If you're after a big-screen laptop that's suitable for family use at home, Samsung's RC710 may appeal. Our version of this 17.3-inch machine will set you back around £750, but does it have the chops to keep the whole family entertained?
Quite the heifer
Larger laptops like this one never really look all that elegant, but, even taking that into account, the RC710 isn't what we'd describe as a looker. The lid feels glossy to the touch, but has a matte black finish, with a carbon-fibre-style strip towards the bottom near the screen hinge. Open up the lid and you're met with a pretty boring bluish-grey colour scheme, with none of the slick chrome highlighting you'll find on many of the RC710's rivals.
Measuring a hefty 411 by 40 by 273mm and weighing in at just shy of a bone-crushing 3kg, this laptop is only really portable in the sense that you can lug it from room to room at home. You're certainly not going to want to carry it around with you if you're away on a business trip or off on holiday.
As with most of today's laptops, the RC710 uses a keyboard with isolated keys. The keys are quite large and there's a generous amount of space between them. This, combined with their fast action, makes them very quick and comfortable for touch typing. There's a numerical keypad on the right-hand side, which may come in handy if you're the type that often has to enter figures into spreadsheets.
The large and wide trackpad is excellent, and it support multi-touch gestures, so you can pinch your fingers together to zoom into pictures and websites.
The screen's resolution doesn't stretch all the way to 1080p, stopping short at 1,600x900 pixels. As a result, when you play HD movies via the Blu-ray drive, you don't get to see all the detail present in the 1080p images. Nevertheless, the display is very bright, and its glossy coating really does help colours to leap out. It's not as reflective as many other glossy displays we've used either.
The RC710 isn't hugely impressive when it comes to the range of ports on offer. It has four USB ports but they're all USB 2.0, whereas many other large laptops now offer at least one USB 3.0 port, along with a combined USB and eSATA socket. There's also no ExpressCard slot, but at least Samsung has included an HDMI output alongside the usual VGA socket. The HDMI port makes it easy to connect the laptop to a hi-def TV, as both audio and video are carried over the same cable.
The RC710 does at least offer Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 support. Its 640GB hard drive offers plenty of space for storing media files, such as photos and videos, too.
Instead of opting for one of Intel's newer Sandy Bridge processors, Samsung has decided to use an older Core i5-480M processor in this laptop. This dual-core chip, clocked at 2.66GHz, is still reasonably fast, though. Combined with 6GB of RAM, it managed to post a score of 5,767 in the PCMark05 benchmark test. That's more than fast enough to deal with most day-to-day applications, as well as take care of more demanding stuff, like editing photos and high-definition videos.
On the graphics front, the RC710 makes use of an Nvidia GeForce 315M chip. This can be switched off to save power, with the laptop then relying on integrated Intel HD graphics. The 315M only managed to post a score of 4,174 in 3DMark06, so it definitely wouldn't be our first choice as a gaming laptop, although it will run older games at decent frame rates.
Given the sheer size of this laptop, it's unlikely to be used on the go, which is just as well, as its battery performance is pretty poor. The big screen and pacey processor clearly drain plenty of power, as the RC710 only managed to last for 56 minutes in the extremely intensive Battery Eater Classic test before it needed recharging. Most entertainment laptops manage to break the 1 hour mark before giving up the ghost.
The Samsung RC710 is pretty average. It offers a good screen and keyboard, and its processor is quite fast. But its design is boring and its gaming performance is fairly poor, which limits its appeal as an all-round entertainment machine.
Edited by Charles Kloet