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-- by Jim Forbes
The Samsung SENS Pro 525 notebook proves that multimedia capabilities and good battery performance don't have to be at opposite ends of the notebook computing spectrum. And, at $3,799, the SENS Pro 525 offers real value for your investment.
This machine uses an Intel 150MHz Pentium MMX-enabled processor and, like other new high-end notebooks, comes with a 12.1-inch active-matrix screen. Its unusual base configuration includes 48MB of EDO RAM, a 2.1GB hard drive and a 33.6Kb-per-second modem.
The rest of the configuration is standard. The SamSung SENS Pro comes with serial, parallel and docking-station connectors, as well as external audio, two vertically stacked PCMCIA bays (that can be loaded with either two Type II devices or a single Type III card) and an IrDA infrared connector. The SENS Pro 525 uses a side-loading internal bay to accommodate its somewhat out-of-date 10X CD-ROM, a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive or an optional second lithium ion battery.
The keyboard's paddle-shaped spacebar is shorter and fatter than those used on most portables. In our tests, we found the keyboard comfortable to use continuously for up to 2 hours, but we weren't as pleased with the keys' soft tactile feedback. The SENS Pro 525 uses a Synaptics touchpad, which is mounted in the middle of the integrated palm rest. We recommend that you run the included touchpad software, since it helps you to better control the cursor-a problem many people have with touchpads.
We liked the SENS Pro 525's 33.6Kbps modem and the scheme Samsung uses to connect the modem to a phone outlet. The connector is located on the right-hand side of the case, and Samsung supplies a quick-disconnect pigtail lead to attach the phone cord to the modem cable connector. This design element protects the system from damage should you inadvertently stumble over the phone cord. One serious deficiency, however: Oddly, the modem was set to COM5, a setting that left us unable to connect to America Online and most other services.
The 12.1-inch active-matrix color panel is more than good enough for most notebook tasks. The Cirrus Logic video controller does not adequately support 1024x768 internal displays. However, the brightness and clarity of the 800x600-pixel images displayed on this notebook's panel are noteworthy. It's worth pointing out that this notebook can simultaneously drive its own panel and an external display.
The 525 uses a 16-bit Sound Blaster Pro-compatible audio system and comes with two integrated stereo speakers. The fidelity and volume on this notebook's audio subsystem are suitable for most limited settings.
The SENS Pro 525 measures 1.87 by 11.8 by 9.4 inches and has a travel weight of about 8 pounds, including both disk drives, the power supply and the AC power cord. We were pleasantly surprised by its 2.5-hour battery life in our strenuous battery rundown test. Recharge cycles with the unit turned off took just under 4 hours. An optional auto adapter lets you power the SENS Pro from your car lighter.
The SENS Pro 525 comes with Windows 95, various communications software and CoSession, an online diagnostic tool. There is no application software included-another gesture to the corporate audience. Corporations that have standardized on Lotus need not pay for Microsoft Office, or vice versa. Samsung also provides a three-year warranty.
This notebook's raw processor score was 265MIPS. But its 5.56Mpixel video and 16MB-per-second cached hard disk system scores were below the averages posted by other 150MHz Pentium MMX-enabled notebooks, including the IBM ThinkPad 380D on our WinList. The SENS Pro 525 fared slightly better when it came to applications benchmarks (which benefit from its 48MB of system memory). It took this machine an average of 133 and 368 seconds, respectively, to run our new Word and Excel benchmarks, and 27.33 minutes to complete our new Photoshop/DeBabelizer/MMX script.
The Samsung SENS Pro 525's feature set is on a par with the first group of 150MHz MMX portables we examined (WinLab Reviews, July), but the 48MB of RAM makes it the better choice for corporate users. Although its processor's performance is not as fast as that of the ThinkPad 380D's, the SENS Pro 525's price, in concert with its base configuration, makes it worth a long, hard second look.