A decent laptop for £400? It’s a tough job, but some companies have made the price point their own, such as Acer with its fantastic Aspire range. Toshiba, HP, Asus, Dell and Futjitsu-Siemens all have models to compete in this area, but it’s new ground for Samsung, which pitched its low-end models at the £499 market.

The R60 Plus looks far too stylish for £400 and what has become the iconic glossy black finish is present on this laptop’s lid. It certainly has the look and feel of a laptop twice the price, but under the hood we see some pretty basic hardware for a 2008 Vista model. However, if you’re after an additional machine for use around the home and on the go then the R60 has some big plus points.

Feel the Aura

There’s no denying that this sleek laptop blows away the silver and grey competition that dominates the budget chassis market. Acer’s glossy white Aspire range is gorgeous too, but there’s something about black gloss that just oozes quality.

The attractive chassis also has a well thought-out keyboard, but port selection could have been better. We would have liked to have seen a DVI-out port instead of VGA and there’s space to add HDMI or even mini-USB connections. Typing is very comfortable and apart from a couple of ropey mouse buttons the keypad is very good.

The biggest fault is the choice of processor: although it’s a dual core model, it has a clock speed that doesn’t make the grade. In reality, upping the processor to even a 1.66GHz or 1.73GHz would make a difference, without significantly ratcheting up the overall price.

Gaming, of course, is way off on models like this. A 3DMark score of just 516 won’t give you any gaming joy, but the clever ATI Radeon Xpress 1250 architecture is actually better than it first appears to be. The Windows Experience Index of 3.8 for gaming graphics and 4.3 for Aero for once seems to be the right score.

When running the first-person shooter FEAR we were impressed by how smooth it was, even though the settings were quite low. No avid gamer would touch a machine like this, but if the odd game takes your fancy then with the settings down low you might just get away with it.

Starter model

What we can recommend the laptop for is use as an additional machine for the home. The usual scenario in a wireless house is where someone in the kitchen desperately needs to use the Internet while the kids are upstairs on the desktop PC. It’s also an ideal choice for children and students looking for a portable that’s light and fast at the most basic tasks.

We can’t help feeling that XP would still be the better choice of OS here though; Vista on less than 1GB RAM is never a wise option. That said, the RAM can easily be expanded to a maximum of 4GB – not that Windows will recognise that much!

Battery life on Samsung’s optimised setting was a pleasing three hours and 40 minutes, and the LED meter on the battery itself is a handy way of confirming what the software is telling you.

We loved the quality feel of the R60 despite little improvement on last year’s models and a keypad that feels a tad lightweight.

The screen is superb and the general build is solid, but casing alone can’t give us everything we want, especially when the likes of Acer seem to knock another £50 off similarly specced machines.