Samsung M70 review

18 May 2006

A fascinating concept Notebook with some attractive features, but also some minor flaws

Price when reviewed: 
1,515(£1,780 inc VAT)
4

Depending on how you look at it, the M70 could either be a huge advance in the world of notebook design, or an enormous waste of time. For meetings, it's a traditional laptop. But once you're back at your desk, detach the 19in widescreen from the main unit, slide it into the docking station, and you've got a fully functioning desktop PC.

It's a fiddly process, made worse by the sheer bulk of the screen and chassis, but once you've done it a few times, it's fairly quick. Of slightly more concern is the pair of plastic spacers that clip on to the back of the base, one of which doubles as the antenna for the wireless card. Although they can be housed in the LCD cradle when not in use, it could be easy to lose them when you're in a hurry.

At 435 x 322 x 44mm (WDH), it isn't a great candidate for those on the road: it's too big to fit into even the roomiest laptop bag, and the 4.47kg weight means you won't want to carry it around for too long. Battery life is more encouraging, though, at 1hr 41mins under heavy use and 3hrs 36mins under a lighter load.

Using the M70 in desktop mode is a more pleasant, if imperfect, experience. All the ports are on the side of chassis, so once the monitor and a few peripherals are plugged in, an untidy tangle of wires forms at both sides of the machine. The LCD also requires its own power adapter once detached, which means that the M70 isn't as tightly integrated as we'd have liked. Bizarrely, the LCD clips onto the bottom of the unit, which can be used to elevate the keyboard to a comfortable typing position, and can be flipped down only once the machine is running - try turning it on with them down and it just won't work.

We're slightly disappointed to see a single-cored Pentium M 760 inside, as a Core Duo would have substantially increased its desktop credentials. Nonetheless, the core speed of 2GHz and 1GB of PC4300 RAM will keep most tasks running smoothly, and our application benchmarks returned a respectable overall result of 0.87. Graphics power is provided by Nvidia's GeForce Go 6600. This was designed for games but is now showing its age, and our low-end 3D benchmarks returned averages of 21fps and 19fps in Far Cry and Call of Duty 2 respectively, suggesting that the M70 is best kept for older games at lower resolutions.

These core components are supplemented by a good range of extras. 802.11a/b/g wireless and Gigabit Ethernet are present, while Bluetooth completes the wireless credentials. For wired peripherals, four USB ports and a full-sized FireWire port should be enough for most. Storage-wise, the hard disk is a practical 100GB model, while the DVD writer will write to all formats except DVD-RAM. The TFT stand itself has both DSUB and DVI ports, although the notebook offers only a DSUB output.

Our quibbles are relatively minor, as once it's all set up and running, the M70 offers arguably the best desktop experience you can have with a laptop. The 19in, 1,680 x 1,050 widescreen offers a much higher resolution than comparable standalone products, and the keyboard is a pleasure to use.

The full number pad is a useful addition, as are the quick-start buttons on the side of the unit. Samsung also includes a small remote control for AVStation Premium, a Media Center-like application for photos, music and videos. The panel itself is excellent. Horizontal viewing angles are strong, and colour accuracy impressive - whether or not you like the glossy screen will be a matter of taste, but it does lend graphics a good deal more vibrancy.