Considering the RF711-S01 is a potential media powerhouse, the quality of its 17.3in, 1,600 x 900 screen is an important factor. Unfortunately, while there are no major complaints, it doesn't quite hold up well enough compared to the machine's specifications and ergonomics.
While there is no backlight bleed, backlighting is slightly uneven and isn't helped by (admittedly very mild) contrast shift from nearly every angle. Horizontal viewing angles are otherwise good but vertical ones are as poor as ever, making it important to tilt the screen just right to get the best viewing experience. It's also a good idea to avoid strong ambient light due to the screen's glossy finish.
Blacks are deep and dark detailing is adequate, though the RF711's display couldn't distinguish between the three darkest shades in our test, meaning you might lose out on subtle details in gloomy movies and games. It's a little easier to discern subtle whites, but that's not an ideal compromise. There's no banding and sharpness is generally excellent, but we did spot noticeable dithering.
We've seen better on many premium multimedia laptops, and after the superb showing of Samsung's Series 9 900X3A, we must admit our hopes were high. However, many consumers will still consider the RF711's visual performance perfectly acceptable.
It's pretty much the same story with the speakers. Though they manage quite a bit of volume, distortion creeps in quickly. Even when this is eliminated, there's a subtle lack of clarity, detail and punch that makes a set of headphones (like the affordable MEElectronics HT-21) or external speakers a definite recommendation here.
When it comes to battery life, the RF711 doesn't stand out either. Its 4,400mAh/48Wh battery only lasted two hours and nine minutes in Mobilemark's non-intensive Productivity test – and that's with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned off. Playing a DVD we only achieved just over an hour and a half, though that was with screen brightness turned up full.
Only the HP Envy 17 3D fared worse out of our recently reviewed 17.3in laptops, and that machine used an older, more power hungry CPU. Even then, the Dell XPS 17 shows it's still possible to get good battery life using Intel's previous generation internals. Basically, most of the time you'll want to keep Samsung's multimedia monster near a socket.
Value now becomes a pretty important criterion for Samsung. Thankfully, this is where the RF711 shines – if you can live with its average screen, all-right speakers and poor battery life. A similarly-specified XPS 17, for example, would set you back £1,100 – over £250 more. On the other hand, this does get you a better chassis, superior connectivity, a richer audio experience and longer battery life.
Samsung's RF711 is an affordable and stylish multimedia powerhouse that's stuffed with features and connectivity yet is held back by an average screen and speakers, not to mention battery life that can be measured in minutes rather than hours under intensive workloads. However, if you want its quad-core power, don't mind its weaknesses and your budget won't stretch to pricier rivals, it's definitely worth considering.