Though the mainstream laptop market still belongs to the 15-16in portable PC, ever more people are looking to replace their ageing desktop machines for around-the-house browsing and multimedia. Since this doesn't emphasise mobility or long periods away from a socket, you would usually look for the largest screen size that's readily available, which tends to be around the 17-18in mark. Samsung's latest entrant into this arena is its RF711, an attractive 17.3in multimedia machine that's filled to the brim with the latest technology and connectivity.
It's important to get the letters right here, as the very similarly-named RV711 offers the same stylish chassis, Intel 'Sandy Bridge' internals and extensive connectivity, but starts you off with a dual-core Core i3-380M, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and Intel's integrated 3000-series graphics - pretty decent for its £473 asking price and perfectly adequate for the vast majority of users, but a budget machine no matter how you turn it.
At nearly double the price, our RF711-S01 review sample isn't quite as wallet-friendly, but does get you a quad-core Core i7-2630QM which runs at 2GHz by default and can clock up to 2.9GHz, with support for Hyper-Threading giving you up to eight virtual cores. That's some serious number-crunching power, and it will have little trouble with HD video encoding and other intense workloads that the RV711 might struggle with.
It's backed by 6GB of memory and a whopping 1TB for storage (actually two 500GB drives spinning at 7,200rpm). We would have preferred to have seen a small SSD boot drive combined with a slower 640GB storage drive, but that would have increased its price.
Driving the RF711-S01's 17.3in, 1,600 x 900 screen is an Nvidia GeForce GT540M graphics card with 1GB of dedicated RAM, which uses Nvidia's Optimus technology to switch between the fast Nvidia graphics card when gaming and the low power Intel integrated graphics to save battery life – essentially you get the best of both worlds. Thanks to its relatively powerful, DirectX 11 discrete graphics, the S01 will serve as a 'lite' gaming machine, unlike its cheaper siblings.
At our regular test settings in Stalker: Call of Pripyat, the GT540 managed an average of around 45 frames per second (fps) whether in DirectX10 or 11, a very decent result. Cranking the resolution up to the screen's native 1,600 x 900 setting and upping details to maximum, this Samsung still managed a playable 30fps.
Given these good results we decided to submit the RF711 to the ultimate torture test with a run of Crysis at high detail on 1,280 x 720, where the laptop just about limped along with a 21.5fps average.
Naturally, Blu-ray playback is also included on this machine, where the Core i3 and Core i5 711 models sport DVD-rewriters instead. Finally, all models carry a HD 720p webcam, Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 3.0.
Physical connectivity is also well catered for. There are two USB 2.0 ports and two of the faster USB 3.0 variety, an SDHC card reader, VGA and HDMI for video, a Gigabit Ethernet port for wired networking and 3.5mm headphone plus microphone jacks. That's pretty much as good as you can expect on a consumer laptop.