Samsung – R20 review

small, light, but dim laptop
Photo of Samsung – R20
£549

Samsung could have stuck to the tried and trusted Centrino formula when it developed the R20 but instead it chose to use a rare old mixture of components in this sleek laptop.

There’s a dual core Intel Core Duo T2250 processor running at 1.73GHz, but instead of the expected Intel 945GM chipset you get an ATi Radeon Xpress 1250 chipset which also supplies the graphics, plus an Atheros 802.11b/g wireless chip.

Although the ATi chipset is a new model, the graphics core harks back to the X700 so it’s a couple of years old. Despite that it has full hardware support for DirectX 9.0b and is therefore able to run the Aero interface in Windows Vista Home Premium with ease.

The specification of our sample was rounded out by 1GB of relatively slow PC2-4300 memory – although you can specify up to 2GB of faster PC2-5300 – and an 80GB hard drive, although there are options up to 160GB.

The screen is relatively small at 14.1 inches on the diagonal, with a resolution of 1,280 x 800 and a brightness rating of 200 nits, and it looked absolutely fine on mains power, however we then ran into a significant problem. On battery power the screen dims to save power, which is entirely normal, however it went so dark that we found the laptop was unusable unless the lighting was very low.

Samsung doesn’t appear to offer any option to adjust the settings within the power profile and the apparent setting that would cure the problem was to change the power profile from ‘long battery life’ to ‘maximum performance’. In fact it didn’t help as it simply changed the length of time before the screen went dark and nothing we could do stopped the screen from dimming excessively when the power cord was removed.

This is a small, light laptop that measures 340 x 260 x 30mm and weighs 2.4kg so it’s eminently portable, but the tiny battery that clips on the back of the laptop like a fuel tank on the Space Shuttle has surely contributed to those figures. It has a relatively low rating of 2,600mAh and we measured the life at one and a half hours.

We’ve tested Core Duo Centrino laptops that use a similar battery and achieve a life of the best part of three hours, so that figure isn’t too impressive. Perhaps it explains why Samsung has included a meter on the battery so you can check the remaining life without turning your laptop on.

As the chassis is rather small and slender, the options for ports and connectors are limited. There are two USB ports on the left side and one more on the back left-hand corner next to the battery. The only graphics output is a VGA connector and the expansion slot uses the new Express Card/54 form factor.

Company: Samsung

Contact: 01932 455000


Verdict
This is a slender, light, cheap laptop that offers plenty of performance, however the finish is a bit on the cheap side and the battery life isn't especially impressive. We can overlook those points at this price, but the way the screen darkens excessively when running on battery power is a real concern.