Handling, design and build: nice finish and good ease of use
Colourful! This is the first adjective that comes to mind when you discover the Samsung R780. Its shell is in dark red with some black parts. A nice change from the standard black and grey. The main problem with this red plastic comes from the smooth, glossy coating that picks up finger marks and dust all too easily. However, these marks are less obvious than on glossy black and Samsung has done well to retain matte plastic for the area surrounding the screen.
The finish is very good and overall the laptop is nice and robust, including the screen hinges.
The keyboard has separated, nicely responsive keys (15 x 15 mm). Typing is supple, quiet and rapid. There's a full number pad, with keys the same size as letters on the keyboard. The available space is particularly well-used. The only thing is there's a lack of multimedia buttons, which are however not indispensable (you'll be able to use shortcuts with the "Fn" key). A backlit keyboard would also have been a plus on such a machine.
The multitouch touchpad is perfectly set into the shell. It's only noticable by small blue diodes on either side, as well as a fine matte coating that gives a good glide. Its good size (90 x 47 mm) and its wide format are well adapted to the screen, although we're still far from the sort of ease of use you get with the touchpads you get on the MacBook Pros for example. Precision could be improved and the Samsung R730 does better here. The click pad responds well and is made with the same glossy red plastic used on the shell.
The webcam is good enough. Although colours are consistent overall, note that there is a tendency towards overexposure of light areas. The image could be sharper and there are some rather noisy areas.
Overall, this laptop is quiet You can make out a slight fan noise when processing office documents and this becomes a little more noticeable when carrying out more demanding processing tasks (photo work, video encoding/editing). It never gets too loud however, which is obviously a good thing.
Connectivity is relatively extensive with 4 USB 2.0 ports, one of which is an e-SATA combo, an HDMI, a VGA, an RJ45 (Gigabit Ethernet), a 3-in-1 memory card reader, a microphone and a headphone socket. Wi-Fi b/g/n is also included but there's unfortunately no Bluetooth.
Under the PC, 2 panels give acces to the RAM and hard drive, while the DVD burner can be easily removed.
|Red hood with Samsung logo and motif
||DVD burner and 2 USB 2.0 ports
|Antitheft, power, VGA, RJ45, HDMI, USB 2.0/e-SATA, USB 2.0, mic, headphones, ExpressCard
||Touchpad, clicks and indicators
Processing: an allrounder
Windows 7 index: 5,9. Details: CPU 6.4 - Memory 7.1 - Graphics 6.5 - Gaming graphics 6.5 - Main hard drive 5.9.
Equipped with a dual-core Intel Core i5-430M, the R780 is at ease with office documents and multimedia tasks alike (photo and video). It scores 102 on our index in our test protocol! which is on a par with our reference machine (100 on the index), the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400).
With Windows 7 Family Premium (32-bit - we would have liked a 64-bit version that could correctly use 4 GB of RAM), this laptop takes 36 seconds to load the Windows desktop and another 15 seconds to finish start-up of the main software (antivirus uninstalled). It shuts down in 10 seconds.
The processor can handle HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) on its own. We nevertheless recommend you to use the excellent video decoding capacities of the dedicated NVIDIA graphics card as this will free up the processor for other important tasks.
3D gaming: several games with low graphics settings
The NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M graphics card is a mid-range model. Although performance is limited, it can handle some recent games with fairly good fluidity. The most demanding games such as Crysis function at low graphics settings if you remain at native resolution (1600 x 900). The great majority of other games will run at mid-level settings or even high settings (Half-Life 2 and other games from Valve), which is pretty good.
Audio: headphones or nothing
In spite of the size of this computer (there's plenty of space for good speakers) the audio quality is poor. The dry sound is without depth and saturates very fast if you push the volume high. The "SRS Sound" software technology only worsens the sound, in particular if you're using the headphones out. This out is moreover the only thing that stops us from downgrading audio by a further star. There's virtually no hiss and the sound is relatively clean. The lack of S/PDIF out is a shame.
Mobility, battery life: don't stray too far from a mains plug
The 6 cell 400 mAh battery is too weak for this configuration. It gives just two hours of usage (screen at 100 cd/m², Wi-Fi deactivated and headphones plugged in), which is obviously insufficient if you're using it on the road. Don't stray too far from the mains plug.
Of course, with its 17.3 inch screen, the R780 isn't in any case adapted for real portable usage. In spite of being reasonably light (2.84 Kg) for the category, carrying such a model around will always be a bit of a drag. The mains charger isn't enormous but it isn't any smaller than average either.