Samsung is not a name that the majority of people know, at least in regards to computers. When you think of Samsung, usually the first thing that pops into your head is "HDTV". They are primarily a electronics/appliance company, not a computer company. Yet if you go to Samsung's website, you see a whole lineup of notebooks (twenty-three to be exact). That does not include netbooks, or even their new Chromebook. In fact, some of the other notebook models still available and still supported are not even shown on their website. Samsung does not sell notebooks directly, rather it sells them through retailers (online and physical).
One notebook in particular, the RC512, is not shown on the Samsung product page, but is still available and supported. Before it is asked, this laptop is definitely not last generation. I bought the RC512-S01 through Best Buy at one of their physical locations. If you check the Best Buy website, you will not find this model anywhere, because it is sold in some stores only. In fact, it appears to be Best Buy specific. If you manage to get your hands on the RC512-S01, then the asking price is $899 new. So what do you get for that price? Let's look at several categories: Specifications, Performance (web browsing, media, games and apps), Design, Special Features, and Support.
The Samsung RC512-S01 has a interesting set of specifications for its price range. Most retail outlets seem to carry a laptop with an Intel Core i5 processor for the same price as the Samsung, however the processor here is a quad-core Intel Core i7-2630QM. The processor uses hyper-threading technology to allow for up to 8-threads of process power. This means that there are four physical processor cores and four virtual cores. I imagine as apps become more multi-core aware this will become more important. This Intel Core i7 also boasts a 2.0 GHz core clock speed with speed up to 2.90 GHz using TurboBoost 2.0. This allows the processor to increase speed for short periods of time when running high performance tasks. The processor also has 6 MB of cache and is fully 64-bit compatible.
Like most Sandy Bridge Intel Core i5/i7 processors (except for the unlocked K series), the processor has an integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics chip (HD 2000 in desktops). The default amount of RAM is 6 GB of DDR3 PC3-10700 RAM. The RAM is, of course, manufactured by Samsung (Samsung makes a lot of RAM in their own factories). The hard drive is a 5400 RPM Hitachi TravelStar 750 GB hard disk. There is also an integrated wireless card, which is an Intel Centrino WiMax 6250 b/g/n card. The display comes as a 15.6-inch HD display with a max resolution of 1366 x 768.
Another piece of information: the Samsung RC512 has a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M graphics card with DirectX 11 support and NVIDIA Optimus technology (more on that later). The machine has two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a HDMI port, a VGA port, and a Blu-ray drive as well. All of these parts are combined with an Intel HM65 series board. Some of the parts, like the Blu-Ray drive, are rarely seen in a sub $1000 dollar machine; however seeing them in this machine may be a break for those wanting high-end parts in a affordable package.
The machine performs quite well for its price range. The machine seems to handle HD video well, and can easily handle displaying both video and web-browsing at the same-time; the screenshot below shows this in action.
As noted in the screenshot, the processor usage remains at 6 percent while performing these tasks, and RAM usage stays at 1.73 GB. This is very low and easily allows you to multi-task at the same time. More on the performance on the next page.
Stock images courtesy of Samsung
The Samsung RC512-S01 handles video encoding well, at least according to a test file run through Handbrake. To test the machine's encoding ability, we ran a standard 350 MB AVI file through Handbrake, and timed the process using the default MP4 settings. The encode to MP4 format took 12 minutes, 36 seconds using Intel HD Graphics (I did not test the NVIDIA card on this one).
Speaking of the NVIDIA Card, how does it perform on games? One game that I tested, Need for Speed World, seems to perform well at medium-high settings. According to Can You Run It (see screenshot below), even Battlefield 3 will run on the machine, just not at optimal settings - we'll see about that when the game is actually released.
The machine may not be up to par for the latest and greatest, but it will probably do fine for most games. For hardcore gamers, I'd recommend something (much) more expensive such as the Dell Alienware series, or something from a boutique manufacturer. For those who are interested, the image gallery has a screenshot from the Windows Experience Index on my Samsung RC512-S01.
The design is solid, that is for sure. The material for the chassis seems to be some sort of aluminum alloy. The lid, unfortunately, looks like an attempted cross between a glossy and a matte finish. This flaw allows fingerprints to be left on the lid, which earns this machine a slight ding on design.
The laptop's keyboard and touchpad are both very responsive. It is easy to type on the keyboard for long periods and not feel any discomfort. An extra bonus is the the full numeric keypad on the keyboard itself: this is one of the few 15-inch laptops that actually has one. It does not scrunch up the keyboard, either, unlike many other laptops that do have the extra numpad. The USB 3.0 ports, HDMI/VGA ports, power port, and sound ports are located on the left side, while the USB 2.0 ports are on the right side with the Blu-Ray drive, which allows for easy access.
There are a few special features on the Samsung RC512-S01. The primary ones are NVIDIA's Optimus technology and Intel Wireless Display. NVIDIA Optimus allows the computer to switch between the integrated graphics and the NVIDIA GT 525M. This increases performance when an application (Adobe CS5 or a game) needs dedicated graphics, and it increases battery life when the user needs it (for example, when the user is just using Microsoft Office or their web browser). If you want more information on NVIDIA Optimus technology, you can go to the Optimus website.
The other feature is Intel Wireless Display. It works by using the Intel graphics and your wireless network to beam what is on your computer screen (including applications) to your HDTV. It works very well, shockingly well, though HD video sometimes seems to have buffering issues. The technology can also stream protected Blu-Ray discs, eliminating the need for a separate Blu-Ray player. It does, however, require the purchase of a $99 adapter that plugs into your HDTV.
In addition, the Intel wireless card can create its own access point using My WiFi Technology, which allows other devices to tether to your computer and use it for an internet connection. Finally, one of the USB 3.0 ports has a feature called sleep-and-charge: this allows the computer to be put to sleep and charge an iPod, iPhone, other USB device at the same time.
The Samsung RC512-S01 has a standard one-year warranty, however if you register the laptop with Samsung you can get an additional three months free. There seems to be no way to get an extended warranty or accidental damage coverage, besides purchasing it from Best Buy or SquareTrade.
Whatever you do, do not remove the recovery partition unless you make a complete backup to DVD using the built-in Samsung Recovery Solution. Samsung does charge money to restore the partition, as it is not covered under the warranty unless the hard drive fails. Also, the included Windows 7 disc does not contain most of the drivers, so I recommend you make a backup of the system software/drivers. Samsung Support seems to be helpful, but they do seem limited in some ways (especially in regards to the recovery partition).
The Samsung RC512-S01 is a great machine overall, despite some flaws. On a scale of 1 to 10, scoring on the categories above, here is what I give it:
Final Score: 8/10
I recommend the Samsung RC512-S01 and give it a 8 out of 10. It is a spectacular machine and powerhouse for the price, and I certainly love mine. Don't forget to check out the gallery below.