When we reviewed the Samsung R730, we were impressed by its £500 price tag and stylish red lid. But we were disappointed by its lack of power and the fact that the lovely red finish didn't extend to the laptop's interior. Now that we have our hands on the 17.3-inch Samsung R780, we're pleased to report that, for around £250 more, you can bag yourself an Intel Core i5 CPU, Blu-ray drive and a glossy red finish both inside and out. But are those features worth the extra moolah?
At around 411 by 40 by 273mm, the R780 is a fairly substantial laptop, but, on the plus side, its bulky dimensions mean there's loads of extra space for that lovely glossy red finish to cover. This deep red covers not only the R780's lid, but also stretches around the keyboard and goes right up to the hinge. It's a consistency of style we see in precious few machines, and Samsung deserves praise for creating a laptop that looks good both inside and out. Pretty much everything that's not red is an understated matte black.
We like other details of the R780's interior too, such as its the chrome-accented power button, and the four tiny, blue LEDs that light up the corners of the R780's trackpad whenever you're using it.
The R780's port array is pretty bog-standard, with VGA and HDMI out, three USB ports, an additional eSATA/USB port, an Ethernet jack, a multi-format card reader, and 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a microphone.
The trackpad is impressively large and smooth, and the keyboard is big, comfortable and sensibly laid out, with isolated keys. Typing on it for extended periods of time won't cause your fingers to warp permanently into unnatural shapes.
This machine runs Windows 7 Home Premium, and sports a 500GB hard drive to handle your storage needs. That's a decent storage capacity for the price, and you'd have to be a real download fiend to burn through that kind of space in a hurry.
Bright and breezy
We like the 17.3-inch LED display, which offers a decent maximum resolution of 1,600x900 pixels. More impressive than the resolution, however, is the brightness of this display. It's sufficiently bright to cancel out most of the reflections that appear on the very glossy screen. Colours look vibrant, and the screen also boasts a wide horizontal and vertical viewing angle, so the whole family can crowd around to check out the humiliating Facebook photos you've been tagged in.
The R780 offers impressive multimedia performance, thanks to some pretty hulking hardware, including a dual-core, 2.26GHz Intel Core i5-430M CPU, 4GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GT 330M GPU. That's pretty decent hardware for a machine of this price.
Its components enabled the R780 to bring home an impressive score of 7,017 in the PCMark05 benchmark test, and an equally hefty 7,034 when we ran 3DMark06, which tests a PC's ability to chuck polygons around. With scores like these, we weren't surprised to find the R780 handing high-definition content without so much as a flicker, and we reckon the odd spot of gaming wouldn't be out of the question either, so long as you're not playing the latest, cutting-edge games.
As we'd expect of a laptop intended primarily for multimedia use, the R780's battery life is rubbish. When we ran Battery Eater's Classic test, which runs the laptop's CPU at full tilt until the battery's exhausted, the R780 held out for just 1 hour and 16 minutes.
There's much to like about the Samsung R780. It offers a bright, high-quality screen, a good level of usability, solid performance, and great value for money. It's a shame about its rubbish battery life, but, if you're in the market for a multimedia machine that won't break the bank, the R780 will serve you well.
If you have an extra £150 to burn and fancy really ramping up the performance, take a gander at the Toshiba Satellite A660-15T. If you want to find a slightly cheaper machine, Samsung is selling the R780 with a weaker Intel Core i3-330M CPU for around £650, but you'll probably have to lose the Blu-ray drive if you opt for this configuration and settle for a DVD rewritable drive instead.
Edited by Charles Kloet