I was in the market for a new notebook recently. I was looking for an entry level laptop between 11" to 13" and a budget of around RM1,000. I had three laptops in mind, the Asus Vivobook, a Samsung Chromebook and the Samsung NP370R4V. The Vivobook was small, thin and cheap from as low as RM900 but I find the build quality rather poor after testing it for a while. The Chromebook was also small and thin but a bit pricey at RM1,200. The Chromebook despite being a real beauty, I find the OS option and hard disk space a little restricted. 16GB is definitely too small to do anything despite it being a solid state drive and I'm not sure whether the hardware fully supports Windows on it.
So I came to pick the Samsung NP370R4V which features 14" screen, 500GB SATA hard drive, 2GB RAM and 1.6GHz Pentium processor. The notebook is quite affordable too at only RM1,079 and it is really thin compared to other entry level notebooks with similar specifications and price. Other features include 2 standard USB port, 1 USB 3.0 port, one HDMI port, card reader, webcam and an ethernet port. This notebook weighs just 1.81 kilos and less than an inch thick at 0.90".
At first glance, you'd be forgiven for thinking this notebook is made of aluminium but it's not. Just plain old silver-colored plastic with some texture on the palm rest. But what else do you expect at RM1,079? Anything more solid would just drive the price up so plastic is fine with me.
The NP370R4V comes with a non-removable internal battery and no DVD drive hence why it's so thin. It comes with a full-sized chiclet keyboard which is essential to me in a notebook. I wouldn't dream of typing on those hideous close-spaced keyboard of yesteryear. The keyboard gives a soft tactile feedback. The trackpad is quite spacious but that's where the good thing end. The left and right click button feels rather plasticky and made a noticeable noise every time you click it.
Another grouse that I have to highlight is that you tend to accidentally touch the touch pad especially with your right palm whenever you're typing causing the cursor to jump around on the screen which is quite annoying to say the least [Updated]. Although you can disable the touchpad with the Fn + F5 key, I'd rather it not happen in the first place. Speaking of the Fn or function key, I can't get it to work or response when I first installed Windows. It's only after I installed the Samsung Easy Display Manager that I can get it to work. Why do I'm so bothered about the Fn key? Because without it I cannot adjust the screen's brightness which is not very bright at default setting. The NP370R4V comes with a cute little charger and probably the ugliest carrying case I've ever seen from Samsung. I mean, it would not look out of place in 1979.
You can access the RAM and hard disk by only removing one screw below the notebook. The ventilation port is located beneath the notebook as well and it can get quite warm after prolonged use so you don't want to place it on your lap for long. Also avoid putting on your bed or mattress because chances are they will block half or most of the air vent causing your notebook to overheat. Other than that, this notebook runs very quietly and you can hardly detect any noise from it.
Performance-wise, the dual core Intel Sandy Bridge processor is quite speedy for a budget notebook. You could do regular office work, some serious web-browsing, video playback and non-graphic intensive games without a glitch on the NP370R4V. I managed to played FIFA 13 and The Sims 3 with the lowest graphic setting on this notebook which uses onboard Intel graphic. Obviously if you wanna play the latest and coolest games on your laptop, you'll have to get at least a Core i5 laptop and third-party graphic chip like Nvidia or AMD and spend 2,000 ringgit more. Video playback is smooth and the sound quality is acceptable for me. The 14" screen is a plus because I have more screen real estate compared to smaller laptops. The 3 cell battery last slightly over 3 hours with regular use. Although I don't mind something longer but this ain't no 10 hours battery MacBook Air so I'll have to take it as it is.
The NP370R4V comes with DOS and no Windows so if you're not willing to learn or code in DOS you might want to install Windows. Luckily Samsung provides all of the drivers and software at their website. Doing a clean Windows installation is probably best because you can avoid/skip all the standard bloatware from Samsung. My current setup is Windows 7 and the latest Ubuntu dual boot. I just had to have a non-Windows OS on my laptop for work purposes. The first thing I did was to upgrade the RAM to 4GB. It has two RAM slots so you could bump the RAM up to 16GB if you want to. The processor supports 64 bit OS so you can also install a 64 bit version of Windows 7/8 on this machine. You can download all the Windows 7 32 bit drivers from the official Samsung website or you could also download the ones that I already downloaded and tested which works here.
Overall I think the Samsung NP370R4V is a decent entry-level, budget 14" notebook. Although Samsung doesn't call it an Ultrabook, it's still a lot thinner than your average notebook at that price point. I love the chiclet keyboard, big screen and crisp display of this notebook. Apart from the overly sensitive touchpad [problem solved, see below], I have nothing but good things to say about this notebook. If you're looking for a slim notebook below RM1.2k with decent specs, I would highly recommend the NP370R4V. Of course if you have slightly more budget, you could get any of those Ultrabooks from Samsung, Sony, HP or Dell which works and looks just fine. Else, the Samsung NP370R4V Series 3 offers the best value for your money and a good looking notebook too.
After much research I found out that the latest driver update for the Elan touchpad resolved the over-sensitivity problem. Apparently the touchpad is manufactured by Elan not the usual Synaptics. Download the driver for Windows 7 from here and change the palm tracking & sensitivity setting to maximum. You can also finally use multi-touch and few other cool features with the new update.