The Samsung R700 is an exciting prospect for several reasons. Firstly, it's large and powerful enough to replace your existing desktop PC. Secondly, it's relatively inexpensive -- just £600, or £700 if you buy the slightly more advanced R700 T8100 model we've reviewed here. On top of that, it has a germ-proof keyboard, HDMI video output, and a host of other features that, on paper, make it a fantastic all-rounder.
Samsung isn't a name we associate with gorgeous laptops. Its machines are good-looking, certainly, but they've always lacked that certain nous ne savons pas quoi. This applies to the R700. It ticks all the right boxes: there's a glossy black lid, metallic Samsung logo, blue LED lights and a reflective Vaseline-effect display, but the end product isn't exactly stunning. Style aficionados might want to look elsewhere.
Where the R700 excels is with its keyboard. It's phenomenally comfortable to type on, with large, well-spaced keys that have just the right amout of travel and spring. It even has the luxury of a separate numerical keypad and F function keys that are arranged in evenly-spaced banks of four. Basically, it's as close to a desktop keyboard as we've encountered on a mobile machine. The only drawback is that the Fn key at the bottom left corner of the keyboard is positioned to the left of the Ctrl key. This is just plain wrong.
Arrangement of the ports on the R700 is interesting. There are two USB ports at the rear, which are ideal for connecting semi-permanent peripherals like a printer without cable clutter, and another two ports -- one on the right and one of the left -- that are perfect for hooking up a USB memory key or anything else you may require. As these remaining two ports aren't sat side by side, it means you can connect bulbous USB peripherals without them getting in the way of each other.
The Samsung R700 is mostly based on mid-range components. We don't mean this disrespectfully -- its Intel Core 2 Duo T8100 CPU -- hence the name -- is clocked at 2.1GHz, and hails from the Intel Penryn family of CPUs. Previous Samsung R700s, for reference, used a 1.6GHz Santa Rosa part, making them noticeably slower. You'll get 2GB of DDR memory supplied and that's enough to run the operating system and the vast majority of applications comfortably.
Storage is just on the right side of okay, thanks to a 250GB hard drive. It's not a fantastic amount, particularly for a machine that's designed to be the hub of all multimedia action in the home, but you can get around 300 average-sized DivX movies on the laptop and add separate storage via USB should the need arise. DVD playback is possible with the -- you guessed it -- DVD drive, which doubles as a writer for making your own DVD flicks or backing up to blank discs. Interestingly, the drive is LightScribe-capable, meaning you can flip the discs over and laser-etch designs on the label.
A Nvidia GeForce 8400M GS card has been given the nod to handle graphics. It does the job just fine in everyday tasks like movie playback, image manipulation and the like, and can run some 3D games. Check the minimum requirements for your favourite title to see whether the R700 is capable of running it -- chances are it can, albeit at quite a low resolution and with detail levels set to minimum.
Speaking of resolution, the 17-inch display pumps out 1,440x900 pixels, which is low, considering the 17-inch screens on laptops like Asus' M70 fling out 1,900x1,200 pixels. The upshot with the R700 is that everything looks quite large so those with poor eyesight needn't squint, but there's not a lot of space to manoeuvre your application windows. Aside from that, the quality of the display is very good -- as you might expect from a Samsung.
The R700 has all the usual Wi-Fi gubbins, including a wireless adaptor that supports 802.11b/g. You also get a Gigabit Ethernet adaptor, a year-long warranty and a copy of Windows Vista Home Premium edition.
We'd mark the R700 as above-average in its performance, but only just. Its Penryn-based CPU and 2GB of RAM guided it to a PCMark score of 4,930, which really isn't bad considering the 2.4GHz-equipped Dell XPS M1730 racked up 5,232. As a result, the R700 should cope admirably with pretty much anything thrown at it.
Graphics performance was a little less impressive. The laptop only managed 1,943 in 3DMark 2006, which is average by today's standards. If the R700 was a car, it would be something like a Ford Mondeo -- fast, but not fast enough to really stir your loins. Expect it to run most games, but without all the fancy effects switched on. In comparison, the Dell XPS M1730 scored 5,830 in the same test.
Battery life gets marks even further down the scale, but it is a 17-inch laptop afterall. It stayed alive for 1 hour 43 minutes in our intensive Battery Eater test, and for approximately two hours during anecdotal testing. It's nothing to really write home about, but that's because you'll be at home anyway -- we can't see many people taking the R700 on the road.
The R700 isn't the most exciting laptop in the world, but it certainly gets on with everything you ask of it. It is well-built, has a good keyboard, and ultimately proves fantastic value for money. Laptops like the Asus M70 are better equipped, but for those on a budget, you really can't argue with this particular Samsung.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday