Samsung's entry-level laptop range is among the best you can buy, offering reliable build quality and great usability. The R520 is a stylish example and combines impressive performance and a fantastic specification.

The eye-catching chassis uses a combination of glossy black plastics on the lid – which are a magnet for scratches and smudges – and matt silver on the interior, to great effect. Build quality is good, but we did notice an excessive amount of flex to the screen panel.

The slim dimensions and light 2.6kg weight make this a surprisingly portable machine. This is strengthened by the lengthy 214-minute battery life, making it a great choice for basic travel use and working around the home.

Usability is excellent. The spacious keyboard features large keys that move firmly and quietly. The large touchpad and mouse buttons are equally effective. A blue light frames the touchpad and is activated whenever the pad is touched, thus aiding usability in low light conditions.

The 15.6-inch screen features a 16:9 aspect ratio. Its widescreen design makes it perfect for watching DVDs and working across multiple windows side by side. Images are sharp, but brightness, colour and contrast fail to match the excellent screen on laptops from the likes of Asus.

Dual-core power

Almost all laptops in this price range will feature dual-core processors, but the R520 has a particularly powerful variant. Its Intel Core 2 Duo chip has a faster and more efficient design than its rivals and provides ample power for quick and reliable multi-tasking.

Graphics performance via the integrated Intel GPU is also capable, but falls behind the more powerful dedicated chips available. There's plenty of power for home photo and video editing, but you'll struggle to run 3D games.

The 320GB hard drive will store an incredibly high volume of data for such a low price. The dual-layer DVD rewriter lets you save up to 8.5GB of data to compatible disks, and an SD card reader is also fitted, for use with your camera.

Network connectivity is also excellent at this price, with 802.11.n Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet providing the fastest wireless and wired connections currently available. An HDMI-out port also lets you connect to an external HDTV, for Full-HD playback of high-definition content.

Although its screen and graphics fail to match some laptops, the fantastic power, mobility, usability and features of the Samsung R520 make it a better choice overall. At this low price, there's very little to fault here, making it a great laptop.

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