Samsung M70

  • Editors' rating
    7.7 Very good

Pros

  • Superb screen, both in terms of size (19in.) and image quality
  • full sized keyboard with separate number pad
  • detachable screen with monitor stand
  • good performance and excellent battery life

Cons

  • Far too large and heavy to carry around on a regular basis

Hardware manufacturers like to claim ‘firsts’ for their products. Sometimes this involves little more than a few millimetres shaved off here, or a few megahertz boosted there. But with the M70, Samsung has come up with a truly intriguing 'first': a desktop replacement notebook with a 19in. screen that's detachable and comes with its own stand.

Design

The notebook itself is vast, as you'd expect given that it accommodates a massive 19in. screen. You certainly won’t want to carry this system any further than from its box to your desk, and perhaps from room to room within the house, or from office to meeting room. For record, the M70 measures 43.5cm wide by 31.4cm deep by 3.84mm high and weighs 4.4kg. Admittedly, you could detach the screen and leave it behind, plugging the body of the system into an available monitor at a remote location. This is practical up to a point, but obviously working when on the move would be out of the question; also, the keyboard section is still pretty large even without the screen -- you won’t get it into an average-sized bag.

Mostly silver with a black base and internal highlights, the Samsung M70 is nothing exceptional to look at apart from its sheer size. However, the advantages of the M70’s bulk become clear when you come to examine the keyboard layout.

There is, of course, plenty of space for a full-sized keyboard. To the right of the main keypad there's a separate number pad with full-sized keys, plus elongated Enter and '+' keys on its right edge, as commonly found on desktop keyboards. To the left of the main keypad sits a column of six buttons: there are two rockers (for adjusting screen brightness and volume control), while the remaining buttons control the AVStation software, either launching its main window or opening it for image viewing, music playback or movie watching. Above the main keypad sits a row of twelve slightly smaller function keys and the Insert, Delete, Prt Sc/Sys Req and Pause/Break keys. All of these keys are perfectly adequate for touch typing, delivering a good return, although the feel may be a little spongy for some tastes.

The stereo speakers are located to the front of the large wrist-rest area. The touchpad incorporates a column in its right edge that allows you to scroll vertically (for example through long documents or Web pages). One disadvantage of the huge screen is that it takes just over two full sweeps of the touchpad to traverse its width. Samsung could have either made the touchpad larger, or included a pointing stick device in addition to the touchpad for ease of use. As it stands, you'll probably find it more comfortable to use a conventional mouse.

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The screen itself is absolutely stunning. Samsung’s SuperClear LCD technology, although adding a certain amount of reflectivity, delivers a very sharp image, while its 1,680 by 1,050 resolution makes for plenty of desktop real estate. It's almost (but not quite) possible to have three documents open at once at full screen height. As it was, we got along quite happily with two half-screen-height Web pages and a document at full height.

Features

A 2GHz Intel Pentium M 760 with 2G of Level 2 cache provides the M70's main processing power. Our review model came with 1GB of DDR2 RAM, expandable to 2GB via the system's two DIMM slots. Graphics are handled by Nvidia’s GeForce Go 6600 chipset with 128MB of DDR RAM. Wireless networking comes courtesy of Intel’s PRO/Wireless 2915ABG (802.11a/b/g) module, while short-range Bluetooth connectivity is an option that was available on our review unit. Wired networking is catered for by a Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet module. Our review unit had an 80GB Fujitsu hard drive spinning at 5400rpm, but capacities up to 120GB are available.

With such a large chassis there is plenty of room for connectors and drives to be located around the edges of the system. The mechanism for removing the screen means the back edge is pretty clear of ports -- only the mains power connector is located here.

An external monitor connector sits towards the back of the right edge, with the headphone, microphone and SP/DIF connectors to the front. Also located here are the optical drive (a TEAC DVD rewriter) and three USB 2.0 connectors (two towards the back and one at the front). A fourth USB 2.0 connector sits on the left edge, which also houses a full-sized IEEE 1394 (FireWire) port, an S-Video connector, a Type II PC Card slot and the Ethernet (RJ-45) and modem (RJ-11) connectors. The only feature on the M70's fascia is a card reader that accepts Memory Stick and SD/MMC cards and a pair of indicator lights.

The M70 comes with a small remote control unit that can be stored in the PC Card slot when not required. This is powered by a coin-style lithium battery. You also get a soft protective case for the M70 plus a monitor cradle and a separate AC adapter for the detachable screen, along with a VGA cable. The monitor cradle incorporates five wheel-style controls hidden in a panel along its front right edge; these bring up the on-screen menu, increase or decrease the selected parameter, select the input source and turn power on or off. There are both DVI (digital) and 15-pin D-Sub (analogue) inputs on the back of the cradle, although only an analogue VGA cable is supplied. We found it slightly annoying that the VGA connector on the M70 system unit doesn't have screw threads for firmly attaching the monitor cable when the screen is detached, making it prone to be knocked off. A minor gripe perhaps, but sometimes attention to detail makes all the difference.

It's not difficult to detach the M70's screen. It is connected to the main body via two ports on its left and right edges. Attaching it to the cradle is a little more fiddly, as these two ports need to be aligned and a small amount of force applied to make the connection.

Samsung provides a suite of pre-installed software with the M70. This includes AVStation for multimedia, photo and image viewing, plus screen and system management tools, Norton AntiVirus and Nero for writing optical discs.

Performance & battery life

Using the standard MobileMark 2002 test, which runs nine real-world programs (Microsoft Word 2002, Excel 2002, PowerPoint 2002, Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, WinZip 8, Macromedia Flash 5 and Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1), the Samsung M70 delivered a productivity score of 212. This is considerably shy of the fastest Core Duo-based notebooks we have tested recently, which are scoring around 280. Even so, the M70, with its 2GHz Pentium M, 1GB of RAM and 128MB GeForce Go 6600 graphics, delivers enough performance to comfortably handle a wide range of productivity and entertainment tasks.

The battery life story illustrates one of the ironies of notebook design. The M70 is huge, and there's no real incentive to keep the weight down, so Samsung can fit a suitably huge battery -- a 7,800mAh Li-ion unit. Even with a 19in. screen to contend with, this kept the M70 up and running for two minutes shy of six hours, which is an excellent result. However, given the M70's bulk and weight the battery can only be viewed as a built-in UPS rather than an enabler of on-the-move computing.

Elsewhere, the detachable screen is clearly a highlight of the M70. Moving the screen to and from its cradle can be a bit fiddly, though, and you may not want to do it too frequently. However, the ability to position the screen and the keyboard section separately should allow for a more ergonomic solution than the average desktop replacement notebook can deliver. And, of course, the screen can be used as a monitor with any other computer you may have.

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