When you consider that the other three long-lasting notebooks we tested for this roundup cost over $2,000, the $1,299 Samsung Q310-34P offers very good battery life for the money.
Your eyes will be drawn to the subtle but sophisticated Touch of Color design, borrowed from Samsung’s TVs: the polished black deck has red gradation highlights as you move from the bottom of the keyboard to the front of the notebook.
The Q310-34P measures 12.7 x 9.5 x 1.1 inches and weighs 4.8 pounds. The front sports a very handy button that gives you an at-a-glance percentage reading of the notebook’s battery life without needing to power on the system. The keyboard gets the job done without too much flex, plus it has a silver nano antibacterial coating designed to keep cooties at bay. The touchpad is a bit on the small side and its mushy mouse buttons lacked a satisfying click.
The 1280 x 800-pixel screen looked bright and clear while we were watching a DVD of There Will Be Blood. The glossy display didn’t impair visuals with distracting reflections, and we enjoyed wide viewing angles. Surprisingly, the audio was good for a non-multimedia machine; sounds were crisp and music didn’t sound as tinny as on other systems. The integrated 1.3-megapixel webcam served up solid images that suffered from muted colors with a minimum of blurring during Skype video calls.
The Q310-34P was able to overcome the sluggishness that plagues some Vista machines, courtesy of a speedy 2.26-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor and 3GB of RAM that was able to boot Vista in a remarkably quick 48 seconds. Windows and menus opened swiftly, and we didn’t have to endure the swirling Vista loading icon too much. The smooth performance was captured on our PCMark Vantage test, where the Q310-34P managed a score of 3,370, more than 500 points better than a typical thin-and-light notebook.
The 320GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive packs enough room for tons of photo, music, and video files. On the LAPTOP Transfer Test, it notched a speed of 17.3 MBps, which is a bit better than the category average of 16.9 MBps.
Samsung’s decision to use Intel’s GMX4500 integrated GPU may help keep costs down, but it comes with a trade-off of graphics muscle. When we fired up F.E.A.R., the game chugged along at 17 frames per second at 800 x 600-pixel resolution. The poor performance translated into a 3DMark03 score of 2,090 and 3DMark06 score of 823; unsurprisingly, both scores are well below average.
The integrated 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi radio pushed data along at a rate of 20.0 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point, and 16.6 Mbps at 50 feet; both are on a par with other thin-and-light notebooks. We streamed episodes of Ghost Train from Hulu.com without any hiccups.
Battery endurance was the real star. The optional nine-cell battery ($229) lasted exactly 8 hours on the LAPTOP Battery Test, 3 hours and 32 minutes longer than the category average. And, it didn’t stick out the back.
If you’re looking for a stylish 13-inch system that can go the distance, the Samsung Q310-34P offers good bang for your buck.
Extreme Endurance: Four Notebooks with Extra-Long Battery Life