Reviews: 14 out of 20 points
While we liked Samsung's 15-inch RV511, giving it 4 stars and an Editors' Choice, of the four other notebooks we reviewed from Samsung, three scored 3.5 stars, and one, its Chromebook Series 5--the first notebook to run Google's Chrome OS--received a poor grade of 2.5 stars.
Design: 13 out of 15 points
One of the things we like about Samsung's notebooks is that you can tell they're all made by the same company. There's a similar sleekness in the design language as you move up and down the price ladder. The quintessential Samsung laptop is the Series 9, which broke the mold with a dark and cool Duralumin finish. The new, all-aluminum version isn't quite as striking, but it's even thinner and more compact.
Keyboards & Touchpads: 11 out of 15 points
:Samsung's island-style keyboards, such as the one on the RV511, offer strong tactile feedback and good key placement with no flex. The company often uses buttonless clickpads, with mixed results. Some of Samsung's clickpads, such as on the SF310, suffered from jumpiness and inaccuracy. Others, such as the Series 7 Chronos pad, are more accurate.
Tech Support: 13 out of 15 points
While Samsung mustered only a 'C' grade in 2010, the company has really turned things around. Samsung offers a robust set of support choices for users. Whether you want minimal human contact or need a step-by-step guide, the company has its customers covered. We found the website organization and navigation much improved since last year, and the company does a nice job of using social media to help users.
Displays & Audio: 5 out of 10 points
Though most Samsung notebooks feature a standard-resolution (1366 x 768-pixel) display only, you can expect accurate colors and sharp images, as on the SF310. The 1600 x 900 display on the new Series 9 has superb color accuracy and contrast. The Samsung Series 7 Chronos has a relatively high resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels, but competing systems sported full HD screens for the same price. Audio on Samsung laptops, including the Series 9, was sufficiently loud, but not that rich.
Value & Selection: 6 out of 10 points
We only reviewed five Samsung laptops this year, though that small selection covers a lot of ground. The Editors' Choice-winning RV511 cost a budget-friendly $450, while the original Series 9 set shoppers back $1,649. Unfortunately, you can't buy directly from Samsung--only through outlets such as Amazon and Office Depot--and there aren't many configuration options, compared with the top brands.
Software: 4 out of 5 points
Samsung supplies users with a helpful Battery Life Extender app prolonging a laptop battery's lifespan, Easy Content Share for streaming media to DLNA-compliant gadgets and a Fast Start utility. Samsung Support Center lets users contact customer-service representatives. And Samsung machines come with Movie Color Enhancer for optimizing video color quality.
Customer Satisfaction: 2 out of 5 points
Samsung holds an A- rating from the BBB due to government action taken against the company's home-appliance division. There are, however, no complaints regarding its computer division. And while it may not rank among Rescuecom's top-five manufacturers, Samsung was still rated as a company to watch due to the increasing quality of its products. Laptopmag.com readers offered little in the way of solid opinions on the brand.
Innovation: 3 out of 5 points
Samsung pushed the envelope mostly with the Series 9 during the past year. That MacBook Air competitor offered a first-of-its-kind design made of aircraft-grade Duralumin. The company was also the first to release a Google Chrome-powered Chromebook, but the software was too limiting. The upcoming Series 7 Gamer notebook has promise, which features a nifty gaming mode that boosts performance.
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