Samsung is having a merry old time of it at the moment, offering some great laptops, some of the best smart phones on the market and one stonking tablet. Now we have the RF710, a 17.3-inch laptop that aims to deliver a powerful computing punch. But, at around £1,100, is our configuration, the RF710-S03UK, muscular enough to justify its purchase?
Paint it black
In terms of design, the RF710 doesn't display a whole load of creativity. The lid is plain black, apart from a silver Samsung logo, as is the inside, with just a dash of silver around the keyboard. The laptop looks fine, but it won't turn any heads.
The RF710 feels weighty, although, at 2.9kg, it's not the heaviest laptop of this size that we've ever come across. Still, that kind of weight and its bulky dimensions (it measures 416 by 276 by 38mm) mean this laptop isn't really suitable for lugging around. Rather, it's destined to squat on your desk, or underneath your telly, and chew through heavy processing tasks like gaming or video editing.
Your fellow commuters certainly won't thank you for busting out this behemoth on the train. But you might not mind -- with the lid up, the RF710 is so tall you'll be completely hidden, and protected from the wilting glares of other travellers.
The laptop is pleasing usable, thanks to a keyboard with isolated keys that makes typing at speed really comfortable. The trackpad on this bad boy is pretty big too, and the click buttons are pleasantly sensitive, so you shouldn't find your thumb cramping up too horribly when using the RF710 for extended periods of time.
Sturdy as she goes
It might be big enough to sink a ship, but the RF710 feels sturdy. We didn't notice any creaking or flex, and the whole machine feels really robust. It certainly doesn't feel like it's going to fall apart in your mitts.
The 17.3-inch display has a maximum resolution of 1,600x900 pixels, which is about standard. It's clear enough to render Web pages and pictures really sharply, and bright enough to make movies, photos and games look good. It's not the brightest panel we've seen, though, and it doesn't look as vivid as the displays on some other Samsung laptops that have passed under the CNET UK microscope in recent months. If a really spectacular panel matters to you -- and it probably should, given how many hours you're going to spend gazing at it -- that's something to bear in mind.
The laptop's connectivity is comprehensive, with VGA and HDMI outputs, an Ethernet jack, two USB ports and 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a mic down the left side. There's a multi-format card reader on the front, a Blu-ray drive and USB 3.0 port on the right, and one more USB 3.0 port positioned around the back. There's a webcam just above the screen too, for Skyping your friends and giving them video tours around your new flat.
Under the bonnet
The best part of the RF710-S03UK is under the hood, though. A quad-core, 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-720QM CPU runs the show, and that's a really substantial processor. Backed up by 6GB of DDR3 RAM, with an Nvidia GeForce 330M graphics card chucked in for good measure, we were excited to see what this laptop could do in our rigorous benchmark tests.
Indeed, its performance was impressive. In the PCMark05 benchmark test, the RF710-S03UK achieved a score of 6,506. In 3DMark06, it scored 7,229. Those are good scores, and mean this laptop can handle high-definition video, and a fair bit of gaming. It will also be able to multitask seven shades of sugar out of just about any programs you're running.
But we've seen other machines do more for less money. The Samsung RF510, for instance, scored higher in both tests, and is a few hundred quid cheaper. It's smaller, though, as is the Medion Erazer X6811, which performed astronomically well in our benchmark tests, and will set you back less than a grand. All things considered then, the RF710-S03UK offers solid performance and reasonable value for money, but it didn't blow us away.
When we tested the RF710-S03UK in the Battery Eater Classic test, which continuously spins a laptop's CPU at 100 per cent and times how long it takes for the battery to die, this monster lasted just 1 hour and 2 minutes. That's unimpressive, but this isn't really a portable laptop anyway.
The RF710-S03UK runs Windows 7 Home Premium, and packs a hearty 1TB of storage, which will let you store tonnes of media files.
The Samsung RF710-S03UK's design is functional but not particularly distinctive, while the laptop is powerful but not astonishingly so for the price. Overall, then, it's a decent all-rounder that's worth a look if you're after a powerful desktop replacement. But, if it's raw computational grunt you're hankering for, check out the Medion Erazer X6811 before parting with your cash.
Edited by Charles Kloet