Small Business Notebook Review: Samsung Q430

by Jamie Bsales

Samsung's small business notebook PC offers a load of power, features and style at a price for less money than the big-name notebook makers charge.

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Samsung's Q430 Small Business Notebook Delivers Performance and Style

If you don't have Samsung on your small business notebook shopping list, you should. The Samsung Q430 is a 14-inch mainstream notebook PC ideally suited to the small business buyer looking for strong performance, stylish good looks and plenty of features at an $800 price point.

The Q430's Understated Laptop Design

The first thing you'll notice about the Samsung Q430 is the sharp design. While most affordable small business notebooks make due with a glossy plastic outer shell, the Q430 comes encased in a sleek brushed-aluminum skin that both looks and feels terrific. The black finish keeps the overall impression understated and classy, which is preferable in client meetings to the "look at me" statement made by those candy-colored notebooks. The finish is also impervious to fingerprint smudges, so you won't feel the need to constantly buff the lid.

Samsung Q430; small business notebook
The Samsung Q430 offers a lot of power and features at a great price for a small business notebook.
(Click for larger image)

The contrasting silver deck -- also done in brushed aluminum -- surrounding the black keyboard adds to the visual appeal. And the edge-to-edge glass over the LCD screen enhances the modern, upscale look. As for portability, Samsung kept the Q430's weight to right around 5 pounds and the chassis thickness to 1.3 inches. While those numbers are reasonable for an affordable 14-inch notebook PC, note that you can find 14-inch models closer to 4 pounds and 1-inch thick -- but you'll pay more for the privilege.

A Laptop Loaded with Features

If Samsung had delivered just another pretty face, that would be one thing. But the Q430 includes just about every feature you're likely to need in a small business notebook. Samsung started with a high-quality 14-inch LCD panel that delivers crisp text and vibrant colors. Like most other notebook PC screens these days, the widescreen panel employs an LED array as the backlight, which ups the panel's contrast ratio while also conserving power.

The roomy screen on the Q430 provides enough space for a full-size keyboard. We found the widely spaced keys comfortable to type on and, just as importantly, quiet. You won't need to worry about annoying people sitting next to you as you tap away.

We're also happy to see a 500GB hard drive, which means you can house both your business files and your personal photo and music collections. The Q430 includes the requisite multi-format DVD drive for reading and writing CDs and DVDs.

An integrated 2-megapixel webcam for video chatting, creating video email, and capturing stills and video sits above the screen. Notably, the camera delivered a sharp, natural image under typical office lighting as well as a decent image in a dim room (think hotel room at night with just a desk lamp on) -- a feat not every camera can muster.

On the connectivity front, the Q430 includes 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi for connecting to wireless networks at your home or office and on the go. Unfortunately, like other affordable notebook PCs, the Q430 does not include built-in Bluetooth for syncing with a smartphone or other device.

On the plus side, one of the notebook's three USB ports delivers Samsung's Chargeable USB feature: Plug in your iPod/iPhone, Flip camera, smartphone or other portable device that charges via a USB connection and its battery will charge even if the Q430 is in sleep mode or even when it's completely off.

As for other ports, the Q430 includes a LAN jack for connecting to a wired Ethernet network, plus VGA and HDMI connectors for porting the laptop's video signal to an external projector, monitor or TV. Samsung included a 3-in-1 reader that supports SD, SDHC and MMC memory cards.

However, if you've committed to an ExpressCard device or two, note that the Q430 does not include a slot for those. Another thing missing that we would have preferred to see is an eSATA port, which is becoming the de facto standard for connecting external high-speed hard drives for extra storage and backup.

Solid Performance for a Small Business Notebook

Samsung did not cut corners when it came time to pick a CPU for the Q430. The notebook PC is built around the excellent Intel Core i5-450 processor running at 2.4GHz. That is matched to 4GB of fast DDR3 memory (the fastest you can get in a mainstream notebook).

These components mean the Q430 will easily handle everyday applications such as Microsoft Office without breaking a sweat, plus you'll have plenty of power on tap for more demanding multimedia chores such as video and audio encoding should the need arise.

Unlike many other small business notebooks in its price class, the Q430 includes a dedicated graphics chip to handle 3D-rendering and other video chores. The Nvidia GeForce 310M GPU (graphics processing unit) in the Q430 delivers very good frame rates and rendering quality for a business notebook even on demanding 3D games, so when work is done you'll be able to blow off some steam with the latest shoot 'em up.

Of course, all that processing power does take its toll on battery life. With judicious use, you should be able to squeeze out about 5 hours of runtime on a charge. But road warriors who need to go all day without an AC outlet may want to opt for a notebook with a lower-powered processor and more miserly integrated graphics chip.

The Q430's Generous Software Bundle

Samsung has loaded the Q430 with the software and utilities you are likely to use, while avoiding the bloatware common on consumer-oriented notebook PCs. For starters, you get Windows 7 Home Premium as the operating system, plus the CyberLink DVD Suite for multimedia work: PowerDVD 8 for DVD playback, PowerDirector 7 for video editing, PowerProducer 8 for DVD creation and Power2Go 6 for creating CDs and DVDs. Also from CyberLink is the YouCam software for use with the webcam, which lets you send video captures to YouTube or via email with a single mouse click.

We're also impressed with Samsung's own utilities that come preloaded on the Q430. The Samsung Support Center houses various utilities for diagnosing and troubleshooting PC problems. The company's Easy File Share program lets you transfer files from the host PC via Wi-Fi to another Windows 7 machine. And similarly, Easy Content Share lets you share music, photos, and video stored on the Q430 with other Windows 7 PCs on your network.

The Q430 includes a 1-year warranty, which is typical for this class. The company offers tech support via phone or live chat; or (if you prefer) via remote-desktop assistance, where the support reps takes control of the PC remotely to troubleshoot an issue. The Samsung Q430 is available from a range of online and bricks-and-mortar retailers including NewEgg.com, Buy.com, TigerDirect.com and Best Buy for around $800.

While the Q430 isn't perfect -- Bluetooth, eSATA and an ExpressCard slot would be nice -- you still get a good selection of features and decent power for the price.

Jamie Bsales is an award-winning technology editor and writer with 18 years experience in the high-tech arena. In his 14 years at PC Magazine he worked with the full range of hardware and software products. His specialties include notebook and desktop PCs, printers, displays, and small-business software and Web services.

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This article was originally published on Thursday Nov 4th 2010
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