Samsung 700G7A Gamer: Talking Surname

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Samsung 700G7A Gamer: Talking Surname

Theoretically, ‘gambling’ notebooks from Samsung were before. However, their performance in discriminating gamer kicked so big tears that call their game without the quotes we’d feared – laughed at the same. This time, the company rejected jokes and marketing to create a really decent laptop for gaming. no nonsense. Despite the fact that Gamer is one of the most recent Samsung notebooks and name of the model is consistent with the modern system of naming the company to fellow lineup Samsung 700G7A not like.

But an abundance of decorative elements, which in common with last year’s Samsung. The impression is that the Koreans did finally empty the bag with the old design finds. In 2012 to have them not to come back and go completely to the new style, which the company, the right word, it is to face. Laptop case is made entirely of plastic. Working panel at first glance looks like a very “shredded aluminum.”

But is it enough to touch her, and the illusion disappears: it is not even a thin tin on top of plastic, and synthetics with just an imitation – a good imitation, it must be recognized. Samsung Gamer has a spacious keyboard: with large keys, proper layout and dedicated digital unit. The latter even separated from the main part of the keyboard a solid gap. It is almost unique in the world of laptops, as a rule, manufacturers of molded “numpad” as close as possible to unify the keyboard unit 17-inch models and “pyatnashek.”

With regard to mechanical properties, with the situation is ambiguous. On the one hand, openly delighted increased key travel and correct their elasticity. On the other hand, the substrate is strongly keyboard flex on the left side – just under the most necessary keys, WASD. In the right part with it just fine. And this is puzzling. Even if we assume that reinforced concrete provide rigidity to the entire area of ​​the keyboard was absolutely impossible, it is still unclear – why it was impossible to make a “soft” right-hand side instead of the most important for gamers left?

The keyboard includes backlit. In normal mode, the keys are illuminated pale blue. If the switch to game mode, then highlight color changed to bright blue, and the WASD keys highlighted in red. Modes are selected by a special physical switch located on the right edge of the shell. Very nice point of view with tactile wheel, I must say. Speakers in Samsung Gamer only three – two normal plus a subwoofer.

It seems the number is modest, and fashion label some of the manufacturers of Hi-Fi-equipment there, but the volume and sound quality is very, very decent. Good external speakers these speakers, of course, not replace, but to watch a movie or play in the field with them is quite possible. Touchpad Samsung Gamer has a large size, suitable for right thumb sliding cover and convenient buttons.

It is a pity that such a fit pad will remain unused in most cases – a gaming laptop itself begs the corresponding mouse.

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Microsoft Security Essentials

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 Microsoft Security Essentials

Overview and features

In the two years since its 2009 launch, free malware protection tool Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) has become the world’s second most popular security package – a big change for a company regularly criticised for how it managed Windows’ security.

While much of that may be down to the cost, compared with much of its competition, it’s also a well-designed anti-malware tool with both anti-virus and anti-malware capabilities.

Available for Windows XP (Service Pack 2 and higher), Windows Vista and Windows 7, and in both 32- and 64-bit form, Microsoft Security Essentials is part of the Genuine Windows programme, and can only be used on consumer PCs.

Small businesses do have an exemption, and can run it on up to 10 machines; any more than that and you need to use Microsoft’s Forefront Endpoint Protection tools. It’s a small download, the latest beta version is 9MB for 32-bit machines, and 11MB for 64-bit.

Microsoft security essentials review

Microsoft has done its best to keep MSE unobtrusive. There’s no obvious slowdown when it runs, and all you see is a tiny task bar icon that shows whether your PC is protected or not. Right-click to launch a settings tool and to run scans – with a choice of quick, full or custom.

Installation is quick and easy, with MSE replacing Windows’ built-in anti-spyware Microsoft Windows Defender. Once installed it downloads an updated set of malware definitions from Microsoft’s update servers and scans your PC, before starting up real-time protection.

Microsoft security essentials review

That first scan is relatively quick, and took less than five minutes on our test laptop. A small icon in the task bar is the only sign that MSE is installed and running, and it changes colour depending on the risk to your PC.

Microsoft security essentials review

Green is, of course, good and yellow means that it’s time to run a scan.

Microsoft security essentials review

MSE will automatically run a quick scan once a week, although we’d recommend changing the default 2am on Sunday to a time when your PC is likely to be turned on. You can limit the amount of CPU that MSE will use for a scan (the default is 50%), and you can also make sure it won’t scan if you’re using your PC. We’d recommend leaving real-time protection on – it won’t use too much power or add significant latency to downloads, and will reduce the risk of downloading malware inadvertently.

Microsoft security essentials review

Other tools built into MSE let you tune it to exclude specific files and locations from scanning, as well as specific file types and even specific processes. You’re better off not changing these settings, since it’s impossible to predict how malware may disguise itself or what zero-day attacks they might use. A custom scan will check specific files, folders, or drives, while a full scan will check everything on your PC. We’d suggest sticking with quick scans for everyday operation, which look for common malware and check system files.

Microsoft security essentials review

The advanced options in MSE’s Settings tab enable you to include removable drives in scans, to protect flash drives as well as your system disks. You can turn off archive scanning (although we’d recommend leaving it on, since it’s able to detect malware wrapped in several layers of zip compression). Other options enable you to set system restore points automatically before making system changes, including deleting, running or quarantining detected malware.

Microsoft security essentials review

You’re also able to set how long MSE will keep quarantined files before automatically deleting them. Use the History tab to see and remove quarantined malware, with links to online information about the malware so you can decide whether to delete a file or not.

So how can Microsoft give a tool like this away for free? While it doesn’t advertise it, MSE is part of Microsoft’s Forefront suite of security tools, based on the Forefront Endpoint Protection client used on enterprise desktops. When MSE detects malware it reports back to Microsoft, giving the company a wider view of the security landscape than it would get from just its enterprise security software. With millions of free copies of MSE, Microsoft’s paying customers get a more responsive and more secure set of tools, and we all get better security.

Microsoft security essentials review

The reporting system Microsoft uses is its Active Protection Service (previously known as SpyNet). You can choose whether to be part of it, but if you don’t, you won’t get full protection from MSE, since it won’t detect and alert you if unknown software has been download or is being run.

Basic membership gives you additional protection in return for sending Microsoft details of downloaded and detected software, while Advanced membership sends more details, including how the software runs, what filenames it uses and where it installs.

The process should be anonymous, but there is a slim possibility that personal information could accidentally be sent back as part of reporting malware behaviour – something to consider when signing up for the Active Protection Service.

Verdict

Microsoft security essentials review

If you want good, free antivirus software, then Microsoft Security Essentials is the tool for you. It’s small, doesn’t sap system performance and gets regular automatic updates to keep you secure. There’s no obvious downside to using MSE – and because it’s the basis of a revamped Windows Defender that will ship as part of Windows 8, it could well be a good idea to get used to it now. With Microsoft regularly updating MSE there’s really no excuse to not run anti-malware tools, when they’re as good as this – and especially when they’re free.

We liked

MSE is one of the simplest and easiest to use anti-malware tools around. It’s quick, unobtrusive and works without slowing your PC down.

Malware is caught quickly, and the default actions work well for most users. It’s a small download, and keeps itself up-to-date. And above all, it’s free – with no need to register or re-register.

We disliked

There really isn’t much to dislike here, since MSE provides the service you want, carrying on raising the bar for all the other anti-malware vendors out there.

Our one big caveat is the default time for scheduled complete system scans. Once a week, at a time that a PC is likely to be off is not good enough, by a long way.

Final verdict

If you’re not running anti-virus software, you really have no excuse. MSE is free, simple to use and has been tested by independent anti-malware certification bodies.

It may not have all the features of other security suites out there, but that’s really not that important – especially when widespread use of MSE should help make it a safer internet for everyone.

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Acer TravelMate 8481T

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 Acer TravelMate 8481T

When it comes to battery life, Acer’s TravelMate 8481T is the laptop to beat. It’s not all that surprising when you see the battery protruding from the back of the chassis, practically doubling the breadth of the machine.

But, if you need to pack the TravelMate away, simply unclip the battery and it shrinks from 41mm thick to only 24mm. Our battery benchmark test – supplemented with looped high-def video – took 326 minutes to run down the TravelMate, so we’d expect that this machine would get you through a mains-free eight hour day with standard use.

Apart from the battery, there are other features that mark this laptop out as a travel device. Its 14-inch screen dispenses with Super-TFT reflective coating, instead opting for a matt-TFT finish. This means that, while movies and pictures won’t look as colourful or vibrant, the TravelMate can be used in bright environments – like airports or train carriages without annoying glare being reflected on the screen.

Even with the screen brightness set to maximum, the display is noticeably darker than other laptops. This is an extra way to maximise battery performance, as the biggest drain on any laptop’s power supply is keeping the screen bright.

There’s also a fingerprint scanner nestled between the click buttons below the touchpad, lending saved documents an extra layer of security.

Boasting Acer’s favoured raised keyboard, typing is also comfortable, thanks to a decent amount of travel, but not without some serious flex. Because the battery protrudes the way it does, you’re typing at a raised angle, much more comfortable than on a traditional flat laptop.

While we might be tempted to lump the TravelMate in with the Port

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Asus N55SF

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 Asus N55SF

At first glance, it’s difficult to get a handle on exactly what type of laptop the Asus N55SF is.

The powerful Core i7-2570QM processor, huge keyboard with numeric keypad and slab of speaker atop the keyboard suggest that it may be intended as a desktop replacement. But the weight and general lack of bulk suggest otherwise.

When all’s said and done, this is a out-and-out powerhouse of an entertainment laptop. There’s Bang and Olufsen ICEPower audio, 6GB of memory and a Blu-ray drive hidden inside that hefty case.

Indeed, this is a high performance family laptop with a gaming bent – the high end Nvidia GeForce GT 555M has a whopping 2GB of memory on board just for graphics, providing some of the best 3D performance you’ll find in a laptop.

While the chassis is big, it’s not as bulky as you’d think and is easily to move around the living room. Sadly the power brick isn’t so portable and is a bit of a lump. The chassis is a little plasticky, but is topped off by a lovely curved, glossy piano black lid with a smart looking chrome finish around the edge.

Unfortunately the lid does pick up fingerprints quickly, but that’s an issue with all such glossy laptop lids – particularly when they’re being used by kids. As a whole, the laptop looks very classy and we certainly wouldn’t be ashamed to leave it on the coffee table – the aluminium panel below the screen adds to this.

The chassis has been put together well and is strong – you can’t push down on the palm rest, although there is a little flex in the base of the keyboard and the main laptop chassis itself. There is more flex in the screen, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Key concern

We’re unsure about the keyboard though. It looks horrid compared to those of many comparable laptops, for a start. The letter keys seem a little compressed for such a large machine, and although they have a lovely spring to them when you’re typing, it’s easy to accidentally hit the wrong key.

This problem is exacerbated by the location of the volume control keys on the left-hand side. It’s very easy to hit one of them when going for Tab or holding down shift – largely because we’re so used to these keys being at the edge of the keyboard. A bad usability flaw there; suddenly you see a volume control graphic pop up in front of you as you type.

Sound, which has traditionally been a weakness for laptops, certainly isn’t neglected here. The B&O audio is nothing short of astounding. It was too loud for our living room, so we really gave it a challenge by bringing it into the office. Even on the other side of our large open plan office we could clearly make out the music. It’s great for watching Blu-ray movies as a result, and HDMI means you can output your display to a larger screen.

If you prefer to use the laptop’s built-in display, images are clear and crisp, and there’s an anti-glare coating to reduce refl ections when you’re watching video or working. The screen has great contrast and colours are also reproduced well.

Asus n55sf rear

Photo, video and music addicts will be pleased with the 640GB of storage, and USB 3.0 connectivity means that, even if you decide to add external storage, transfer speeds would be extremely snappy with a USB 3.0 drive. Ports are plentiful, while there’s a SD card slot underneath the front lip.

The trackpad is responsive, but we found the mouse buttons tended to click too easily and it can be difficult when doing more precise tasks such as highlighting text or files in a folder.

Powerful performer

The N55SF put in a really strong performance in our benchmarks – the gaming graphics put it right up alongside entertainment-orientated notebooks like the Toshiba Qosmio X770, as well as high-end gaming laptops such as the Alienware M14X and M18X. With the quad-core processor, advanced graphics and 6GB of memory, you’ll have no trouble running most games or performing demanding tasks like video editing.

The laptop uses Nvidia’s Optimus graphics switching technology, so you get great graphics performance when it’s plugged into the mains and decent battery life when it’s not. This is reflected in our battery benchmark score, which is great compared to many of its peers – the Toshiba’s Qosmio X770 only lasted 44 minutes by contrast.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 132 minutes
Cinebench: 18,323
3DMark 2009: 12,711

As with some other recent Asus laptops like the UX31 Zenbook, we found some of the software annoying. A reminder to register our details constantly popped up, and an update wizard kept appearing. Such add-on software seems to be a way of life now, but it detracts from the out-of-box experience.

That said, for extra unwanted software, the N55SF is better than most, with only the Bing toolbar really grating. And the benefit of the super-fast processor is that such additions don’t slow Windows 7 down.

The N55SF is a superb home entertainment laptop with only a couple of weak points in the odd keyboard, mouse controls and some irritating software alerts. Performance is excellent and the spec sheet as a whole is impressive.

Of course, all this doesn’t come cheap, but this machine compares extremely favourably to more stylised and costly entertainment laptops from the likes of Toshiba and Alienware. We’d definitely recommend it – if you can put up with the strange keyboard.

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Acer Aspire S3

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 Acer Aspire S3

Overview

The first-generation ultrabook war is getting bloody, with the Toshiba Satellite Z830 and Lenovo Ideapad U300S emerging from the pits to take on the Asus Zenbook and this machine, the Acer Aspire S Series. This four-way battle royale should be a fierce contest, but can Acer do enough to beat down the super-thin-yet-powerful laptop competition?

The Taiwanese company certainly has experience producing every variety of laptop, from the ultra-portable Timeline range of models such as the Acer Aspire Timeline X 3820TZ to the mighty Ethos multimedia machines including the Acer Aspire Ethos 5943G.

One of its dinkiest offerings yet, the 13.3-inch Acer Aspire S3-951 is an appealing prospect for regular travellers.

The Intel Core i7 2637M version we tested is priced at £900 in the UK and costs $1300 in the US (where it has the more specific name of Acer Aspire S3-951-6432), which is enticing, considering the impressive specs list.

A less powerful Core i5 model can be bought for £700 in the UK, while in the US there are three cheaper Core i5 machines, two of which cost $900, while one retails at $1199.

Acer aspire s3-951 review

At 1.38kg, the Acer Aspire S3-951 is a similar weight to the other ultrabooks and just slips in under Intel’s specified 1.4kg ultrabook weight. Even a skinny eight-year-old could carry this laptop around all day, although we wouldn’t trust some whippersnapper with a piece of kit like this.

With a thickness of 19mm at its widest point, the Acer Aspire S3-951 may not be as size-zero slender as the Toshiba Satellite Z830 or Asus Zenbook UX21, but it’s certainly thin enough to slide into a backpack, briefcase or even an oversized handbag.

However, even though the lid is impressively slim, it’s also tough enough to take a pounding. There’s almost no flex in the centre, so the display remains protected even when the laptop is bumping around in a bag. The brushed aluminium surface repels fingerprints and other marks, keeping it clean and shiny.

We were also pleased to see sturdy hinges, which hold the screen still even when you’re pounding the keyboard. This solid build quality continues throughout the rest of the chassis. We found no worrying weak spots, although we’re not convinced that the Acer Aspire S3-951 would survive a fall from a desk.

Acer aspire s3-951 review

One potential peril of compact laptops is that usability might suffer – the reduced chassis space means smaller keyboards, the nemesis of anyone with fat sausage fingers. Thankfully the Acer Aspire S3-951 doesn’t suffer too much from its stunted stature.

Shift and Ctrl keys are well-sized, although the Enter key is squashed into a single row and the arrow keys are almost comically tiny. Touch typing was a breeze. We bashed out emails and articles for hours at a time without our hands cramping up, and with minimal errors. While the shallow key travel is unavoidable, it isn’t as bad as the Asus Zenbook‘s (which feels like you’re tapping on a solid piece of plastic).

The Acer Aspire S3-951’s touchpad is also a decent size, but is cursed with integrated mouse buttons. Instead of having separate mouse buttons, you need to push the left and right corners of the pad down to simulate mouse clicks. Frankly, it’s a horrible experience.

Anyone who’s used one of these touchpads will know the deal. Often when you push the corners in to select a menu option, the cursor will skip across the screen, leading to incorrect menu selections. Considering how fiddly Windows menus can be, we came close to busting out the power tools and giving the Acer Aspire S3-951 a few new air vents.

Our advice is, stick to tapping the surface for mouse clicks. It’s a little hit and miss, but might save your blood pressure.

Specifications

Acer aspire s3-951 review

The Acer Aspire S3-951’s compact build means you’re stuck with a small screen, but the 13.3-inch display is perfectly serviceable for both business and pleasure. It isn’t the brightest screen ever, but the 1366 x 768-pixel resolution means images are sharp.

HD movies look crisp, if not particularly vibrant.

Although 13.3 inches doesn’t give you a huge viewing area for the latest blockbuster films, it’s perfectly fine when you’re on the move and sat right in front of your laptop. The sharp resolution is also perfect when you’re working on tables or spreadsheets.

However, the glossy Super-TFT finish is reflective, which is a hindrance if you want to use the Acer Aspire S3-951 outdoors. Anyone who’s regularly out and about will prefer the matt screen of the Toshiba Satellite Z830.

Acer aspire s3-951 review

Business users will be happy to see an HDMI port and two USB ports crammed onto the rear of the slender chassis. Accessing them is a little awkward, and fans of wired networking should check out the Toshiba Satellite Z830, which has a built-in Ethernet port. However, the Acer Aspire S3-951 is pretty much standard when it comes to ultrabooks.

If you have tons of files to lug around, you’ll need to use one of the USB ports to hook up an external hard drive. Despite the specs listing a 240GB solid state drive, the Acer Aspire S3-951 only reported 200GB of storage space available. This fills up far too quickly, especially if you’re hoping to carry some music or movies with you, although at least it gives you super speedy and reliable access to your data.

You also have an SD card reader for extra storage.

Aside from that, the Acer Aspire S3-951 is typically light on features. A 1.3MP webcam positioned just above the screen enables you to video chat with mates or colleagues, and that’s your lot. However, at least the Acer Aspire S3-951 doesn’t come laden with dozens of useless app trials that clog up your hard drive and constantly pester you with annoying pop-ups.

Performance

Acer aspire s3-951 review

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Cinebench 10: 8,827
3D Mark ’06: 3,279
Battery Eater ’05: 149 minutes

The real selling point of the Acer Aspire S3-951 is the impressive set of components stuffed in its tiny gullet. Gone are the days of clunky low-voltage CPUs plaguing ultra-portable laptops.

The dual-core Intel Core i7 2637M processor stormed through our Cinebench tests, proving well matched to any task we threw at it.

Backed up by 4GB of memory, we had no problem multitasking with all kinds of software. Applications loaded quickly (helped in part by that speedy solid state drive) and ran smoothly. In fact, the Acer Aspire S3-951 proved to be the most powerful ultrabook we’ve reviewed, narrowly beating the Core i7 Asus Zenbook UX31.

Acer aspire s3-951 review

Graphical performance is dependable, thanks to the flexibility of the Sandy Bridge chipset. Although the GPU is integrated, it’s still capable of running multimedia software such as photo and video editing suites, without suffering from glitches or crashes.

Of course, you aren’t going to get any serious gaming done on an ultrabook. Older games will run as expected, and you won’t have any trouble smashing your mates at a game of online Scrabble. But try testing it with a recent FPS game and you’ll meet a stuttering mess.

Even when we ran fairly demanding software, we were impressed by how cool and quiet the Acer Aspire S3-951 remained. The SSD obviously helps, because there are no spinning discs to contend with. The area around the vents (positioned at the rear of the laptop) remains cool at all times.

Acer aspire s3-951 review

Unfortunately the battery life was a lot less impressive. We ran HD video on loop and were disappointed when the Acer Aspire S3-951 died after just 149 minutes. This isn’t a disastrous performance, but it is below average for a modern laptop – we usually get around three hours of movie action before the screen fades to black.

Considering this is an ultrabook built for portability, the result is even more disappointing. The Asus Zenbook, for example, survived for over four hours with the same test. If you’re looking for a new laptop, you’ll have to seriously consider what’s more important to you – performance or longevity.

Verdict

Acer aspire s3-951 review

We’ve tested the first generation of ultrabooks, and so far we’ve liked what we’ve seen.

This attractive blend of performance and portability might not be new (as Apple fanboys will be quick to point out), and we’re not sure why it’s taken Intel’s intervention to stimulate manufacturers into producing mini laptops such as the Acer Aspire S3-951. However, for anyone who’s a regular road hog, the ultrabook is an enticing prospect.

We liked

The Acer Aspire S3-951’s slender chassis may not be as stupefyingly thin or sleek as the Asus Zenbook, but it’s still compact enough to fit in almost any bag. It’s also impressively tough considering the girth, with a firm lid and tough body.

We were impressed by the excellent Intel Core i7 processor performance, and saw next to no slowdown when running several applications at once. Multimedia software runs fine, and the ultrabook starts up and shuts down in no time at all.

If you need a machine to bash out emails and documents on the move, the Acer Aspire S3-951’s keyboard will do the job. It isn’t too cramped, despite the compact frame, with the exception of the miniscule arrow keys.

We disliked

Unfortunately, for a laptop marketed on its portability, the Acer Aspire S3-951’s battery life is pants. Just two and a half hours of movie playback on a single charge is below average, even for a bog-standard entry-level laptop.

We also had massive issues with the touchpad. Those integrated mouse buttons are a massive pain, and we resorted to tapping the surface to select menu options instead.

Anyone with a huge media collection will need to cart around an external hard drive, because only 200GB of storage space is available on the 240GB SSD.

Final verdict

While the Acer Aspire S3-951 is a well-built and powerful ultrabook, which offers good value for money, we were more drawn to the Toshiba Satellite Z830 and the Asus Zenbook. However, a cut-price Core i5 version of the Acer Aspire S3-951 can be had if your budget is tight, and nobody will be disappointed by the excellent performance of this Core i7 model.

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Lenovo IdeaPad U300S

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 Lenovo IdeaPad U300S

Overview

The wait for the flurry of Intel ultrabooks is over, and the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S is among the latest super thin and light Windows laptops to come to the fore.

It joins the likes of the Toshiba Portege Z830, Toshiba Satellite Z830, Asus Zenbook UX31 and Acer Aspire S3 in the ultrabook range, a new kind of laptop category that is critically important for the future of the entire market.

Ultrabooks are super-thin, light, sleek and powerful laptops that aim to emulate Apple’s recent gains with the Apple MacBook Air, and finally give consumers a reason to invest in PCs again.

Lenovo ideapad u300s review

The Lenovo IdeaPad U300S is the last in the current line of ultrabooks to hit the shelves, and with a host of new models rumoured to be released at CES 2012 in January, it needs to offer a potent mix of power, great looks and competitive price to stand out among the early salvos from Acer, Asus and Toshiba.

However, our first impressions are underwhelming.

Lenovo hasn’t obsessed over aesthetics, and this laptop is no Apple MacBook Air clone. It seems chunky next to the wafer-thin Asus Zenbook, which features a wedge-shaped design that tapers off to a thin, blade-like point.

The Lenovo IdeaPad U300S retains its 16mm thickness across the chassis, giving it the impression of being squat.

The body is aluminium, and weighs 1.4kg, the same as the Acer Aspire S3, but much heavier than the Toshiba Portege Z830 and the Toshiba Satellite Z830-10U. If you’re looking for an ultrabook that will turn heads, you will most likely look elsewhere, but can the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S impress with power?

Specifications

Lenovo ideapad u300s review

Under the hood of the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S is an Intel Core i5 processor, which we were slightly disappointed to see, when other manufacturers have managed to add Intel Core i7 processors to a smaller, lighter chassis.

The processor is one of Intel’s low-voltage chips, which balances power with decent battery life and enables system builders to keep their laptops svelte, and achieve the standard required for ultrabook branding.

The low voltage family of processors are part of Intel’s Sandy Bridge range, but don’t expect the same performance as on full laptop systems such as the Dell XPS 15z. These processors are clocked at a meagre 1.6GHz, but have some cunning tech built in to keep the system optimised.

Lenovo ideapad u300s review

There’s Intel’s fast booting technology, which enables the Lenovo to resume from sleep and boot from cold in seconds, and makes a huge difference. It’s one of the best ultrabook features, but it’s not exclusive to the Lenovo.

We have seen better processors elsewhere, such as the Asus Zenbook with its Intel Core i7 processor, and this affects performance.

There’s also 4GB of RAM, which is standard across all ultrabooks and provides enough memory for keeping the system feeling responsive.

Finally, there’s a 128GB SSD drive, which we’re glad to say is becoming standard on ultrabooks, but whether you can live on that is debatable. Yes, you can employ an external HDD, but the question for many is whether an ultrabook can function as a primary machine, or whether it must be complemented by a full-form computer.

Lenovo ideapad u300s review

The lack of connections on the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S means using this as a primary laptop is difficult, which is a bugbear.

While the whole world goes wireless, and we start to store data in the cloud, 128GB of storage seems plenty. Cloud apps and storage are taking the strain off disc drives, but connectivity is the problem. The Lenovo IdeaPad U300S features just two USB ports, one of these being USB 3.0, and an HDMI port but no Ethernet or VGA.

The Lenovo IdeaPad U300S is also the only ultrabook not to feature a media card slot, and with only two USB slots on offer, connectivity is severely limited.

Lenovo ideapad u300s review

The result is that it’s harder to get online, and we found it frustrating when hopping between offices and meeting rooms when wireless signal was poor, or non-existent. That’s not a problem for home users, but with the matt screen and less attractive lines, we feel this ultrabook is aimed at mobile workers.

The Lenovo IdeaPad U300S features a 13.3-inch display, and in a nod to true portability, the screen is matt, with a coating to stop reflections in direct sunlight.

Matt screens tend to polarise opinion, with many complaining that it makes the panel dull and lifeless, versus others who love the ability to work outside and near windows with them.

The truth is that both of these statements are true, and the Lenovo is totally unsuitable for those who want to enjoy movies and pictures, but it’s a great choice for people who want to work on the move.

Performance

Lenovo ideapad u300s review

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Benchmarks
Cinebench: 7,244
3D Mark: 3,394
Battery Eater: 232 mins

The Lenovo IdeaPad U300S’s less powerful Intel Core i5 processor showed through in our lab tests, and the 7,244 score in Cinebench is on the low side when compared to the Asus Zenbook UX31 and Acer Aspire S3.

In real-world terms, this is more than enough processing power to run advanced programs such as Photoshop, although rendering will take longer than on full-powered Intel Core processors and ultrabooks with the Core i7 model. You’ll have no problem running multiple applications at the same time, though.

There’s no dedicated graphics card, so 3D effects are left to the GPU found on the Intel Sandy Bridge processor. As you might expect, it produces a poor score, and you won’t be playing any of the latest titles on the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S.

Lenovo ideapad u300s review

There’s enough graphical grunt to deal with HD video, so you can watch a movie on the move, but anything more demanding is out of the question, and the screen won’t make movies look their best anyway.

The battery life was decent, if unspectacular, with 232 minutes of use in our harsh lab tests. This translates to around five hours of web surfing and emailing, which equates to a good day on the move, but nowhere near the seven hours quoted by Lenovo on its marketing literature.

One of the major complaints across many ultrabooks is that they often feature poor, uncomfortable keyboards, and single button trackpads that are frustrating to use, and easy to skip across the page with unintentionally. Unfortunately, the Lenovo suffers here too.

Lenovo ideapad u300s review

On the plus side the keys are as comfortable and natural to use as any ultrabook here, and they’re well cushioned and well spaced, with isolation-style keys jutting through the aluminium chassis.

However, Lenovo has made the Enter and Backspace keys very small, with the Home, End and Delete key to the far right.

This meant mistakes were common, and it took us a while to get used to the keyboard. The trackpad, however, is terrible, and often clicking and navigating led to chaotic moments, where clicks were mis-registered.

Verdict

Lenovo ideapad u300s review

When it comes to weighing up the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S, “average” is a word that crops up too often. It looks average, performance is average despite being thicker and heavier than other ultrabooks, and the keyboard and trackpad are still awkward to use. It doesn’t have the power to turn heads, nor to blow away the likes of the Acer Aspire S3 in terms of performance, and that means it’s hard to recommend, even for particular niches.

The matt screen will make it attractive for business buyers, but the lack of a VGA and Ethernet connection mean that many will overlook this laptop.

We liked

Despite our gripes with the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S, it’s still an excellent ultra-portable laptop. If it had come out before the other ultrabooks, we’d be applauding the excellent design and performance, and the Intel Core i5 is plenty powerful enough for image editing and advanced multitasking.

While we’d never recommend the screen for movies, we applaud Lenovo for offering a matt screen, which is great for people who want to work outside.

The keyboard is comfortable and easy to type on, with good travel between the keys, and good cushioning for long working sessions.

We disliked

Rather than complaining about poor trackpads, we’re going to get down on our knees and beg manufacturers instead. Please believe us that single button trackpads are prone to mistakes and frustrating to use. Stop mimicking Apple and adding them to your laptops.

We also would have liked the Lenovo IdeaPad U300S to be more visually striking. Ultrabooks aren’t just supposed to be thin laptops, they’re supposed to be a new category, where we can get excited about our PCs, take them to Starbucks and sit among our Apple-using friends with our heads held high.

There’s little here to boast about, and that’s a real shame.

Final verdict

The Lenovo IdeaPad U300S is a good ultra-portable laptop, but as an ultrabook, it doesn’t offer any compelling reasons to choose it over the competition.

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Toshiba Satellite Z830-10U

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 Toshiba Satellite Z830-10U

Overview

If you wanted a stylishly light and powerful Toshiba laptop, you would immediately look to the Japanese company’s Portege R830. That is, until you came across the Toshiba Satellite Z830-10U, priced at £999 in the UK (the US price isn’t yet available).

Toshiba’s shiny entry into the ultrabook market will go up against the likes of the Acer Aspire S3 and the Asus Zenbook UX21.

These super light and thin laptops are already among us, and are aiming to take some of the limelight away from the Apple MacBook Air. Helped by chip manufacturer Intel, which laid out very specific price and performance requirements for manufacturers, the Ultrabook is set to become a common sight in 2012.

At its thickest point, the Satellite Z830-10U measures only 16mm across, but Toshiba has still packed in Sandy Bridge power and given us one of the best trackpads we’ve yet seen on an ultrabook. It’s not without niggles, however, and we found parts of the chassis to be inferior to stronger machines such as the Asus Zenbook and the MacBook Air.

Toshiba satellite z830-10u review

The 13.3-inch Satellite Z830-10U is truly an ultrabook for the road. Giving us not only the lightest chassis we’ve yet seen, but also an excellent battery life, this could be the answer for frequent travellers who need a long-lasting machine full of performance for under £1,000.

Although this has the same 128GB solid state drive (SSD) that we’ve seen elsewhere, it offers better connectivity than other ultrabooks currently on the market. In what could quickly become its main selling point, the Toshiba Satellite Z830-10U gives you three USB ports, of which one is USB 3.0, and an Ethernet connection – the only ultrabook to do so.

We enjoyed our time with the Toshiba Satellite Z830-10U and looked past a couple of irritating points to find that it is certainly one of the ultrabooks you should be considering.

It sits alongside cheaper brother the Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T, which costs £899 in the UK or $849 in the US, while Toshiba’s Port

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Corsair Vengeance Racing Red 16GB

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 Corsair Vengeance Racing Red 16GB

Not only is a new extreme/enthusiast Intel platform a boon for motherboard manufacturers, it’s also very good news for the memory manufacturers. It’s been a long time since the memory guys had any good news, so the fact that the X79 platform comes with a special quad-channel memory configuration is great. Isn’t it?

Corsair thinks so, and has released a new lineup of RAM modules set up for the platform. The latest range of quad-channel Vengeance kits are rated at 1,866MHz out of the box, with full XMP 1.3 compliance built in.

Like the G.Skill RipJawsZ kit, the XMP 1.3 makes for a slightly tighter integration of the use of memory profiling to make setting clockspeeds, latencies and voltages correctly for any supporting motherboard.

Memory matters

The difficulty for companies such as Corsair is that these days, memory actually makes little difference at the top end. The performance difference between a decent 1,600MHz kit and a pacier 1,866MHz bumper pack is small, especially at this thick end of the memory capacity wedge.

With 16GB of DDR3 jammed into your machine, whether it’s running at 1,600MHz or 1,866MHz, it’s going to be going like a greased weasel down a slide. The difference in gaming is negligible – for example, there was just one frame in it with our World in Conflict benchmark, which can easily be put down to simple testing variance.

More immediately obvious is the difference in actual memory bandwidth. The Corsair Vengeance Racing Red kit manages a whopping 42GB/s against the 1,600MHz G.Skill kit’s 38GB/s. Even at the lowest ebb, you’re still getting great numbers.

In overclocking terms, the Corsair kit was rock-solid at its rated frequency in our Sandy Bridge E tests, easily getting up to the same 4.8GHz overclock that the G.Skill kit managed. Neither kit will bat above its rated speeds though. As hard as we tried, we couldn’t push the Vengeance Racing Red modules up to the next point, 2,133MHz. But really that’s just willy-waving. Such speeds don’t give you a huge amount of extra real-world performance for your money.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Video encoding performance
X264 v4.0: FPS: Higher is better
Corsair Vengeance: 55
G.Skill RipJaws-Z: 55

Memory bandwidth
SiSoft Sandra: GB/S: Higher is better
Corsair Vengeance: 42
G.Skill RipJaws-Z: 38

Gaming performance
WiC: FPS: Higher is better
Corsair Vengeance: 112
G.Skill RipJaws-Z: 111

And therein lies the rub. This Corsair kit is on the market for around £133 at the time of writing, whereas the slightly slower G.Skill kit can be picked up for less than a ton. Is the extra performance really going to be worth the cash you’re stumping up for the extra clockspeed?

As a gamer, the answer will most likely be no. Realistically for us PC gaming folk, even the G.Skill kit is probably overkill, and speeding up those modules won’t give you much extra either.

For Photoshop obsessives and video manipulation junkies, £133 for 16GB of superfast DDR3 probably isn’t a bad deal. But that’s a bit of a niche market for such an enthusiast product. None of that can take away from the fact that these Corsair modules run perfectly at their rated specs, happily keeping the system ticking over during all the overclocking.

But as we’ve said, it’s a niche product. Most of us wont need the heights of this kit, though the same could easily be said of the whole Sandy Bridge E platform. So, in for a penny and all that…

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Samsung RF511

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 Samsung RF511

The Samsung RF511 is a mid-range laptop which offers solid yet unspectacular performance, at a less than inspiring price. With so many great laptop bargains on the market this year boasting new Intel chips, we reckon that Samsung has missed the mark with this middle-of-the-road outing.

With its muted grey metal trim around the keyboard and austere black-on-silver keys, the kind of room which would suit Samsung’s RF511 will have black leather couches and smoked glass tables. It’s a world away from the designer minimalism of something like the Asus Zenbook and a design that will repel as many as it attracts.

But once you look at the glossy baked plastic lid, you begin to wonder who exactly the RF511 is aimed at. Is it a workhorse machine for open plan offices? Or something that could be a desktop replacement for the family home? We’re just not sure – and the problem is that Samsung doesn’t seem to have the answer, either.

If you’re shopping around, there are two versions of the RF511 available: one has a discrete graphics processor supplied by Nvidia for extra gaming power; the other relies on Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 GPU that’s built into a Sandy Bridge chip. This is the latter incarnation, meaning that the latest games are going to be beyond your aspirations.

Like the Packard Bell TS13HR, you’ll be able to get some older games running at a playable rate, but forget your secret ambition to be a soldier in Battlefield 3 if you choose to arm yourself with the RF511. Far Cry 2 runs fairly well on it, though.

Samsung build

So, if it’s not extra games performance that Samsung is offering punters, how does it distinguish itself from the almost £180 cheaper Packard Bell TS13HR? For the extra outlay here you get a Core i5 processor (rather than the Core i3 in the Packard Bell) and an extra 250GB of hard drive space.

It’s not much lighter, though, and the battery life isn’t any better if you’re running video or doing anything more challenging than browsing the web.

We can report, however, that the RF511’s screen is an improvement over the TS13HR. The contrast levels are even better for richer colours all round, but it’s not that much better. Certainly not £150 so.

Limited benefit

So what about those differences between the Core i5 and Core i3? With the former, you get Hyper Threading and Intel’s Turbo Boost technology. That’s reflected in the benchmarks, but they don’t have as much real world benefit as you might imagine – certainly not unless you’re encoding a lot of video or doing the kinds of high intensity workloads that this laptop really isn’t otherwise designed for.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 168 minutes
Cinebench: 9960
3DMark 2006: 4740

As far as using the the RF511 or the TS13HR for photo editing, watching videos, surfing the web and office suites, there’s not a huge performance advantage to be gained by spending the extra money.

What you do get for the extra money is a lot of bundled software. Unfortunately, most of this borders on the intrusive rather than the genuinely useful. Internet security pop-ups and notifications about Wi-Fi also have a habit of knocking out other running applications. If you’re after a no-frillls 15-incher, there’s little reason to buy the RF511 over the cheaper TS13HR.

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Sony VAIO VPCEH2F1E E Series

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 Sony VAIO VPCEH2F1E E Series

We approach budget laptops from Sony with caution. The Japanese giant may have produced some of the most desirable high-end machines out there, but its budget offerings have always been a mixed bag. Thankfully, using the Sony VAIO VPCEH2F1E is a reassuring experience.

The keyboard and screen are both fantastic, and although the power tucked inside isn’t mind-blowing, it’s certainly enough for the vast majority of us.

When it comes to appearance, the E Series is the ugly duckling of the VAIO family. It goes for the traditional all-black look (or white, pink or blue), but tries to mix it up with a textured triangle design that overlays the plastic. Questionable design aside, the chassis does feel remarkably firm and we couldn’t find any flex around the usual weak spots, such as above the DVD drive or around the screen hinges.

The E Series models aren’t exactly light at 2.4kg, but you’ll easily be able to put this laptop in a backpack and carry it around for a day.

The highlight of the E Series is definitely the firm, isolation-style keyboard. Even though this is a budget machine, Sony has installed highly usable keyboard that is a typist’s dream. There’s a great deal of space between the keys, as well as a dedicated numeric keypad and the three Assist, Web and VAIO hotkeys that Sony puts on all its models.

Typing is particularly easy: the keys have a solid weight to them, and the added space means there’s no chance of a miss-hit. If we had to gripe, we’d say that the slightly raised keys could fall victim to dust, crumbs and other debris spilt over the chassis and that the touchpad is too small.

Sony vaio e series

This laptop’s screen is also worth touching on. It’s reasonably bright, and pictures came out clear and detailed – if a little whiter than others with darker displays. What we did like is that the screen runs almost to the edge of the lid, giving you the impression you’re looking at a screen larger than 15.6 inches.

Average power

It has to be said that you won’t be loading up the latest games, mixing high-definition video or doing a lot of visual programming on the VPCEH2F1E. However, the Core i3 processor is still a second-generation model and, as such, will allow you to multitask with different programs and easily handle less-intensive tasks, like audio mixing or basic programming.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 173 minutes
Cinebench: 7833
3DMark 2006: 3504

The keyboard will find favour with writers and the screen and speakers make watching movies a pleasant experience.

If, after a year or so you decide to boost this E Series model with an extra monitor, or a better keyboard or more storage, you can do so thanks to the number of connections available. Connectivity includes four USB ports, HDMI, VGA and Ethernet connections, as well as an SD Card slot and a Pro Duo slot.

Additionally, Sony has built-in 802.11n wireless and Bluetooth. While using the VPCEH2F1E heavily, we noted that it stayed both cool and quiet and that the battery gave us an average 173 minute life.

It’s not hard to recommend the VPCEH2F1E as a good deal. It gets so many of the fundamentals right without feeling the need to shunt in excess power which adversely affects both battery life and price.

It’s good to see a Sony VAIO laptop that the average person can afford and we have to say that, even if it’s not especially pretty, the this E Series laptop certainly gets the job done.

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