At its size — 379.8x255.5x36.7mm — Samsung's R580 is never going to be anything but a desktop replacement. Most desktop replacements figure that if they're going to be bulky, they can get away with being heavy and plain, but the R580 is neither. At 2.6kg it's on the lighter side for its size, and the "Touch Of Colour" finish brings it aesthetically in sync with Samsung's existing TV lines, making this an attractive notebook. The deep red finish looks great on a desk or the largest of laps, although like all gadgets glossy and gleamy, it's also a magnet for fingerprint smudges, which rather spoils the illusion.
The R580 features a full keyboard including number pad. Laptops with number pads tend to have issues cramming in directional keys, often making them very titchy. Samsung's gone down an alternate route here with full-size cursor keys that jut into the space taken by the number pad, sitting directly underneath the 1 key and next to the 0 key. It's nice to have the space, but the layout means if you do a lot of cursor navigation be prepared for the occasional errant 1 or 0 to enter your workflow.
The touch pad on the R580 lights up when you touch it in order to identify where the edges are, as it sits flush with the wrist rest. The surface of the touch pad is rougher than the smooth wrist pad however, so this is more akin to lights for the sake of it. Some people will think it's natty, and others will loathe it.
Samsung offers the R580 in two configurations. There's an entry=level model that uses an Intel Core i3 330M (2.13GHz), but we tested with the higher-end model which utilises an Intel Core i5 520M (2.40GHz) processor. Combine that with 4GB of memory, a 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 330M graphics chip and a 500GB hard drive (albeit only a 5400rpm model) and you've got quite a powerful desktop replacement machine.
The R580's display is a widescreen 15.6-inch glossy LCD, but it rather lets the side down with a surprisingly low 1366x768 resolution. The only way you'd be watching full HD content from this notebook would be to send it out via the integrated HDMI port.
Also included is four USB 2.0 ports — one of which will charge external devices even if the R580 itself is switched off — gigabit Ethernet, a headphone jack, a three-in-one card reader and a single ExpressCard slot. On the wireless front the R580 supports 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1.
On the software side the R580 ships with Windows 7 Home Premium, a smattering of Samsung battery and system management utilities, a 30-day trial of McAfee Security Center and Adobe Acrobat reader.
The R580 works well as a desktop replacement option as long as you've got a desk to accommodate it. Like most larger desktop replacement machines, placing it comfortably on your lap can be a challenging matter, especially as the notebook warms up during use. The keyboard is nicely responsive aside from the aforementioned cursor key issue, something that won't affect every user. From a benchmark perspective, the Core i5 tore through both PCMark05 and 3DMark06 with scores of 7178 and 7450 respectively. For any variety of tasks, including several concurrently, the R580 is more than powerful enough — in one respect.
Most desktop replacement systems aren't built with portability and battery life in mind, and the R580 proved no exception. Running our standard battery run-down test, comprising full-screen DVD playback with screen brightness set at high and all battery-saving measures disabled, the R580's six-cell battery died after two hours and 20 minutes. Our test is designed to give a worst-case scenario, but still this isn't a system that you're going to be able to take too far from any power source.