In a world full of laptops made from the latest metal to fall from earth, and with a corresponding price, it's not surprising a large amount of people opt for the solid, budget machines.
There are some great machines in this area, and some real clangers too. Cutting materials and costs to a bearable point often seems badly judged in some cases. However, the 17.3inch RV720 by Samsung seems to get the mix fairly spot on. Costing just over the £550 mark, the Sammy is competitive and when you consider its using iCore technology, it really hits you the great value this machine is. Obviously it doesn't have the portability of some laptops, though at 2.7KG for a 17inch machine it's not monstrously weighty.
It's a plastic chassis, as you'd expect from a laptop of this price point and though it's a little plain, there are some quirks to break up the matte silver. The ridged black strip at the back is nice to hold and gives an impression of quality. And, it's obvious Samsung has steered well away from cheap plastics and the glossy, fingerprint loving materials of contemporaries, ensuring the RV720 provides that little bit more.
At 2.6kg it's around what's expected for a machine like this, though build quality is nice and our only slight qualm is the lid flexes slightly, though we've often seen that on more expensive machines. The tapered edges are a nice addition and the isolated keyboard a notable joy to use considering the price.
The glossy plastic surrounded keyboard offers a good solid experience and the round keys are isolated, and though we found the layout took a little getting used we were quite pleased. One qualm we did have, albeit small was the size of the trackpad, as opposed to the 17.3inch screen - a larger area might have been more conducive to a single swipe moving the whole way across the display. Saying that, the mouse area is the right side of smooth, with the tiniest incline of grip. Its buttons however are chrome finished and pick up dirt and fingerprints like its no-one's business, requiring them to be cleaned more often than the screen.
Students and those who want a machine for watching movies at a low price will find the relationship between the i3 chip and the nice spacious 17.3 inch display to be the perfect compromise. Mixing power, a low cost and a large and also crisp, bright screen makes for many happy hours of viewing. It's also the perfect size for working on a couple of documents at once.
The RV720s display offers a lot and it was very vivid, with great colour accuracy and dynamic imaging. At 1600x900 its not HD, but is all the same admirable for the price point. We found it a little bit glossy and so, limited for viewing outdoors, but for late night sessions with David Attenborough via BBC's iPlayer and watching some movies at weekends it's hard to beat at the price point.
Audio is reasonable and though it's fine for everyday tasks, you'd be advised to use headphones for anything too exciting. Of course the Samsung includes a HD camera for video calls, which were reported as average by those on the other end of the tin can on a string. So, how does it cope with more taxing functions?
The Samsung rig is all about the Intel i3 2310m chip underneath its big chassis. Though the lowest of the Sandy Bridge series, it's an admirable 2.1GHz processor with 4GB of RAM. Though the i3 doesn't offer the TurboBoost functionality of its bigger brothers - Messrs i5 and i7 - it's still worlds ahead of previous generations.
Our PerformanceTest 7.0 score of 1040.7 is as expected for an i3 processor of this size, the smaller Samsung RV520 we tested, which had 6GB of RAM hit 1055 on the same test. We can tell you that the device is capable of performing everyday tasks, as well as some multitasking. Though, as it doesn't have its own separate graphics processor and uses Intel 3000 Graphics, which are part of the aforementioned processor, graphics tests showed the RV720 to be a little uninspiring.
Our 3DMark06 Tests scored it a pretty meagre 2827 points. In layman's terms this means its fine for some older games, but anything of the modern variety will see it grind, stutter and near stop - that said at this price point, such power is as common as flying pigs. However, it's a great machine for most everyday tasks and has plenty of storage space, via the 640GB HDD.
The connection options do show up the RV720s budget origins and with 3USB 2.0s, and no sign of a third generation connection you get the impression, Samsung couldn't stretch the purse strings much more. However, it still has a Gigabyte Ethernet connection, HDMI, VGA, a 4in 1 card reader and a DVD drive - so it's not exactly Spartan.
Battery power was good considering the size of the screen and the device scored 4.5 hours in light use and 158mins in our Battery Eater test.
The RV720 has some minor irks, but good build quality, an unyielding display and an overall rock-solid performance steal the day, ensuring the RV720 is a bargain. So, if you're looking for a desktop replacement for everyday tasks and some office work on a budget, this could well be the machine for you.
35.2 x 420 x 275.1mm cm
Intel Graphics HD 3000