Samsung RF511

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 Samsung RF511

The Samsung RF511 is a mid-range laptop which offers solid yet unspectacular performance, at a less than inspiring price. With so many great laptop bargains on the market this year boasting new Intel chips, we reckon that Samsung has missed the mark with this middle-of-the-road outing.

With its muted grey metal trim around the keyboard and austere black-on-silver keys, the kind of room which would suit Samsung’s RF511 will have black leather couches and smoked glass tables. It’s a world away from the designer minimalism of something like the Asus Zenbook and a design that will repel as many as it attracts.

But once you look at the glossy baked plastic lid, you begin to wonder who exactly the RF511 is aimed at. Is it a workhorse machine for open plan offices? Or something that could be a desktop replacement for the family home? We’re just not sure – and the problem is that Samsung doesn’t seem to have the answer, either.

If you’re shopping around, there are two versions of the RF511 available: one has a discrete graphics processor supplied by Nvidia for extra gaming power; the other relies on Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 GPU that’s built into a Sandy Bridge chip. This is the latter incarnation, meaning that the latest games are going to be beyond your aspirations.

Like the Packard Bell TS13HR, you’ll be able to get some older games running at a playable rate, but forget your secret ambition to be a soldier in Battlefield 3 if you choose to arm yourself with the RF511. Far Cry 2 runs fairly well on it, though.

Samsung build

So, if it’s not extra games performance that Samsung is offering punters, how does it distinguish itself from the almost £180 cheaper Packard Bell TS13HR? For the extra outlay here you get a Core i5 processor (rather than the Core i3 in the Packard Bell) and an extra 250GB of hard drive space.

It’s not much lighter, though, and the battery life isn’t any better if you’re running video or doing anything more challenging than browsing the web.

We can report, however, that the RF511’s screen is an improvement over the TS13HR. The contrast levels are even better for richer colours all round, but it’s not that much better. Certainly not £150 so.

Limited benefit

So what about those differences between the Core i5 and Core i3? With the former, you get Hyper Threading and Intel’s Turbo Boost technology. That’s reflected in the benchmarks, but they don’t have as much real world benefit as you might imagine – certainly not unless you’re encoding a lot of video or doing the kinds of high intensity workloads that this laptop really isn’t otherwise designed for.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 168 minutes
Cinebench: 9960
3DMark 2006: 4740

As far as using the the RF511 or the TS13HR for photo editing, watching videos, surfing the web and office suites, there’s not a huge performance advantage to be gained by spending the extra money.

What you do get for the extra money is a lot of bundled software. Unfortunately, most of this borders on the intrusive rather than the genuinely useful. Internet security pop-ups and notifications about Wi-Fi also have a habit of knocking out other running applications. If you’re after a no-frillls 15-incher, there’s little reason to buy the RF511 over the cheaper TS13HR.

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Review: Samsung RV720

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With its 17.3-inch screen, the Samsung RV720 is a large laptop. It isn’t quite the chunkiest, with a surprisingly slim body considering the girth, but at 2.8kg it is pretty heavy.

While it can feasibly be carried around if needed, it works much better as a desktop replacement machine, especially given the mediocre battery life. For a family machine that will sit on your desk at home, this is a great option.

We loved the half-metallic, half-gloss design. The brushed aluminium palmrests are resistant to fingerprints and smudges and also reassuringly solid. We pushed and prodded the laptop as much as we dared and found no weak points.

Like most of the new laptops around, one of Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors provides excellent performance. It’s the same model as found in the Acer Aspire 5750G, but while the Acer has a mammoth 6GB of memory, this Samsung opts for a more modest 4GB.

The difference in our benchmark tests was minimal, however. Only the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E520 and Medion Akoya E6221 were significantly more powerful with their beefy Core i5 processors.

We found we could run all kinds of applications at once with no significant impact on performance. Whether you enjoy catching up with friends on social networking sites, watching the latest films in high definition (HD), or touching up your holiday snaps, this laptop can handle it.

However, the basic integrated graphics means that you’re limited when it comes to complex multimedia tasks. For instance, while you can play older games with high detail levels and get a smooth frame-rate, the latest titles will stutter and crawl. Gamers are better off with the Acer 5750G or Lenovo ThinkPad E520.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 158 minutes
Cinebench: 7262
3DMark 2006: 3267

Movie lovers will rejoice, however, at the large and crisp 17.3-inch widescreen display. Photos and films look fantastic on the glossy panel, with rich colours and pleasing brightness levels.

Audio is also acceptable, although music and sound does distort occasionally on top volume. As with most laptops, you’re better off with an external pair of speakers or a set of headphones.

Excellent keyboard

Samsung rv720

If you spend large amounts of time emailing friends, you’ll need a comfortable keyboard. Thankfully, the Samsung’s board has a lot of space to work with, thanks to the wide chassis. Keys are well spaced, using the popular isolation style. This means that each key protrudes through its own individual hole in the frame, with the resulting gaps between them meaning you’re less likely to miss-hit keys. This is also one of the firmest boards in this group.

Like the Acer and Medion, a generous 640GB of storage gives you plenty of space to hold your files, software and media such as songs and photos.

VGA and HDMI ports can be used to connect external monitors and televisions, if the screen isn’t quite big enough to satisfy you, while an SD card reader is a quick and easy way of accessing your photos and other data from your mobile devices.

You also get built-in Bluetooth, which can be used to connect compatible headsets or transfer data with other devices.

If you’ve been hunting for a desktop replacement machine to entertain you and your family at home, the Samsung RV720 is well worth considering. The excellent performance and crisp, colourful 17.3-inch screen are highlights, although the lack of dedicated graphics is a shame.

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