Samsung R580 notebook
Say what you like about Apple, without the Cupertino company we'd probably still have been using beige computers until that other style-conscious company, Sony, entered the fray.
But thanks to the greater attention paid to design these days, we're rewarded with laptops like this distinctly snazzy model from Samsung. It won't suit everyone, but it's certainly eye-catching, using the same semi-transparent red patterned plastic on its lid that Samsung has pioneered on many of its tellies and the Jet mobile phone. It looks good, with its bold Samsung white logo sitting off-centre and its sculpted edges. The makers claim it's a durable, scratch-resistant finish, which we're inclined to believe, even if it does show finger marks and smudges pretty easily.
Less successful is the way the machine is weighted. Stick your thumb under the lip to open the laptop and you'll find you need to hold the lower part of the case down with your other hand to stop the whole thing tipping up. This is a shame, but once you've lifted the lid, things get better. The same subtle swirly pattern covers the entire surface. Well, not the keys, obviously, or you'd never see what you were typing, but including the mouse rocker button. Not every manufacturer of colour-chassis laptops includes the mouse buttons and it looks a lot better here. There are other cute details like the big Pocket-lint symbol, or power switch as we used to call it, in the top right corner.
The touchpad blends in pretty easily, but is slightly more matte than the glossy surround. And to make sure you can find it, there is a tiny blue light at each corner, which isn't as tacky as it sounds. The lights are discreet and only stay on for a matter of seconds after you've finished using the touchpad which, by the way, has the multi-touch feature that makes it easy to scroll through a document by swiping two fingers up, down or across the pad.
This laptop has a 15.6-inch screen, a curious in-between size if you ask me. It's certainly big enough for desktop use, but if you're not going to move it around much, you might prefer a bigger display still. On the other hand, it's just too big and heavy to be comfortably carted about a lot. The glam styling may make you feel it's worth the lug. The size does mean there's room for an extended keyboard, which you'll be glad of when you're using a spreadsheet.
Those plentiful keys are well-spaced and well-sprung, though decent rather than outstanding for extended typing.
Speed is great, thanks to the 2.13GHz Intel Core i3-330M processor which launches and runs programs very happily and is good enough for gaming, too, not least thanks to the Nvidia GeForce N11P-GE graphics card with 512MB is dedicated graphics memory and 4GB of RAM. And you won't run out of space too quickly either - the hard drive is capacious enough at 500GB to please the most demanding user.
Mind you, you'll need to angle the screen just right before you start. The widescreen glossy model is highly reflective and while the LED-backlit picture is perfectly adequate, it won't blow your ocular socks off, with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
And Samsung didn't stint on connectivity, either, including the now commonplace HDMI out socket and four USB connections including eSATA and a chargeable socket to refuel your phone or other gizmo, without having the computer on. Plus VGA and the other usual suspects.
Sound is decidedly average, even if the little speaker grilles look neat with their chrome central bar. Sound is probably the weakest link, though, in what is a stylish, effective and speedy machine. What's more, it's very good value.
So you want a laptop you can show off, that has a classy and attractive look to it? But you don't want to sacrifice power or pay over the odds? Look no further. Samsung's hefty machine may not be feather-light, but it's solid, efficient and worth its asking price.