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-- by Marc Spiwak
What's not to like about a feature-packed Pentium notebook with a big, bright display-except for the price tag, in many cases? Not this time. Somehow, Samsung manages to load its new SENS Pro 500 notebook computer with features without sending the price sky-high.
For $2,699, you get a 120MHz Pentium notebook with 16MB of RAM (upgradable to 80MB), a 256KB pipeline-burst level 2 cache, 1MB PCI video and an SVGA (800x600 resolution) 12.1-inch active-matrix screen. You also get a 1.44GB hard drive, a touchpad, and built-in stereo sound and microphone. If you want to add a CD-ROM drive, it will cost an additional $199 for a 6X drive that swaps with the floppy. The system comes standard with a nickel metal hydride battery; a lithium ion battery costs an extra $249. The unit measures 1.9 by 11.8 by 9.4 inches and weighs just under 7 pounds with the floppy drive installed.
The full-size, programmable Windows 95 keyboard gives your fingers room to move, but the keys are a bit soft for my taste. The touchpad works well, but its position-under the keys, between the hand rests-makes it easy to brush accidentally. That's annoying, but typical of most touchpads.
The 12.1-inch display is crisp, bright and clear, and a brightness control on the side of the screen permits quick and easy adjustments. Maximum on-screen resolution is 800x600 in 64,000 colors.
Other features include external PS/2 keyboard and mouse connectors, and microphone and headphone jacks. You also get one parallel port, one serial port, an infrared port and slots for two Type II or one Type III PCMCIA cards.
However, the SENS Pro 500's performance was a bit disappointing, considering that it's a 120MHz Pentium. It scored 222MIPS, and churned out an uncached disk throughput of 1.8MB per second under our Wintune benchmarks. This compares favorably with the Winbook XP5 at 208MPS, but lags behind the XP5's hard disk score of 2.33MB per second. In addition, the system scored rather low on our Word and Excel macros, completing our Word macro in 42 seconds and our Excel macro in 41 seconds. That's probably due to the limited video performance of 5.5Mpixels per second.
On the plus side, the system fared pretty well in our battery rundown test. With all power-management features turned off, the test ran for 2 hours and 17 minutes before the batteries gave out.
While the SENS Pro 500 is no barn burner in terms of performance, it's more than adequate for getting serious work done while you're on the go. Despite the large keyboard, good screen and low sticker price, its disappointing performance keeps it off our Recommended List.
Copyright (c) 1997 CMP Media Inc.