have no problems with it, but we'd prefer it if this part of the laptop was a little more solid.
For maintenance, the bottom cover comes off to reveal one 2.5in hard drive bay and two memory slots. The wireless module and all the major components reside well inside the guts of the chassis and a lot more screws and parts of the chassis need to be removed in order to access them. When the laptop is under a heavy load, it will get a little warm — you need to make sure you use it on a flat surface and that you don't block its vents when it's running games or undertaking other hardware-intensive tasks.
We do wish the RF511 came with a Full HD screen, especially as it ships with a Blu-ray drive, but you can always hook it up to a big-screen TV via HDMI to get the most out of it. The screen has good colour reproduction, but it is glossy, and we're not fans of glossy. Reflections will inevitably get in the way and depending on your environment, they will be a nuisance. Samsung has told us that its next generation of laptops will not have glossy screens and that a matte finish, such as the one found on the Samsung Series 9 notebook will become the norm across the board.
The battery life of the RF511 is adequate for such a big unit with a high-end CPU. Its 57 Watt-hour battery lasted 3hr 33min in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video. The laptop actually runs NVIDIA Optimus technology and it switched accordingly to the integrated Intel HD 3000 adapter for our tests. When using the NVIDIA adapter, the battery life will be shorter.
We like the speakers on this laptop, which are perfectly acceptable for listening to music and watching movies when in close proximity of the laptop. The dedicated buttons above the keyboard for adjusting the volume are very handy.
All up, this is a good desktop replacement notebook and we think it's worth considering if you're a user who wants a laptop that can do a little bit of everything. It performed well in our tests and it was comfortable to use. Its build quality was a little questionable in our tests, but if you're not mean to it, then it won't give you any problems. We wish it had a Full HD screen to complement the Blu-ray drive, but given that you can buy this laptop for only just over $1000 if you shop around, it's an excusable omission.
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