If we had a pound for every time a manufacturer tried to spice up its range by spraying a laptop lid red, we'd have about £73. Actually, we'd have £74 now that Samsung's released the R730. This device also features a 17.3-inch display, a dual-core Intel Pentium T4300 CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive, for a very reasonable £500 or thereabouts.
Red, red, whine
The red lid on the R730 is pleasant to look at. Rather than sporting a uniform colour all over, the top and bottom areas appear darker than the centre.
Unfortunately, the interior of the laptop doesn't sport the same design. Most of it is finished in a fairly plain, stainless steel effect, with a strip of glossy blue thrown in above the keyboard. We're no design experts, but the interior really isn't consistent with the exterior.
Size isn't everything
The R730 is a very large laptop. It measures a whopping 411 by 40 by 273mm, and weighs 2.8kg, so it doesn't lend itself very well to being carried long distances.
Sadly, despite its corpulence, the R730 doesn't offer a wealth of ports. It has D-Sub and HDMI video outputs, Ethernet, mic and headphone jacks, and just three USB ports. Two of the USB ports sit so closely together that even a moderately fat USB device can obscure both.
The R730 makes for a fairly good multimedia machine. Its 320GB hard drive is on the small size for a machine of this type, but it has an integrated DVD drive and a large, 17.3-inch display.
The screen is by no means perfect. It has a 1,600x900-pixel resolution, rather than a 'Full HD' 1080p resolution, and it's slightly too glossy and reflective for our tastes, but its ample size makes it very well suited to movie playback.
The R730's keyboard is fantastic, although it doesn't have the uber-trendy isolated-keys design. Each key is large and raised slightly in the centre, making it that much easier to type on.
The R730 has a numerical keypad positioned to the right of the keyboard, which could come in very handy for anyone whose work involves entering numbers into a spreadsheet, or even for playing games. The mouse trackpad is pretty decent, too, with multi-touch support allowing you to make pinching and stretching gestures with your fingers to zoom in and out, and vertical swiping gestures to scroll up and down.
No guts, no glory
The R730's internal specification isn't particularly spectacular -- there's none of that new-fangled Core i-series malarkey here. Inside, it uses an old-school Pentium T4300 CPU. Despite its relatively decent 2.1GHz clock speed and dual-core architecture, as well as the fact it's paired with 4GB of DDR3 memory, it makes do with just 1MB of level 2 cache, so it can't really compete with the latest CPUs when asked to handle demanding tasks such as editing high-definition videos. It racked up a fairly average PCMark05 benchmark score of 4,310.
The R730 isn't particularly well suited to gaming, either. It uses an Intel GMA 4500M integrated graphics chip, which becomes a wheezing, stuttering wreck whenever it's shown anything that resembles a polygon. It'll do all the boring day-to-day visual stuff, run Flash games okay, and even allow you to indulge in HD movie playback, but anything more intensive is pretty much out of the question.
We didn't expect much in the way of battery life from the R730, and we didn't get it. It lasted 1 hour and 26 minutes in Battery Eater's Classic test, which runs the CPU at full speed until the battery is exhausted, in order to show the worst-case scenario for battery life. In the less intensive Battery Eater Reader's test, designed to give a best-case scenario for battery life, the R730 lasted 2 hours and 38 minutes.
The Samsung R730 isn't particularly fast or well equipped, but it's a great-looking laptop that's well suited to people on a budget.
Edited by Charles Kloet