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Samsung U250 multi touchscreen all-in-one PC

Review A decent multi-touch jack of all trades
Wed Aug 11 2010, 13:14
samsung-u250-front

Product Samsung U250
Website http://www.samsung.com/uk
System Specifications Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 2.2GHz, 4GB, 500GB HDD, Win 7 Home Premium 32-bit, DVD-Dual layer, 23-inch 16:9 1920x1080 LCD Display, Ethernet, WiFi
Price £899.99


SAMSUNG'S FIRST FORAYS into touchscreen All-In-One (AIO) PCs have been a mixed blessing. Its low-end touchscreen U200 for the Dixons Saturday buyer masses was mostly a misfired attempt. It was underspecced and overly chunky, featuring a terrible unresponsive display with no centralised management touch software hub. Now in the same portfolio of AIOs, Samsung has let The INQUIRER have a look at its U250, an entirely different machine despite having nearly the same name.

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The U250 is everything the U200 wasn't. It is entirely confined within the sleek proportions of a slim LCD screen. It looks like a standard 23-inch monitor rather than a display with bolt on PC components at the back. It is much more expensive, but still lacks decent multi-touch proprietary software and isn't primed for maximum power. However, the U250 is well-built and a good all-rounder. It won't take the multi-touch AIO crown away from HP's Touchsmart, though. HP has a wider feature-set and a comprehensive software bundle for multi-touch applications. However, this is still a good effort by Samsung.

Samsung has kept things simple to make the U250 look as much like an elegant glossy black monitor as possible. The bonus to this is a beautifully rounded bezel that's not interrupted by fussy menu controls or anything that reveals that it's a PC. But there are some unavoidable downsides to this. There's no tilt or swivel built into the stand or display so we had to realign ourselves in our chair to get a comfortable viewing angle. It also means a distinct lack of connectivity options in order to keep the form neat.

Connectivity was revealed when we picked up the surprisingly light U250. The only concession to PC architecture was revealed on the right and left hand sides, set at the back of the display. The left houses one USB port, a card reader, a couple of audio jacks and the eSATA port to hook up external storage. The right hand side houses a slot-loading dual layer DVD player. Nice, but for the cash where are a Blu-ray player and HDMI port? We're talking nearly £1,000 for the privilege of owning the U250 so these should be standard features. Especially given that Samsung boosts that the U250 has a nice full HD 1920x1080 screen, which it does.

The back of the display houses an Ethernet port and four more USB ports. One of these is taken up with the IR USB receiver for the very nice slim-line keyboard and mouse Samsung supplies in the bundle. The only other connection is the power socket. We still get a kick out of seeing PCs with just one cable sticking out the back to keep wire insanity down.

The thick black bezel is solid plastic but feels very robust. Try as we might, the U250 didn't display any visual impairments when we pushed against the frame or the screen itself. And it's not a bad screen either.

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Aside from the 1920x1080, 16:9 full HD resolution, the screen has moderate 5ms response time and 250 candelas brightness. No great shakes for your cash and you'd be disappointed with those specifications if the U250 was just a monitor. However, we found it coped admirably with DVD playback. Samsung knows how to build decent screens so colours were accurate and vibrant. We didn't see any ghosting on fast motion scenes and the screen had no problem with displaying clean high-contrast scenes.

HD playback from Youtube proved equally good. The display is clear, showing neatly defined detail over a pretty wide viewing angle. Our only bone of contention is the high-gloss LCD back-lit screen. It does give added vibrancy to images and video content but we found the glossy finish hampered use in a brightly lit room. It's nowhere near as obvious as Zalman's 3D monitor we reviewed a while ago, but we preferred using the display in a darkly lit room.

There is still an element of lag in the multi touch interface that could be down to either the responsiveness of the screen or the lack of oomph under the hood. Either way, we found it was okay as long as we resigned ourselves to slower multi-touch movements and gestures.

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Samsung didn't do much to dissuade us of the notion that multi-touch is a technology awaiting a decent application. Booting up the U250 presented us with the same meagre touch applications software it had on the U200. There's a Play Touch button on the horizontal Windows bar that opens a 'management' hub. But it is little more than a UI that links to photos, music and video with a few extras. We could pinch zoom and multi-touch rotate content but that was it. There's no decent interface to make those gestures more worthwhile. If Samsung could tweak its proprietary multi-touch technology the U250 would be more enticing.

For a model destined to be used as an all-rounder by a whole family, we expected more from the 1.3MP webcam. It's okay for static shots in bright light but couldn't keep up with motion in a darker room.

While performance is alright it's not going to cope with high-end gaming, but we found the U250 fine for everyday use. Samsung opted for 4GB of memory that can't be upgraded due to a lack of extra slots. The U250 also has a 500GB hard drive and Samsung rolled out an aging Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 running at 2.2GHz as the processor. You're also confined to the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium, so U250 users won't be going 64-bit any time soon. Not that we're expecting the average U250 user to do any upgrading.

We opened up multi-tabbed browsing with HD Youtube playing, a DVD running in the background and a few apps open. The U250 didn't have any problems and remained responsive throughout. We also didn't have any lag issues to report so, unless you want to run CAD/CAM apps or do some gaming, the U250 isn't going to have performance problems.

It's good to see a dedicated graphics card powering an AIO touchscreen as most vendors opt for integrated. Nvidia's Geforce 310M has 512MB and is okay for casual gaming and HD playback, which we had no problem with. We achieved playable frame rates on Modern Warfare 2 but the card starting choking beyond 1024x768 on mid-range settings. If you want full HD graphics, you'll have to turn down every other bell and whistle to make game play serviceable.

You'll also note that the Nvidia's Geforce 310M and Intel CPU are laptop components shoved in to the hardware. With such a small amount of real-estate to play with it's no wonder Samsung opted for those. That said, it does mean they are a bit more expensive and underpowered than PC components.

In Short
The U250 is a good attempt to build a classy multi-touchscreen all-in-one PC. However, it is overpriced, lacks performance oomph and the screen is too glossy. Nonetheless, it is well manufactured by Samsung and is a good all-rounder. Maybe Samsung will add some more interesting multi touch apps and better downloadable software to make it a more interesting proposition.

The Good
Full HD 23-inch display, good display quality, well built, good all-rounder.

The Bad
Laptop components, lacks a Blu-ray player or HDMI output, glossy screen.

The Ugly
Multi-touch is still not taking us to the promised land.

Bartender's Score
7/10

beer7

 

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