We liked the look of the 17.3-inch Samsung R720 when it cropped up in Crave back in June, but that was a high-end model with a Blu-ray drive and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4650 GPU. The first model in the new range to arrive for review sits more towards the entry-level end of the spectrum, but, at around just £600, it still promises to be a decent desktop-replacement laptop.
Back to matte black
Samsung clearly knows a thing or two about how to make a good-looking laptop. The R720 is definitely one of the better-looking desktop-replacement machines we've seen. It has the same glossy black lid as the R710, but Samsung has ditched the piano-black interior for a far more practical matte black. Thankfully, the R720 also dispenses with the gaudy red highlight that runs along the front of the R710's wrist rest.
It's not all featureless black on the inside, though. The R720's keyboard is pepped up with a glossy black plastic surround, and a strip of black, anodised brushed aluminium runs above the function keys. One small design frill we particularly like is the blue LED light that outlines the trackpad. The trackpad has a slight lip to separate the touch-sensitive area from the rest of the wrist rest, and the light goes out if the pad isn't touched for a few moments.
The R720 is about the same size as the R710. In other words, it's big. At 2.88kg, it's about 220g lighter, though. The R720's size means that there's room for a large keyboard and separate numeric keypad, and both have full-size keys. The keyboard is rock-solid and very comfortable, and, while the low-profile design means there's no space between the flat keys, the key tops are slightly raised, giving each finger something to aim for.
The 17.3-inch screen has a glossy finish and a 16:9 aspect ratio that's better suited to playing movies than the more usual 16:10. As ever, the trade-off is a reduced vertical resolution, but a 1,600x900-pixel resolution is still decent at this kind of price.
Two tiny speaker grilles in the brushed aluminium strip we mentioned earlier don't bode well for sound quality, but the R720 performs surprisingly well with movies and music. The secret is a third speaker on the underside and, while this is far too small to live up to its 'subwoofer' label, it still fills out the sound well and lets you push the laptop to high volume levels with little audible distortion.
Processor packs a punch
Pentium processors are popular with makers of budget laptops looking to retain the 'Intel Inside' sticker, but they don't have quite the same cachet as Core 2 Duo chips. There's no need to be concerned when it comes to the R720, though. Its 2.1GHz Pentium T4300 processor is dual-core, returning a very respectable PCMark05 benchmark score of 5,190. This is only 182 points behind the score attained by the 2.1GHz Core 2 Duo T6500 in the more expensive, 17-inch Toshiba Satellite L550-113.
Sadly, the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics chipset isn't quite as capable. It could only reach 3,340 in 3DMark06, while the L550-113 scored 4,420. Even so, that's enough for playing older 3D games at medium resolutions and detail settings.
The T4300 CPU does pay a small dividend in terms of power consumption, though. In Battery Eater's intensive Classic test, the R720's battery lasted for as long as the L550-113's, at 1 hour and 30 minutes. In the less punishing Reader's test, it lasted a much improved 4 hours and 20 minutes -- nearly twice as long as the L550-113's battery.
The Samsung R720 is a great-looking desktop-replacement laptop with a good all-round specification. It's not quite in the same league as the similar Toshiba Satellite L550-113, but it's about £100 cheaper and the only real difference is its inferior 3D graphics performance -- something that won't matter to everyone.
Edited by Charles Kloet