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 (382×256x35mm), 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).