Samsung Series 7 Chronos £999
20th May 2013 | 13:50
15.6-inch portable that packs power - at a price
Full form factor laptops have died a death in the last few months as the new focus of Windows 8 has put the emphasis on portability and hybrids. If it doesn't turn into a tablet, manufacturers don't really want to know, but that's not much use for people who want power, performance and comfort - and that's where the Series 7 Chronos. You may also see it branded as the Samsung Ativ Book 8.
This model is an update to Samsung's premium 15.6-inch performance laptop, which adds a touchscreen to the existing sleek, brushed metal body. It's for anyone who needs true computing power, for running multiple programs and being creative, but who still wants to take advantage of all Windows 8's super new touchscreen features.
It's truly a laptop first, unlike other touchscreen alternatives such as the HP Envy x2 or Samsung Ativ Smart PC, which have the innards of a laptop but the form of a tablet. If you're looking for a full-sized QWERTY keyboard and a large screen, the Samsung Ativ Book 8 (model number NP780Z5E) is for you.
The expansive display is great for Windows 8, offering a generous portion of your apps at the Start screen, with any press of the Windows key. Having such a big screen means you're able to use more of Windows 8's features, such as the window snapping, so you can use two apps side-by-side.
However, the setup highlights the interesting decision made by Acer to switch the trackpad and keyboard on its Aspire R7. The result is that the Samsung asks you to use its keyboard and mouse by placing the device in front of you, and it's awkward to raise your hands across the screen 'zombie-style' to use the touchscreen. The traditional clamshell design of the laptop means it's hard to use in a touchscreen format, and the immobility of the screen is a drawback of the Samsung Series 7 Chronos.
A top-of-the-range machine with stunning performance and a super-thin chassis isn't likely to come cheap, and you'll need fairly deep pockets to afford the Samsung Series 7 Chronos. At £1,199/US$1,299 this is a serious outlay, and you're paying for the blistering performance.
The irony is that you actually pay twice - firstly with the price tag and then with the added weight, and this means you need to ask yourself a serious question - do you need this power, or would you rather have something to slip into your bag more easily?
To help you make this decision, let's review the Samsung Series 7 Chronos in depth.
So what's under the hood of this Korean-made beast? Well, the specs are impressive indeed. Firstly, there's an Intel Core i7 3635QM processor chip, which is one of the fastest you'll find out there, clocked at an impressive 2.4GHz. This will handle pretty much anything you throw at it, and is perfect for power-hungry users who want to edit video, images and run rich websites all at the same time.
Back that up with the 8GB of RAM that comes as standard and you have one nifty laptop.
Intel Core processors are so powerful they can take care of most tasks all on their own, but Samsung has added an AMD Radeon HD 8800M dedicated graphics chip inside too, which does its fair share of work.
With dedicated graphics - something you'd never find on a laptop-tablet hybrid - you can run games and HD movies much faster, but the chip can take some of the load off the processor too. You'll find the whole system more responsive, and that's immediately evident on the Samsung Series 7 Chronos.
Samsung has added a Full HD 1920 x 1080 panel to the Chronos, which on full brightness is eye-searingly bright. It's got a glossy coating that aids swiping with your finger, but it's incredibly shiny, which could be problematic in bright conditions when working outside or near big office windows.
Windows 8 review
Overall, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos's build quality is superb, especially considering there's so much power harnessed into such a sleek design. The brushed metal oozes class and the laptop opens to reveal an equally metallic chassis, complete with a spacious keyboard and expansive colour-coded trackpad. It's an Aston Martin that's vintage in its design yet fearsome in its execution.
Like a classic sports car, it's also heavy, and at 2.5kg (5.4lbs), it's not that portable. You wouldn't want it in your bag all day, and its weight harks back to laptops of old, which were bulky and cumbersome. The sleek lines and thin design makes the weight surprising, and this will be the main turn-off for prospective buyers.
By combining great multi-touch features and brilliant accuracy, the trackpad is a triumph, and while we often criticise laptops for low travel keys, the sheer spaciousness of the keyboard makes typing a pleasure.
Because this machine evidently isn't designed to be mobile, the connections on offer are more generous than its tablet companions. You get Ethernet, which is music to the ears of regular hotel room hoppers, plus HDMI and four USB ports. There's also VGA and an SD card slot to finish off a sublime port performance.
3D Mark: Ice: 44064, Cloud Gate: 5679, Fire: 661
Battery score: 327 minutes
We ran our usual benchmark tests on the Samsung Series 7 Chronos and found double the power of the top Windows 8 laptop-tablet hybrid here, along with processor performance that rivals the latest gaming laptops.
Combine that with a fantastic performance in our graphics tests and one can see that Samsung has created a formidable machine.
Some of the latest laptop devices such as the HP Spectre XT, which is similarly priced and pitched, were blown out of the water by the Samsung Series 7 Chronos, and the score of over 16,000 in Cinebench is a reflection of its sheer power.
The only machines we've seen managing this level of score are gaming behemoths and slabs of thick plastic from Medion. To have this kind of power in a machine that looks this good is a pleasant surprise.
Graphics power was also impressive, and it delivered roughly double the power of laptops that use Intel's graphics chip, the 4000 HD. This is essential for users who have designs on heavy video editing or gaming, and you'll see the latest titles handed with aplomb on this mature and grown up device.
While we wouldn't class this as an out and out gaming laptop, for those who consider impeccable frame rates on the highest settings a benchmark for greatness, those who'd like to play games such as the new Sim City, or even BioShock Infinite, should be able to manage a decent experience with the settings turned down.
However, this only really applies to the top-of-the-range Samsung Series 7 Chronos model, and if you're looking to save a couple of hundred pounds or dollars by plumping for the Core i5 model, you would need to revise these expectations.
Despite its weight, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is cunningly disguised as a hipster's stylish companion, and we certainly wouldn't be ashamed to pull this machine out in our local Starbucks.
However, as well as requiring a strong back it will also need plenty of battery to last the day - something not usually associated with gaming level laptops.
With all that power, battery life was shorter than average, but we still managed a decent five hours of movie watching in our real-life tests, which involve looping a high-definition video until it dies.
It's a good result from a laptop that's designed for the desk rather than the road, and it opens up the possibility of working in cafe, watching movies while traveling or just enjoying using your laptop in the garden.
Windows 8 review
While the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is a beautiful laptop, the PC is dying. Unless you're regularly pushing your device to its limits, most users will be happy with the performance offered by Microsoft Surface Pro or the HP Envy x2. They still have Intel Core power, and when compared with this hefty price tag, you could still afford to have a big screen and a full-sized wireless keyboard set up on your desk.
The days of the full-form clamshell laptop being the only choice for people who want a marriage of work and play have passed, and unless you need every ounce of processing power, more versatile Windows 8 machines are available in your price range, and are worthy alternatives.
The immense power of the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is genuinely impressive, and it offers near gaming-level performance in a machine that you could carry in a bag and use day to day. With the top of the range processor and dedicated graphics card considered, the slim lines and sleek brushed metal finish are to be applauded.
The upgraded screen is another highlight, and the expansive panel works brilliantly in Windows 8. The deep colours and detailed, pin-sharp visuals make this a truly premium laptop, and add to that the responsive and accurate touchscreen capability and you have a stunning high-end laptop.
This is one of the stand-out laptops you'll see this year, marrying top-notch design with fantastic usability.
As a laptop, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is one of the best you'll find, but our gripes come from a general view of where computing is going, and how you should spend your £1,200/US$1,300. There's stacks of power here, but portability is limited, and this is an issue for many buyers. Most people will happily get by on half the amount of power here, and that means Ultrabooks such as the Dell XPS 13 or Asus Zenbook could be better options, financially speaking.
Next, there's design. The Samsung Series 7 Chronos makes few allowances for the touchscreen user, and while form factors are starting to change across the computing world, this is very much stuck in 2011. Hybrid devices and tablets are making in-roads, especially backed by Windows 8, but aside from touch - which we believe most users will shun in favour of the familiar trackpad - the Samsung Series 7 Chronos does little to embrace the new computing experience.
If you're looking for a home laptop, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is as good as it gets, but in a year's time the traditional desk-bound clamshell will seem very old fashioned.
The Samsung Series 7 Chronos is one of the best Windows laptops money can buy, but in this changing world of computing, we urge you as a buyer to consider whether your needs would be served better with a lighter, more mobile machine with less emphasis on huge power.
If you're looking for a fantastic laptop today, however, this superb machine comes highly recommended.