Samsung R700 review
A great 17in screen, healthy performance and attractive styling for under £500 make this a laptop worth shouting about.
It's rare to find a big manufacturer making a significant impact on the budget laptop scene. Opting for a major name usually means paying that little bit extra - a bit like buying designer label jeans over a supermarket brand. But Samsung manages to buck the trend with its R700 - a desktop replacement model that offers a remarkable amount for not much cash.
It's the screen that really stands out. Thanks to its large 17in diagonal and 1,440 x 900 resolution, it offers room for an A4 document and a browser window side by side, which makes a real difference to the way you work.
It's clear and bright, too, with a glossy coating that gives a crisp quality to the display. That same coating also does DVD movies more justice than most laptop TFTs, handling dark scenes particularly well.
Considering this, it's impressive that the laptop weighs in at just 3kg - it's not light, by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not as heavy as many of its competitors. Besides, this is designed as a desktop replacement rather than a portable model - its size and weight rule it out as a regular travelling machine despite surprisingly good battery life. Left to run idle with the screen at medium brightness, the battery lasted 4hrs 5mins.
As a desktop replacement, though, the R700 makes perfect sense. The large screen makes document editing a pleasure, the hard disk is a massive 250GB - large enough to swallow a good-sized music and video collection - and it falls into the same price range as the average mid-range desktop PC.
The design is more thoughtful and stylish than most cheaper laptops too. The R700 sports the same glossy black lid as all of Samsung's Aura range, such as the Q70. It has the unfortunate tendency to act as a fingerprint magnet: after a few days' use, and in the right light, it's possible to see hundreds of greasy dabs on the previously immaculate surface, but it's a lot better than dull, corporate grey.
The rest of the case is finished in a more practical matt black, apart from some glossy highlights on the inside near the keyboard, and a strip of fake carbon fibre effect plastic.
The keyboard is comfortable to use, with most of the keys remaining full size - one bonus of having such a wide chassis. In fact, Samsung even manages to fit a numeric keypad on the R700. One of its more unusual features is the anti-bacterial coating which prevents germs being spread via the keyboard.
You'd expect some kind of trade-off with a cheap laptop that includes such a large and high quality screen, but you won't find it in the R700's performance. It won't set the world alight but was nearly as fast as our reference 3.2GHz Pentium D in our application-based benchmarks - which is good performance for the price.
You won't be playing the very latest 3D games, but the Nvidia GeForce 8400 GS graphics chipset is a more powerful model than you would expect for a laptop in this price range. There's an HDMI output too, which allows you to connect the laptop to an HDTV or larger monitor. For HD video, though, you'll be restricted to downloaded content as the only optical drive is a DVD writer - Blu-ray is still out of reach for a sub-£500 laptop.
Although the Samsung costs the same as rivals such as the Hi-Grade Ultinote A9800R, and shares the same screen size and resolution, it weighs nearly a kilogram less and boasts 90GB more storage space. It also beats the Hi-Grade on speed, scoring slightly better in our 2D benchmarks.