A large-screen laptop computer that works well as a ‘desktop replacement’
Large laptops tend to be characterised as ‘desktop replacements' - that is, they're designed to sit on a desk and not be moved very much, and used as a replacement for a desktop computer.
The Samsung RC710 S02, with a 17.3in screen, isn't explicitly marketed as a desktop replacement, but it's unlikely to be most people's choice of portable computer. At 3kg and 41cm (16in) across, it is a formidable computer. While you wouldn't want to carry it around, the size allows it to have both fairly high specifications and a reasonable price.
It uses an Intel Core i5-480M processor and has 6GB of memory. The processor is on the slow side, which has an effect on performance – computers running on newer Intel processors have performed substantially faster in our tests. Still, the Samsung is easily powerful enough to complete most common tasks.
The designated speed of the i5-480M processor is 2.67GHz but it is able to ‘turbo boost' when performing more demanding tasks. In our tests the processor ran at over 2.93GHz, a 10 per cent gain in speed, which helped with general performance. Unfortunately, gaming performance wasn't so impressive.
It includes an Nvidia Geforce 315M graphics card, which has 512MB of its own memory, but it didn't perform well when playing recent games. Detail levels will certainly need to be turned down, making this laptop hard to recommend for games enthusiasts. For storage, the 640GB hard disk isn't enormously generous, especially when similar laptops have 1,000GB disks. It has a DVD writer which will read and create all CDs and DVDs and read but not create Blu-ray discs.
The keyboard, however, was excellent. Samsung has clearly put a lot of thought into the design, with each key well spaced from the next, and raised higher away from the main body than on most laptops.
Also, the laptop's generous width allows room for a numeric keypad. The touchpad, while quite small, was also well designed and pleasant to use. Both the keyboard and the touchpad were comfortable with plenty of space to rest the hands when typing or using the touchpad.
Connections were a bit limited for this size of computer: for instance there are four USB sockets, but none use the faster USB 3 standard. It has HDMI and VGA sockets for attaching a flat-screen TV or monitor, a decent webcam, microphone and speakers, and a memory card reader. It connects to wired and wireless networks and Bluetooth devices.
Samsung makes much about Instant Start, which it says brings the laptop out of Sleep mode in seconds. While this is true, it's not much faster than any other laptop and pales in comparison when compared with the Macbook Air, which can be left in Standby for nearly a month and then turned on instantly.
We were particularly impressed with the screen, which had a wide viewing angle, good contrast and excellent picture quality, although the 1600x900 resolution means it can't isn't high enough to display the 1080p Blu-ray movies in full (they get scaled down to fit). Still, high-definition video looked great.
Battery life was so-so: you can expect to get around four hours of usage when surfing the web or doing work in Office, but watching videos will shorten that. In any case, the size and weight will limit its use away from a power socket.
All in all, those who don't need portability will find this a good-value computer.
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