REVIEW: Samsung RV520

Samsung RV520

The computing industry is going through a bit of a torrid time at the moment, no thanks to the economic climate and the compelling appeal of tablets and smartphones. However, there’s still very much a demand for mass-market laptops that offer high levels of features and performance without breaking the bank.

The RV520 from Samsung is one such product. Costing just £430 (inc. VAT) and sporting a well-rounded set of features for non-demanding use, the machine is very usable and very affordable. The first thing that strikes you about the RV520 is how much technology Samsung has managed to cram into the two-tone machine considering the price. And it’s even available in multiple finishes: white, black or wine red.

The RV520 is based around a 15.6-inch display and weighs 2.4kg (382x256x35mm), so it’s not exactly the most portable machine out there. Having said that, its craftsmanship contradicts its low cost and its exterior has been designed built to withstand bumps and knocks. Indeed, the RV520’s robust, durable hard plastic casing does well to reduce the risk of scratches and fingerprints and I’d have no qualms recommending the machine for frequent travellers (weight aside).

The downside to the robust build is that the RV520 is a pretty standard looking laptop—at least compared to models sporting aluminium parts. The RV520 is all about practicality and its saving design grace is a textured line pattern that adds depth to its silver-and-black lid. Samsung has even managed to fit a numeric keypad—a real boon for number crunchers—into the chiclet-style keyboard along with the touchpad and two mouse buttons. Sadly, the keyboard isn’t backlit and the mouse buttons are very noisy when clicked.

Power to the people

Under the hood the RV520 continues to impress—as long as you’re not a gamer or digital content producer that is. The machine comes as standard with a second-generation Intel Core i3-2310M processor (2.10GHz, 3MB cache) processor, 6GB memory (upgradable to 8GB), and 15.6-inch display. Similar to other budget laptops the screen’s resolution is limited to 1366×768, so you’ll have to spend extra case on another model if you need a higher resolution display. The screen is wonderfully bright and colourful, but its glossy finish will be impractical for intensely lit rooms due to its reflective finish. A matte option is not available.

Graphics are powered by Intel’s GMA 4500MHD chipset and storage is catered for by a 640GB (5,400rpm) hard disk drive. The RV520 can’t be configured on the Samsung store, so there’s no option to upgrade the graphics chip to a discrete AMD or nVidia chipset or the hard drive to a SSD. This isn’t surprising however, as these upgrades would bump the price of the RV520 considerably and it would then compete against much better machines.

Other technical specifications worth noting include a tray-loading DVD burner, Realtek HD Audio with SRS 3D Sound Effect, 1.3-Megapixel Web camera fitted to the lid, 3.5mm microphone with noise suppression, and 3-watt stereo speakers. Connectivity is practical and includes a VGA port for legacy monitors, a HDMI port for modern displays and TVs, Gigabit Ethernet for fast wired network connectivity and 802.11 b/g/n Wireless LAN and Bluetooth V3.0 for ditching the wires. Frustratingly, Wireless Display 2 (WiDi 2.0) and WiMAX are included in US models of the RV520 but not in the UK.

Three USB 2.0 ports are present (two on left side and one on the right) and there’s also a 4-in-1 (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC) memory card conveniently located near the front of the machine. A 3.5mm headphone jack comes in handy when working to music late at night. The RV520 isn’t designed for frequent travellers so there’s no 3G option and the lack of USB 3.0, FireWire or eSATA may deter those with the latest external storage devices.

Fit for purpose

Samsung’s RV520 offers good all-round value. Its ergonomic features, including the chiclet-style keyboard and beautiful display also ensure a more enjoyable and productive user experience. And a battery life of around 6 hours is hard to beat in a 15-inch laptop. However, the RV520 is a budget laptop that hasn’t been designed specifically for business users, so it lacks in terms of design, power and data security. Before you make a decision, check out Dell’s Vostro 3550, which is much better suited to corporates and includes a more powerful Intel Core i5-2430M (2.40GHz) processor, anti-glare display and backlit keyboard for £449 (ex. VAT).

  • Reece_Brown

    does this laptop have phone share?

  • rsco6969

    yes it does i purchased this its ok for my partner not me as im a gamer but thats why i stick to alienware XD

  • We’ve long praised Samsung for its stylish laptop designs, and the RV520 – the 15in cousin of the RV720 – is no exception. It has a smart matt silver case with a pinstripe texture on its two-tone lid and a glossy black keyboard panel. Most of its edges are tapered into smooth curves and, despite its plastic construction, it feels sturdy. Apart from the reduced screen size and resolution, there are very few differences between this and the Samsung RV720.

  • Alex

    Ordered this for the missus a few hours ago based on your review, Christian. So no pressure! I did read a number of other reviews to be fair. Caught the YouTube clip also, thanks for posting that.  Got it for £399 inc vat and delivery.  Could have gone the pentium route and saved £40 but the obvious increases the I3 offers along with the more potent integrated gpu sold the version ordered, afterall £40 is ‘only’ £40 but she’ll have to live with this unit for at least a year. I’ll post back thoughts after she’s had it for a few weeks.

    • No pressure indeed Alex! Thanks for the feedback. Hope your missus enjoys the machine – I’m sure she will….

      • Shane

        Th RV520 is great for me as I don’t have so many requirements to satisfy. Your review was just right for my experience in the world of Laptops/Notebooks. I do have one gripe that I feel is legitimate though, then again, maybe not so legitimate. I use the headphone out jack to input to a stereo receiver which must be an old analog piece of gear and there is a hum present. No matter what the volume level is, once you hear it, then it’s always there. Is this something that might require some kind of analog to digital converter of sorts, I’m wondering? I am a musician with a lot of music I’ve written and recorded which is placed throughout the net. I listen often to my recordings on my laptop through my stereo as described. The hum is a “Buzz Killer”… Any advice on this issue would be very much appreciated. Thank You

  • Alex

    Hello Christian, the RV520 arrived a few hours ago. So, first impressions. I’m not a fan of the smooth one way, rough the other way finish on the exterior of the unit, but this is subjective. But seeing as it doesn’t add to the look of the unit I really don’t see the point of it.
    As with most ‘budget’ laptops of this size there is an amount of flex toward the middle and rather a lot when pressing keys in the same area, more than I’d expect actually. Still the key action is smooth albeit somewhat unweighted.  There’s around 3mm between keys so even the fat fingers (mine) don’t have an issue.
    Some aspects of multi-tasking appear to be a no-no unfortunately; watching a 720p video file while running a background hdd-orientated task proved too much with the video file stuttering and freezing for up to 10 seconds at a time, but this can be lived with (for the price of the unit) just run your background tasks after watching your video.
    The speakers are better than they have any right to be, rather a pleasant surprise. Whilst I would have preferred a 1600×900 resolution on this screen size this would have increased the price. Still, the 1366×768 offered makes a valiant attempt and mostly succeeds.  When idle the battery loses around 850mAh, with a max charge of 4500mAh. Surfing puts this at around 1000mAh and watching video puts this up around the 1200 mark. Those are approximations as they, obviously, fluctuate.
    One thing that does stand out is inclusion of a full year’s subscription to AVG Internet Security. Not the free version but the full retail version. You’ll find a code card attached to the box. It also comes with a 60-day trial of Norton, but please, anyone reading this, for the love of God do not use Norton. It’s got one of the lowest hit rates and is so damn intrusive on system resources. It’s purely used so widespread because Norton obviously has a damn good marketing department. As an aside if you want good security software you can’t go wrong with AVG, but if you want pretty much the best then go for Kaspersky.
    Personally, I’ll be sticking with my M11x, Christian. But that said your review is safe so far!

    • Wow, thanks for the detailed update Alex – and you’ve only just had a few hours to play with the machine! Samsung has obviously had to cut corners, but considering the machine costs at least half the price of an Alienware M11x (or a third if you go mad on the specs like I did), I’m sure you’ll agree it’s justified. Hard to beat for the price.

      • Alex

        No problem. Yup, I like to get stuck in when something new has been delivered. Such as gadget freak!  Anyway, I had a good play before posting as I wanted to feel confident in my initial verdict. Couldn’t agree more with you that the unit is easily worth the cost. Shame it’s only a 4 cell battery though, but like you said, they’ve pared everything down to achieve the pricepoint.  It is lighter than expected too, I don’t think she’ll have much trouble carrying it around. 

        Me too regarding the M11. I went for the I5 as the I7 was stupidly priced and who needs a 2gb gpu at that resolution? One thing though, if you haven’t already done it, get a SSD. I did, after purchase. Got it with the notebook kit. Gives a decent boost in battery life, slight decrease in weight and, as will all pc’s with ssd as opposed to platter drives for the o.s, massively improved responsiveness in Windows and other apps. It’s the only laptop I know of that can do everything. I honestly can’t think of any other that can. Dell are selling it now with an SSD as an upgrade, for anyone reading, find the money and get it.

        • I did actually go for the i7, 2GB GPU and SSD (got all three upgrades on a great deal), simply because my M11x is rigged up to an external Dell UltraSharp monitor and I edit a lot of video in HD. Funny thing is, I don’t actually play games on my PC – that’s what my Xbox 360 is for – but I couldn’t find a machine so portable and so powerful. Plus, it looks so tasty. Intel Ultrabooks just don’t cut it for me. My only gripe with the M11x (R3) is it desperately needs a BIOS update to fix the fan noise…

          • Alex

            Fair enough, if you’re editing video then you made the correct decision for your needs. I could have easily lived with the I3 but wanted the I5 just incase I ever needed the increased performance and it was only a small increase in price.  It’s just a shame that the 2gb version of the 540, in my opinion, is purely a marketing ploy. Designed to sway the less knowledgeable with bigger numbers. No way that gpu will make use of all that memory, it just doesn’t have the umph. It’s also complete overkill at that resolution.

            I use a U2311 on my desktop. Dell’s IPS’s are nice aren’t they.

            “I don’t actually play games on my PC – that’s what my Xbox 360 is for – but I couldn’t find a machine so portable and so powerful. Plus, it looks so tasty”. Well, you’ve said there, in around 20 words, what it took me a few paragraphs to state. It’s nice to know that if you ever do feel the need to game on it that you can, and with ease.

            XBOX eh? Never know, maybe we’ve shot each other over XBOX Live! 

            Anyway, hope I’m not causing an issue posting all these times on the site. Found it when looking for reviews for the RV520. It makes for a good read across a whole range of subjects I’m interested in.

          • Cool. Hit the “contact” button below (in the site’s footer) and email me over your Gamertag.

          • Alex

            I don’t have an outlook addy set up I’m afraid, I use GMail. Don’t really want to post it on here. Another way?

  • This is my first Samsung computer I just wanted to try one based on my personal satisifaction with all of my other Samsung purchases, so far it really proves to be as good as any other of the computers that I have purchased in the past. I would recommend this to a friend

  • For a non-gaming laptop it runs Skyrim fairly well on medium settings :)