Review Samsung SF510 Notebook
Box-shaped laptops are obsolete. Samsung want to establish itself as producer of elegant entertainment electronics and gives the SF Series a "new shape". Without doubt, no manufacturer has dared to use such a wavy shaped look.
In this review, we'll check if the SF510 can achieve good grades in everyday use and not only with its ivory looks. Samsung states a battery life of up to 7.5 hours, depending on the configuration. The graphics solution, Nvidia's GeForce 310M, is also praised as suitable for 3D games. We are skeptical about the latter, but the battery life is well within the limits of possibility.
Samsung's Fast Start is to provide an ultra fast start of Windows. The SRS Premium Sound" provides enhanced bass, crystal clear dialog". We are curious, if Samsung has bitten off more than it can chew.
Samsung pulls no punches and throws a whole range of laptop design traditions overboard. Why do the edges of the base unit and lid have to lie evenly on each other? A wavy curve that finds its counterpart on the other side looks better and even adds stability to the work surface.
The ivory look covers the upper and bottom side, whereby the former is glossy and the latter is matt. Accordingly many fingerprints remain on the lid, but the base plate also shows grime residue after a short while. It's even possible that the plastic yellows, but this will remain to be an assumption for the lack of a test.
The interior starts with a brushed wrist-rest that looks like aluminum. But it is plastic. Its pressure resistance isn't inferior to metal. The keys have a matt plastic rim, which also fits tight everywhere.
The sunken hinges are mounted tightly to the base unit. Nevertheless, they only hold the lid spongy. Thus, it tends to teeter obviously especially in the end position. The lid construction's torsional stiffness show more flaws. Pressure immediately causes color deviations. Little force applied by both hands suffices to twist the lid at the upper edges.
The chassis suffers under the same symptoms as the lid. It's not rigid and if you pick it up at the right corner, you'll provoke an audible creaking around the DVD drive. The base plate doesn't behave better. It yields over the optical drive and the vents. The lithium polymer battery is installed in the case and can't be exchanged. We would have expected a better stability since the almost even surface on the bottom is only interrupted by a small maintenance cover.
Overall, we always had the feeling of a low quality. It creaks here, it yields there and the lid teeters back and forth helplessly during the train ride. The looks' high-end and exclusivity doesn't find any compliance in the construction's stability.
The Samsung SF510 doesn't satisfy multimedia ambitions. The device brings along exactly the minimum configuration that is found on many subnotebooks in the meantime: HDMI, VGA, 3 USB 2.0s, Ethernet and 2 audio sockets. A multi-standard DVD burner opens on the right. HDMI and 2 USB ports are covered by a white flap. That looks good, but the ports are so close together that two USB memory sticks don't fit beside each other.
Multimedia fans will quickly find limits. Fast data transfers to eSATA hard disks aren't possible and the new USB 3.0 standard isn't installed, either. There is neither an ExpressCard expansion slot, nor is there a docking port.
The interface distribution has been adequately solved. No unwieldy VGA or HDMI cables have to be plugged in on the 15 incher's front side areas. Thus, there is enough elbowroom on the desk for an external mouse, for example.
Samsung's Fast Start technology allegedly limits the waiting time for system booting to a few seconds. The manufacturer uses the sleep mode optimally. We timed 2.5 seconds for waking up from the sleep mode. That is not a special feature. The current status has always been written in the main memory in Windows' energy savings mode. The SF510's trick is simply that the system can't be made powerless. The battery is installed. If it should happen that it is completely drained after a prolonged sleep phase, the RAM content (current operating status) is written on the hard disk. Many Windows laptops do this as well, when they are kept in standby for too long.
The Easy Speed Up Manager is a slight relief (FN+F8). It cleans up the registry automatically or manually. Thus, the user can purge the booting time every now and again.
The Broadcom 802.11n wireless card supports WLAN in the fastest draft-n standard. In order to use the high bandwidth of this standard, a draft-n router naturally has to be available. Even a Bluetooth module (3.0 + HDR) is installed. If you want to connect the 15.6 incher to the gigabit switch at home, the fitting Ethernet card in form of a Marvell Yukon 88E8059 PCI-E Gigabit Adapter is waiting for you. Everything else would be inadequate for a multimedia laptop of this price category.
The user has to create his own Windows recovery data carriers (Samsung Recovery Solution 5). This is highly recommendable, especially in view of a hard disk crash. Samsung shines with a number of clearly arranged tools for computer maintenance. Among others: Sleep-and-ChargeUSB (charge the mobile via USB), Easy File Share (file sharing with another computer), Easy Network Manager (setting up WLAN locations) or Samsung's Update Plus (driver updates). The Battery Life Extender, which limits the battery charge to 80 percent to start with, is completely in Thinkpad style.
Samsung grants a 24 months warranty. The manufacturer offers a paid upgrade of the standard warranty with Warranty Plus. For about 50 euro you get a 3 year onsite pickup service (date of purchase).
Samsung uses single keys. They are unfortunately only hard to discern from the background due to their dark gray color – especially in dark surroundings. Nevertheless, you can type quickly on the generous layout right away. The long key stroke length, the clear pressure point and the firm stroke contribute to this. Strong pressure only provokes slight yielding the immediate vicinity of the enter key.
The keys use the entire surface persistently and end so that we don't come in conflict with the stylish elevation on the left and right. The number pad is a pleasant device for office workers. The full-fledged pad, without reduced or omitted keys, simplifies inputting rows of figures.
Unfortunately, the arrow keys have turned out a bit smaller than normal letter keys. Since they aren't permitted to protrude into the wrist-rest area, they have been squeezed in between shift, enter and number pad. Not only during computer games, but also in Word and Excel, it could happen that a finger hits the number "1" or the shift key.
The touchpad is slightly submerged into the wrist-rest. The surface is very big and touch-sensitive into its corners. There are no extra keys. The entire pad can be pressed like in an Apple notebook. The right and left mouse key is found underneath the marking. The surface is matt but fairly slippery, and is made of hard plastic. The mouse pad moves downwards when tapped and has a clear pressure point. The stroke is rather hard. The pad can also be depressed in the large surface, but an action is only triggered when a finger is put on the key area. Use is fun and navigating is fast because of the key's long stroke length.
The mouse replacement has an unmarked vertical and horizontal scroll bar. Both can be disabled in the Elan SmartPad software. The horizontal scroll bar is in the area of the two mouse keys. Actually, the fixed scroll bars aren't any longer necessary because of gesture recognition (e.g. scrolling horizontally and vertically with two placed fingers). But traditionalists are also satisfied.
The LED screen "delivers stunning pictures in the most saturated colors". If Samsung exaggerates, then most certainly with this statement on the German language site. The Samsung screen can only satisfy the fired up expectation with its good brightness at most. Contrasts and viewing angles belong in the low budget sector.
The reflective display (Samsung LTN154X3-L01) has a resolution of 1366x768 pixels (WXGA, 16:9). That will suffice most users, but if you need a very cleaned up desktop, you'll find HD Ready as too coarse. Simultaneous working with several, detail rich Windows, such as Word or Excel, will be agonizing with this standard resolution.
In our opinion, the Samsung screen's biggest drawback is the low contrast of 146:1. The glare type enhances the colors a bit optically, resulting in a visually crisp impression. The colors are fairly attractive for viewing pictures or movies. However, from a pro's point of view, the color effect is poor.
The Samsung screen is already completely unsuitable for professionals in image processing because of the coarse resolution. Nevertheless, we've measured the representable color spectrum and found, as expected, an extremely low coverage of AdobeRGB and sRGB on par with budget office and multimedia notebooks. Samsung's SF510's display and the pro screen in Dell's StudioXPS (GAMUT) are worlds apart. The comparison color space is transparent (t).
The brightness on the display supplies good results. The luminosity is 237 cd/m2 on average. The illumination is only halfway even. The Samsung TFT has 264 cd/m2 on the brightest spot and 207 cd/m2 on the weakest. This difference can even be seen on a completely black display.
The user needs a maximum luminosity of 150 cd/m2 indoors. The brightness is dimmed accordingly for a movie. The extra luminosity could be of importance in outdoor use.
If you want to go outdoors with your laptop next summer, you should forget the SF510 and favor an AR coated notebook. The good luminosity of 237 cd/m2 defies reflections quite well, but the perpetual search for a viewing position free of reflections is peeving. In conformity with the dust, smudge and scratch susceptible surfaces and a weight of 2.4 kilograms, we consider the SF510 to be a living room machine, but not a mobile companion.
As most run-of-the-mill notebook screens, the vertical viewing angles are very narrow. The stable horizontal viewing angles are completely adequate with about 45 degrees. Beyond that massive "ghost" images turn up. This effect already starts at a deviation of 15 degrees on the vertical plane. The image dims evidently and the colors invert. The limited viewing angles are very evident on the darkroom picture. Consequently, a DVD session with friends is difficult. The one or other spectator will be unhappy with his seating position.
A cutting-edge Intel Core i3-370M (3MB L2 cache, 2.40 GHz) from the Arrandale processor refresh is used as the processor. These CPUs are known from commercials as "2010 Intel Core". The i3 is the weakest Arrandale after i5 and i7.
The clock rate of 2.4 GHz can only be topped by the 380M on the i3 level. In opposition to Core i5/i7, an i3 doesn't have Turbo Boost (dynamic overclocking). However, it has Hyper-Threading. HT provides every physical core with a virtual one. The i3-370M dual core thus calculates with four threads. 4096 MB of DDR3 RAM complements the configuration (two modules). This capacity has established itself as standard for Windows 7 systems.
Optimus' benefit is allegedly a longer battery life, which doesn't have to be paid for with drawbacks. Because Intel HD's frame buffer is always used for image output, there are no latencies or black, flickering displays during switching.
How fast is the Core i3-370M (2.4 GHz) in comparison to a simple i5 processor, such as the 430M or the 460M, which are offered in the same price range? The Samsung SF510 achieves 3242 points (Cinebench R10 Single 64 bit) when calculating with only one core. An i5-430M with a lower clock rate (2.26 GHz + Turbo Boost to 2.53 GHz) achieves 3200 to 3400 points (various test systems). Thus, there is virtually no difference. First a 460M (2.53 to Turbo 2.8 GHz) sets a significant performance plus in calculating on one core with 3939 points (e.g. Acer Aspire 5820TG).
Single core calculations hardly have significance for everyday work. If you, for example, render with CyberLinks Power Director Videos, you'll benefit from as many threads as possible with a high clock rate. The i3-370M extracts 7505 points (Cinebench R10 Multi 64 bit). This is on par with an i5-430M (7200 to 7937 points, depending on the test system), as in single core. The 370M doesn't stand a chance against the i5-460M: 8060 to 8342 points (e.g. Acer Aspire 5820TG).
|PCMark 05 Standard||5496 points|
|PCMark Vantage Result||4632 points|
Thus, the high clocked Core i3 doesn't have to hide from lower clocked Core i5 CPUs. What does the system performance look like, where the CPU only is a single aspect? The i3-370M system achieves 4632 points in PCMark Vantage. i5-430M laptops are only inferior when they have a solo HD graphics. i5 systems are faster with a dedicated GPU in any event: 4900 to 5800 points. Core i5 laptops achieve 5100 points on average.
The graphics card, Nvidia 310M, fetches a few rating points for our test system. Applications that benefit from the 310M's hardware support (CUDA, DirectX Compute, OpenCL, H.264) work a bit faster. Even PCMark Vantage rewards this.
|3DMark 2001SE Standard||14781 points|
|3DMark 03 Standard||10424 points|
|3DMark 05 Standard||7085 points|
|3DMark 06 Standard||3274 points|
|3DMark Vantage P Result||1114 points|
PCMark Vantage is very dependent on the hard disk. But just this supplies below-average performance rates. The HDD sub score is only 2724 points. A fast 7200 rpm HDD can reach about 3500 points. The 5400 rpm hard disk (500 GB) from Western Digital reads with 57.4 MB/s in sequential read. This is rather modest for a current 2.5 notebook hard disk and leads to the low Vantage sub score.
The HDD isn't audible in use. We can only hear a constant basic noise when we put an ear on the wrist-rest. The noiselessness also applies to the read and write heads, which only click very quietly during work.
Samsung relies on the weakest entry graphics card from the 2010 Nvidia program with the GeForce 310M. The 512 MB DDR3 memory clocks with 790, the core with 606 MHz (625 MHz is standard). The GPU is capable of DirectX 10.1 effects, but not PhysX. The performance corresponds with the GeForce G 210M, which can be seen in the almost identical core rate (625 MHz) (identical 3DMark06).
The GPU is only suitable for games to an extent. It actually is supposed to support the processor. HD decoding (H.264, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, etc.) can just as well be managed by the graphics chip (PureVideo HD), as video coding (CUDA, DirectX, Compute and OpenCL). 3225 points in 3DMark2006 indicate a poor gaming performance. Nevertheless, we didn't forgo on trying Left4Dead and StarCraft 2.
The popular shooter has been complemented by a worthy successor and treats weak hardware ergonomically. The game runs with 40.5 fps in 1024x768 pixels (XGA) and high detail level. This leaves room for more and 1366x768 pixels are also playable in high details. The game benefits from the processor's high clock rate.
|Left 4 Dead|
|1024x768||very high, 0xAA, 0xAF||40.5 fps|
|640x480||min, 0xAA, 0xAF||60.1 fps|
The real-time strategy game isn't much fun because it can only be played smoothly in low details and resolutions. It's 102 fps in low settings (1024x768). However, it already caves in to a jittery 19.2 fps in medium. StarCraft 2 had persistently refused to work on previous test systems with a 310M and Nvidia Optimus. This is no problem anymore with the SF510.
Geforce 310M – If you are even just considering current games, you should better leave your hands off it. It should at least be an ATI HD 5650 or an Nvidia GT 330M in case of a tight budget. Gamers have to live with major cutbacks in details and resolutions with the 310M in Samsung's SF510. Gaming fun will only evolve with older games. Our data about the GeForce 310M has a chart with suitable PC games.
|Left 4 Dead (2008)||60.1||40.5||fps|
|StarCraft 2 (2010)||102.5||19.2||12.6||fps|
Samsung laptops have very often set ergonomic top rates in the past. This is once again the case. If you relax listening to music and convert videos for your smartphone at the same time, you won't be bothered by a loud fan. We just only measured 33.3 dB(A) during a 3DMark2006 (GPU load). Not Samsung's Silent Mode was enabled here, but rather the Speed Mode. However, it didn't show any effect on the GPU's and CPU's clock rate.
We even believed that the active fan shut down occasionally in idle. But that wasn't the case. It rotates with the slowest speed and emits a just still measurable level of 30.4 to 31.1 dB(A). The reason for the low level is the air discharge on the notebook's rear.
The SF510 even copes successfully with the stress test, where the processor and graphics card are equally loaded to full: maximum 37.9 dB(A). The fan doesn't remain permanently loud, but turns down to 33.3 dB(A) every 5 to 7 minutes (for about 5 minutes).
30.4 / 31 / 31 dB(A)
||33.7 / dB(A)|
||33.3 / 37.9 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: Voltcraft 320 (15 cm distance)
The waste heat follows the good example of the low system noise. The bottom's average temperature is 25 degrees Celsius while surfing on the web and word processing, so low load. The wrist-rest area stays very cool with only a few degrees more than room temperature.
We determine the waste heat temperature under stress (Furmark & Prime95 simultaneously) in Samsung's Speed Mode (FN+F8). The measurement determined a maximum of 36 degrees under highest CPU/GPU load on the upper side. The wrist-rest however hardly gets any warmer than in idle mode. The bottom reaches 42 or 38 degrees selectively in the center. However, the average is only 27 degrees due to the low waste heat in the surrounding areas.
(+) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 35.6 °C / 96 F, compared to the average of 36.6 °C / 98 F, ranging from 21.1 to 71 °C for the class Multimedia.
(±) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 41.9 °C / 107 F, compared to the average of 38.9 °C / 102 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 23.5 °C / 74 F, compared to the device average of 31 °C / 88 F.
(+) The palmrests and touchpad are cooler than skin temperature with a maximum of 23.7 °C / 74.7 F and are therefore cool to the touch.
(+) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 29 °C / 84.2 F (+5.3 °C / 9.5 F).
Pithy statements about "3D SRS Premium Sound", which "provides enhanced bass, crystal clear dialog and better definition control", give hope for a little musician. In fact, the sound is worth hearing with a balanced spectrum of midranges and trebles. The stereo loudspeakers are located in the base plate's rear area. They emit their sound directly onto the table top, which act as a resonator. As soon as the 15.6 incher is picked up, the sound looses volume and sounds thinner.
Hi-fi fans won't be jumping for joy in view of non-existent basses (no subwoofer). "Natural and realistic 3D sound" that the manufacturer speaks of, simply sound different. At least the sound is clear and undistorted even in high volumes. A movie night with friends will only be a grand success with external loudspeakers. We've had true masters of acoustic in our tests: Asus' N71JV (SonicMaster), Toshiba's Qosmio X500 (Harman/Kardon) or also MSI's FX600 (four loudspeakers).
The SRS sound enhancements in loudspeaker properties should be left enabled because the sound turns thin without them. We experience static-free music with a high output level with external speakers.
Samsung aims for a battery life of up to 7.5 hours with the installed lithium polymer battery with its SF510. This runtime is realistic in view of the battery's high capacity of 6100 mAh (76 Wh). Nvidia Optimus turns the dedicated Nvidia GPU off in battery mode. Therefore, only the Intel HD incorporated in the processor was active for measuring the battery life.
The SF510 achieves almost four hours (234 minutes) in an internet surf session with enabled WLAN. The Samsung SF510 thus leaves cheap office competitors, such as HP's 625 WS835EA, with not quite three hours, far behind. The DVD test is similar to the WLAN test. The movie comes to an end after 3:55 hours (235 minutes). We played it in a low brightness of 100 cd/m2. However, a proud 2:48 hours pass until the movie session can be continued (charge time: 169 minutes).
Samsung SF510's maximum battery life (idle) is 7:48 hours (468 minutes). We have thus achieved the manufacturer's declaration. This enormous battery life is unrealistic though, because no one will use the notebook with the lowest brightness and CPU/GPU idle.
The multimeter indicates that the SF510 is an economical notebook. The idle power consumption is merely 10.1 watts. It can however be as much as 14.7 watts in idle when not all energy saving options are used.
The effective power climbs to 45.1 watts when the Nvidia GPU calculates during a computer game (3DMark2006). We determine the maximum energy requirement with the stress test made up of Prime 95 and Furmark. The multimeter indicates 64.4 watts. The small 60 watt adapter appears to be undersized for this amount. However, its waste heat is still just alright with 46.5 degrees during the stress test. Because a stress test represents an exception in notebook use, you shouldn't overrate the seemingly too small size.
|Off / Standby||0.3 / 0.4 Watt|
|Idle|| 10.1 / 13.5 / 14.7 Watt|
45.1 / 64.4 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max: Voltcraft VC 960
Samsung brings an impressive device into the living room at a market price of 890 euro. The Samsung SF510-S02DE makes a lasting impression with its wavy design and ivory look. The impression however isn't sustainable because the flexible construction (lid, base unit) doesn't match to the high-end looking materials.
Technically, we are dealing with a high clocked Core i3-370M (2.40 GHz) that computes fast enough for common, mainstream applications. It comes close to the performance of single core Core i5-CPUs (430M, 450M) that are at home in this price category. However, potential buyers shouldn't have gaming ambitions. The GeForce 310M from the Optimus network is two numbers too weak for that (3274 3DMarks2006).
The SF510 won't meet multimedia demands for the lack of interfaces (no eSATA, no USB 3.0, no ExpressCard, no FireWire) and the display's poor contrast. Especially movie nights with friends will suffer under the Samsung display's restricted viewing angles.
The battery life of four hours in WLAN surfing or watching a DVD is remarkable in the 15.6 inch multimedia division. The strong 76 Wh battery can't be removed. It is installed into the case. The loudspeakers render an attractive, and in the mid and high pitches, balanced sound. Nevertheless, as so often, there aren't any basses.
In return, the ergonomics are perfect: The SF510 hardly makes a sound in undemanding use. And when the CPU has to compute, the 15.6 incher doesn't get any louder than 33.3 dB(A) either. The optical drive is agreeably quiet for movie nights (DVD multi-burner). A perpetual gently whirring fan keeps the base unit cool at all times. The average rates are below 30 degrees even under load.
The input devices are convincing with a firm stroke and a good pressure point (keyboard and mouse). You have to accept the squeezed in arrow keys in return.