Is there really room for another computer company? Samsung plans to find out. The Korean company, which started selling PCs in Korea in 1983, is launching five laptops for the first time in the U.S. today.
I visited withf Dave McFarland, Samsung’s senior product marketing manager (who previously held a similar job at Toshiba), for a closer look. Samsung’s North American PC headquarters is in Irvine, where the company also has its printers, monitors and other computing products located.
McFarland said the reason Samsung finally entered the U.S. market is simple: It already makes many of the parts that go into laptops: hard drives, memory, LCD screens, AC adapters and communications chips.
“Sixty percent of what’s in a laptop is made by Samsung,” McFarland said. “The one piece missing is the computer.”
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But at least one industry analyst isn’t too excited. David Daoud, from market researcher IDC, has two words: “Good luck,” he said.
“They are apparently entering the market with high-end laptops. We’re not talking about cheap systems, but computers that cost some money in a market that is showing tremendous lack of momentum and decrease in interest,” Daoud said.
Daoud pointed to factors impacting consumer buying decisions: the slowing economy, unemployment, bad credit. People who can afford a $1,100 to $2,499 computer may not want to buy one in these uncertain times.
“A brand like Samsung is a recognizable name but it will be all about managing risks in a very down market. My sense is that they’re likely going to scale back their targets in the short term,” Daoud said.
Samsung’s short term plan is to tackle online only. It wasn’t able to get its PCs into stores by Christmas, though it plans to by mid 2009. McFarland didn’t consider this a big deal even though the major PC companies in the U.S. are big pretty much because they are in retail.
“We want to be known as a premium brand. In the $699 market, no one is making money,” McFarland said. “We’re just looking to provide notebooks that consumers want.”
That said, here are the new Samsung PCs (all batteries and AC adapters are interchangeable, except for the netbook):
The NC-10 netbook (above) is the one exception to the premium line. This $499 netbook is Samsung’s version of the latest computing trend to offer a smaller, cheaper and less powerful machine. But comparably, this one is more loaded with features than other netbooks I’ve seen. It includes a 10.2-inch display, a keyboard that is 89 percent the size of a laptop keyboard, has a 6-cell battery (8-hours!), 160 GB hard drive, 1 GB of memory, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and the requisite Intel Atom chip. The 2.8-pound netbook will be available in mid-November. White and metallic blue versions will be available.
The Sens X360 (above) and X460 are thin-and-light laptops. Both have 3 GBs of DDR3 RAM, a fingerprint reader, Bluetooth and a screen with 300 nits brightness (What’s a nit? See image on right for an example).
The two differ based on size and a few components. The 2.8-pound X360, from $1,899 to $2,999, has a 13.3-inch display and no disc drive, so it’s extra thin. Also, it has the option of getting a 128 GB solid-state drive. The 4-pound X460 has an optical drive, 14.1-inch display and docking station capabilities, for $1,599 to $1,699.
The R610 (above), starts at $1,049, has a 16-inch screen and weighs 6.2 pounds. This is the most entry-level option available, other than the netbook, of course. It includes a 250-GB hard drive, DVD, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 3 GBs of RAM and an Intel Core Duo.
The Q310 (above) has a 13.3-inch screen for $1,199 to $1,349. Specs are the same as the other PCs, with 3 GBs of RAM, Bluetooth and Intel Core Duo. This one also weighs 4.4 pounds.
Separately, a notebook targeting business users is launching for $1,149 to $1,399. It will have a scratch-resistant case and an extra hard plate behind the LCD screen for extra protection.
One other note: Customer service will be based in New Jersey and not overseas.