Samsung is an example of a company that came to manufacturing notebooks from the other side — from manufacturing consumer electronics. Indeed, computers (and especially notebooks) have been recently losing the air of mystery, becoming another consumer electronics device, but they still stay at the frontier. We offer a review of one of the most state-of-the-art notebooks from Samsung, built on Intel Centrino of the second generation (also known as Sonoma).
Samsung P40 specifications (according to the manufacturer)
It would be interesting to test a model with integrated graphics to evaluate the capacity of the new Intel controller, but such models didn't appear in our lab yet. We have tested a mid-model — the memory capacity is small for these days, just a Combo-drive instead of DVD Multi. But it has no effect on ergonomics.
We tested an engineering sample, so I can just quote the official description of bundled software.
The model is designed after the proprietary Samsung style. The typical form of the fore-part of the case, blue inserts at the sides — the design is quite recognizable. Samsung notebooks are not incomprehensible wonders of engineering, but useful home devices, like mobile handsets.
The rear connectors that may spoil the exterior of the notebook are covered by a lid — parallel and serial ports and a VGA connector for external monitor. Besides, there is a strong probability that you will never have to use them. 6-pin IEEE1394 connector and TV-Out are to the left of the lid, two USB connectors and DC-In are to the right. What concerns me, the use of 6-pin (powered) IEEE1394 connector is doubtful — in the majority of cases you will connect a digital video camera rather than external storage devices.
Left flank (from left to right)
Right flank (in the same order)
The front panel houses only a display lid latch.
We have almost no reprimands to the layout of connectors. We can traditionally nag at the IrDA location, but there seems to be no ideal place for this port.
The speakers are located at the bottom of the fore part (see the photo above). The battery is located between them. The cover of the HDD compartment is located under it (see the photo on the right). Memory bay is located in the center of the bottom, on the photo below you can see the docking connector.
Ergonomics and usability
You can tell that it's a Samsung even with the open lid — if only by the air grating above the keyboard on the left with the slogan "Digital Freedom".
The socket for an absent fingerprint scanner is covered by an elegant lid, which blends well with the design.
The keyboard layout could have been called perfect, but for the short left Shift and a "redundant" context menu button in the cursor block. I'd like to note the following hot keys: battery info (Fn+F2), quiet mode (Fn+F10), and turn off panel backlight (Fn+F5). The quiet mode means that the notebook operates in the minimum power consumption mode (minimum CPU clock) and with the minimum rotational speed of a fan. But the manual warns that if you use your notebook in this mode for a long time, the system may get overheated. Of course, this mode is not available in notebooks with Celeron M. Besides, its practical value seems questionable as well as the function to disable backlight — it surely conserves power, but it's nearly impossible to make out anything on a display with no backlight.
The touch pad is rather convenient, but it has no scroll buttons. It has recently become fashionable "to save on these buttons". Indeed, you can scroll documents with the touchpad, but special scroll buttons are more convenient to my mind.
The main indicators are located in the fore part of the notebook on the left, they will be blocked by your hand at work. Such Lock indicators could have been designed only by a manufacturer of consumer electronics! A three-petal flower, each petal lighting its own color.
Useless? Perhaps it is, but it's spectacular and... user-friendly. Three application buttons (Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and calculator by default), wireless LAN on/off, and the power button are located to the right of the "flower" indicators.
The sound is not impressive — usual notebook audio.
The main source of heating is the hard drive under your right palm.
Preinstalled utilities include Samsung Network Manager (easy configuration of frequently used LANs), Battery Manager (power management utility), and Samsung Smart Screen (desktop organizer). Of course, the set of utilities includes Samsung Update Plus that updates drivers and BIOS via Internet.
Warranty and Tech Support
This notebook is backed up by the standard three-year Samsung warranty (one year of full warranty and two more years of free repairs). The list of service centers is provided on the Russian Samsung web site; service centers that accept notebooks are marked. This very web site contains a database of drivers and user manuals. But the model we tested is not yet in the list.
Testing the notebook
In our lab we have reviewed notebooks based on Sonoma with ATI MOBILITY RADEON X700, X600 and X300 graphics controllers. Naturally, we couldn't resist the temptation to compare them. So, meet our contenders.
* All the models have the same processor and memory type.
We can see that Samsung is considerably outscored in memory capacity, ASUS is slightly ahead in CPU clock. We are going to use the results of ASUS M6Ne for a check point, this notebook is based on Centrino of the previous generation (Pentium M 2 GHz, 1 GB DDR333 SDRAM, ATI M11 64 MB, 80GB 5400rpm, 14.8V / 4.4 Ah). Let's have a look at the results.
So, battery life. Proprietary power management utilities are disabled, Portable/Laptop power consumption mode, ATI POWERPLAY™ is enabled (where possible), default settings.
Sonoma based notebooks in battery mode demonstrate performance... according to the rank of their graphics controllers. It's a bit of a surprise, but at least it's reasonable. If it had been vice versa... The "old" platform does not look worse than the new one.
Let's see the situation with power consumption.
But still, much depends on a graphics controller. Relatively low results of ASUS V6V can be explained by no POWERPLAY™ support and the advantage of Samsung over Acer is most likely due to the low power consumption of ATI X300.
Now what concerns the main supply operation.
The "old" platform still looks worthy. Office Productivity results are qualitatively similar to the performance results in the battery mode, but the faster processor in ASUS V6V has its effect in Internet Content Creation test.
Now what concerns graphics. Direct3D and OpenGL settings are configured by default.
Samsung P40 results are on the level with ASUS M6Ne, more powerful graphics controllers are certainly in the lead, though the advantage of Acer TravelMate 8100 over ASUS V6V is too high. The reason may be in ASUS being represented by an early engineering sample.
The same picture here.
And finally here go the tests in OpenGL games. The sound card is disabled.
ASUS V6V shoots forward in low resolutions and low quality due to a higher clocked processor. But as soon as the task grows heavy, the situation starts to resemble Direct3D tests — Acer TravelMate 8100 with ATI X700 is far ahead. X300 performance seems to be a tad lower than that of M11.
Testing the display panel
The tests will be carried out according to the LCD method of testing. You can read about it in detail here.
Samsung P40 is one of the few notebooks, where the manufacturer publishes matrix specifications. The reason may be that the panel manufacturer is also Samsung. So, let's have a look at the official specifications first.
Now let's see our measurement results.
Panel response evaluation
We evaluated matrix response using our firmware complex. At first we carried out measurements according to ANSI recommendations (the time it takes to go from 10% to 90% brightness when switching a black spot into white and back, the black spot brightness is taken for 0%, and the white spot brightness is taken for 100%) for factory default settings of the display panel (what concerns notebooks, their brightness is set to maximum).
On the whole, the actual values resemble those in the specifications... if you swap them. Jumbled specifications?
We have additionally measured the response time for half-tone transitions. Obviously, the black-white transition speed is important only in one case: for scrolling black text against the white background. Blurred objects in movies and virtual fights are determined by the transition speed between half tones. Unfortunately, ANSI has no method, which would describe such measurement procedures. That's why, firstly, manufacturers of panels and monitors can deliberately provide small black-white response times and care not about half-tone transitions. And secondly, the lack of standards hampers adequate comparison of half-tone transition speeds, obtained in independent testlabs. To measure the response time for black to X transition, X to white transition, and for half-tone transitions near X, away from X at a fixed value (we decided to set it to 10%, because in our opinion 20% are the minimum significant difference between half-tones). We took the readings at 10% steps, the results are published in the graphs.
Response times for the half-tone X to white transition
Response times for the black to half-tone X transition
Response times for half-tone transitions near X, 10% away from X
As you can see, the response time for half-tone transitions considerably exceeds the response time for black-white transitions. Black to grey transition increases the switch on time, while the black to grey transition - switch off time. You can find the explanation here.
Evaluating brightness and color rendering
To evaluate the color rendering quality, we used SpyderPRO (PANTONE) colorimeter with OptiCAL. Parameters of the efficiency gamma-curve: Gamma = 2.2, Whitepoint = 6500 K. The table contains: white spot brightness as well as the color temperature of the greyscale, obtained at maximum panel brightness.
But the brightness is much less than the claimed value. Perhaps the specification values were measured under different conditions (for example, the notebook does not allow to set the brightness to the maximum level allowed by the panel). We cannot exclude a possibility that the SpyderPRO sensor we use underestimates brightness (but the panel comparison would be correct even in this case).
We also publish gamma-curves, where you can see how gamma curves of the individual colors (black lines) deviate from the efficiency gamma-curve (blue line) and what correction is necessary for each color (the red, blue, and green lines correspondingly).
The color rendition of the panel is rather good, except for the blue hue, which is a frequent thing in notebooks.
Measuring uniformity of black and white spots and viewing angles
To measure brightness of a small part of the screen at a specified direction, we constructed a supersensitive spotlight (4+/-0.5 degree) sensor. This sensor was placed at 25 display points one by one at the step of 1/6 panel width and height (screen borders are not included). Sensor axis was strictly perpendicular to the panel surface. The measurements were carried out at factory defaults. Approximated brightness surfaces of black and white spots and contrast (white to black brightness ratio) are shown on the pictures.
The white spot brightness plane. Isometric lines at 1.5 cd/m2
The black spot brightness plane. Isometric lines at 0.02 cd/m2
The contrast plane. Isometric lines at 7 units
The table contains mean values and minimum/maximum deviations from the mean values.
To find out how the brightness changes at angled view, we took several measurements of black, white, and greyscale brightness in the center of the panel within a large range of angles, the sensor axis was inclined in two directions vertical and horizontal. The results are on the graphs below.
Half-tone brightness (0% – black, 100% – white) in the center of the screen versus sensor axis traverse angle (negative values – down, positive values – up) to the panel normal
Half-tone brightness (0% – black, 100% – white) in the center of the screen versus sensor axis horizontal angle (negative values – left, positive values – right) to the panel normal
Contrast (white to black spot brightness ratio) in the center of the screen versus sensor axis angle (negative values – left or down, positive values – right or up) to the panel normal in horizontal and vertical planes. Green line – 10:1 ratio, blue line – 5:1
The contrast graph demonstrates an abrupt drop at an upward angle, which is typical of notebook panels.
Angles of vision:
Viewing angles are close to the specification values at CR = 10:1. But if you look at the graph of half-tone brightness versus sensor axis traverse angle, you can see that half-tones get inverted (0 and 25% intersect) already at 18° downward, while 0, 25, and 50% intersect at 22°. The specifications are generally true at an upward angle - 100% and 75% graphs intersect at 30 degrees.
What concerns horizontal angles, the black spot gets inverted at +/-42 degrees.
This Samsung notebook is recognizable by its design, as always. In my opinion, its design suggests a home computer usage, but its bundle is more appropriate for a high-end office notebook. This notebook lacks enough RAM, 3D graphics performance, and perhaps display resolution to act as a sterling home media center.
We express our thanks to
Samsung for the provided notebook.
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