We’ve seen virtually no Intel Core i3 laptops in our Labs, not because we haven’t asked for them, but because Core i3 laptops have been somewhat thin on the ground here in Australia until quite recently.
So when Samsung offered us its Intel Core i3-based Q330, we jumped at the chance to review it. Samsung has carefully cherry-picked which of its laptop models it releases in Australia.
We get the best and brightest, evident in Samsung’s leap to top-three status in our Best Tech Awards Laptop division. This pays off for consumers, too, as we get the laptops with good battery life, attractive design and excellent performance.
The Australian version of the Q330 differs from overseas versions in that it includes additional RAM, a double-sized hard drive and better graphics. In a significant step up from Intel HD graphics, the Q330 has Nvidia’s GeForce 310M, along with Optimus, Nvidia’s power management feature. While the overseas version is a CULV laptop, the additions to the Australian version take it out of the realm of CULV laptops such as the Acer Timeline 4820 and put it closer in substance to Sony’s VAIO E Series or Apple’s latest MacBook.
It’s not surprising that the Q330 is a good looking laptop. It’s similar in size, shape and even colour to a MacBook Pro 13. The lid is a sensible charcoal grey with brushed-metal look. Inside, the wrist rest and screen bezel are a MacBook Pro silver, and continuing the theme, the Q330 features a black scrabble-tile keyboard, multitouch trackpad and 13in screen.
The screen is 1366 x 768 resolution 16:10 format, as compared to the MacBook Pro’s 16:9 (1280 x 8000). The MacBook Pro 13 is brighter, with better colour accuracy, but the Samsung screen is still high quality. The colours are bright, text is crisp, and it copes admirably with sunlight and office neon. Given the price difference between Apple’s MacBook Pro ($1449) and Samsung’s Q330 ($950), we’re entirely satisfied.
Power in a tiny package
We were interested to see how the performance of a Core i3 laptop would compare against the more powerful Core i5 and Core i7. The Q330 includes Intel’s 2.26GHz Core i3-350M, with 4GB RAM, and the aforementioned GeForce 310M.
These components combine to give a result of 1.17 in our Real World Benchmarks. That’s around 20% less performance than the i5, but while it’s not quite up there with the VAIO E Series’ 1.27, it’s in the same ballpark as the Apple Macbook, and it will cope with photo-editing on the go, even if it’s not quite up to heavy-duty video editing.
The comparisons to the VAIO E series and Apple MacBook are also inevitable when it comes to battery life. Under heavy use, with the processor maxed out, the Q330 managed a decent 1hr and 25mins. It’s not enough to do any heavy video-editing on the go, but it should see you through a DVD. On light use, despite the help of Nvidia’s Maximus switching to Intel graphics rather than the GeForce processor, it was only able to notch up a so-so 3hrs 51mins. Again, that’s almost exactly the same as both Macbook and E Series.
Value and comfort
When it comes to gaming, the GeForce 310M graphics processor helped the Q330 to a reasonably playable 50fps in Crysis on our Low Settings benchmark. That will get you through most modern games without drama, though it’s not up to high-performance FPS. A 640GB hard drive ensures there’s enough capacity for whatever media – games, music or movies – you want to carry with you, and it’s more than double that supplied with the MacBook.
Beyond the numbers, the laptop itself is a delight to handle. The keyboard is well-spaced and responsive – if a little harder on fingertips than the MacBook equivalent, thanks to slightly less travel in the keys.
The trackpad, too, is crisp and efficient, and entirely pleasant to use. Wireless -n, Gigabit Ethernet HDMI and a DVD writer round out the features – nothing spectacular, but it covers all the bases.
With the Q330 being so close in performance to Sony’s E Series and Apple’s Macbook, price becomes all-important. At just $950, the Q330 is cheaper than either the Macbook or the Sony, with better specs. As long as battery life isn’t your key consideration, this is a value laptop worth every cent you’ll spend on it.