While you can find some well equipped laptops for under £500, spending a few pounds more can bring real dividends. In the case of Samsung's new 15in performance all-rounder here, the Samsung R580, you get the latest Intel Core i3 dual core processor - plus a quite capable graphics card in the shape of the nVidia 310M.

While our benchmarks of the Samsung R580 have shown that these components successfully lift performance to create an understated hot-rod of a laptop, Samsung crucially hasn't forgotten how to combine such technology into a well-made chassis that's comfortable to live with.

At a shade over 2.5kg and around 35mm thick, the Samsung R580 sits in the space between homebound desktop replacement, and something you might want to tote around more regularly. And given the stylish red-to-black fade finish, it's certainly an attractive portable companion to show off.

The display back has this line-detailed and colour gradient finish all under a high gloss lacquer. It's appealing enough but it will look slightly less smart after it's been handled a few times and smeared with the inevitable fingerprint marks. Lift the lid, and you'll find more of the same red-black colouring on the top deck, this time with more obvious yet still discreet swirling pinstripes.

Touch and Go

Once powered up, the touchpad – just discernible from its matt texture embedded into the deck – comes to life with four tiny blue LEDs that light up each corner. The effect could have been tacky – but combined with a series of matching pinpoint lights below the single-bar mouse clicker that give feedback on wireless status, charging, disk activity and caps lock - the final result can be quite pleasing.

And those touchpad landing-lights only illuminate when it's in use, staying on for around 30 seconds after last digital contact.

Thanks to the very wide aspect of many a modern notebook LCD display - in this case a 15.6in panel of 1366x768 resolution - it's now common to find a full number keypad sitting alongside the usual Qwerty keyboard on the stretched casework. The keys of the Samsung R580 are all Scrabble-style and have an easy, if far from slient, action.

The screen itself is victim to the usual distracting reflections found on cheap high-gloss reflective panels, and combined with poor off-axis lateral viewing angles, you'll need to be facing this screen head-on and in a darkened room to get best viewing results.

In other words, don't try and present a film to friends or spreadsheet to colleagues, especially when there are many lights or windows in the vicinity.