Samsung Series 7 Gamer £1499
17th Feb 2012 | 15:41
An attractive laptop powerful enough to run the latest games. What's the catch?
Gaming laptops such as the Samsung Series 7 Gamer can be a funny old breed. The idea of a portable PC powerful enough to play the latest games certainly appeals. But the reality is often a system that, due to its high-powered components, is bulky, heavy and has an incredibly short battery life.
Suddenly these gaming laptops seem a lot less portable.
They're also pretty expensive, and don't offer the upgradability or overclocking goodness of desktop PC gaming rigs such as the PC Specialist Vortex M59 OC, or the admittedly pricey CyberPower Liquid Xtreme GT. This means that the components inside the laptop need to be decent and future-proof, as well as being able to function well in a confined space.
Upgrading a processor or a graphics chip in a laptop is far more difficult than in a desktop PC, so you need to be sure that the components inside your expensive gaming laptop aren't going to become out of date any time soon.
When it comes to battery life, some recent gaming laptops have managed to avoid the hurdle. The Novatech nSpire 2760 Black Edition offers a pretty decent 222 minutes of juice, but it's still let down by a bulky and unattractive body.
We're open-minded folk, but we've seen far more mediocre gaming laptops than good ones, so a new kid such as the Samsung Series 7 Gamer - aka the Samsung NP700G7A - has a lot to prove. It especially has to impress when it's asking for £1,499 of your well-earned cash in the UK, where it's already on sale. It's reportedly being released in the US this spring, where it will cost $1,799.
Getting the specifications right on a gaming laptop such as the Samsung Series 7 Gamer is essential. Putting components in that are too powerful will drastically increase the price of the laptop, drain the battery in a matter of seconds and could cause the laptop to overheat and become unstable. On the other hand, too many cut corners and compromises lead to a gaming laptop that struggles with games on high settings, and will soon be out of date.
So does the Samsung Series 7 Gamer get the balance right enough to justify its not-inconsiderable price tag? Things look good when it comes to the processor - the Samsung 7 Gamer boasts an Intel Core i7 2670QM clocked at 2.2GHz. While the performance of this processor lags behind its desktop brethren such as the Intel Core i7 980X or even the Intel Core i5 2500K, it's one of the best mobile processors available for laptops.
With four cores and hyper-threading for eight threads at once, this is no slouch in the power department. It also only requires 45W total draw power, which takes the pressure off the battery.
Because the Intel Core i7 2670QM is built on Sandy Bridge architecture, a graphics processing unit is built into the CPU core. A nice addition, yes, but of no use to a laptop keen to show off its gaming credentials.
For that you need a dedicated graphics card, and in the Samsung Series 7 Gamer's case this is covered by the AMD HD6970M GDDR5 2GB. This is another good choice, since it's an incredibly well specified mobile graphics card that will handle pretty much all recent games on their highest settings, as well as DirectX 11 effects and whatnot.
It's also capable of AMD's answer to Nvidia's stereoscopic 3D technology 3DVision - the AMD HD3D. While AMD HD3D hasn't had quite as much presence as Nvidia 3DVision - mainly due to AMD's lateness to the stereoscopic 3D gaming party - it is just as capable, with a wide selection of compatible games supplied by third party developers.
So all you need is a 3D screen. Oh wait. The Samsung 7 Gamer has that covered as well, and also throws in a pair of Samsung's 3D PC glasses to boot. Coupled with a Blu-ray drive, the Samsung 7 Gamer is a pretty future-proof laptop for both games and media.
A hefty 8GB of DDR3 RAM helps things ticking along nicely without getting into unnecessary, gratuitous and expensive territory, and a 1.5TB hard drive offers plenty of room. OK so there's no SSD, which is a bit of a shame, but on the whole the Samsung Series 7 Gamer's specs are impeccable. And anyway, isn't £1,499 expensive enough?
So on paper - or, uh, web page - the Samsung Series 7 Gamer looks like a damn fine proposition, with plenty of bang for your buck. But, crucially, how well does it perform?
One of the first things you'll notice when you boot up the Samsung Series 7 Gamer is the fancy dynamic Windows 7 desktop theme that continues the design aesthetic from the keyboard and body - think lots of blue glowing lights and circles. It's not too bad, and comes with a unique desktop gadget that enables you to change some of the more ostentatious visual elements.
A slight annoyance is the default customised mouse cursor, which has a blue circle just by the arrow, making it look like Windows 7 is constantly loading. Thankfully, these can all be turned off if it's not quite your thing. The dynamic wallpapers only appear in Game mode, where the emphasis is on graphical horse power.
Needless to say, a connection to the mains power supply is essential. The other power modes are the self-explanatory Balanced mode, Library mode (which is essentially a fancy name for a mute button) and the battery-saving Green mode, which dims the screen's brightness, turns off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections and performs other power-saving tasks. All of these modes can be switched between quickly with a dial at the top of the keyboard.
The 3DMark and Cinebench benchmarks were pretty good for a laptop, showing that the Samsung Series 7 Gamer is certainly capable when it comes to the latest graphics. But when it came to playing games, things were surprisingly shaky, with the Samsung Series 7 Gamer crashing on us a number of times, and not shutting down properly.
We can't help but suspect that all the dynamic backgrounds and fancy themes used to shout out that THIS IS A POWERFUL MACHINE simply took up resources and made the laptop slower than its specs - not to mention its price tag - suggest.
Skyrim crashed when we first loaded it, but after a restart we loaded it up again. It's not the most graphically intensive game, but it's a pretty one, and we set all graphics settings to 'Ultra'. Happily the Samsung Series 7 Gamer handled it very well, with a solid frame rate even during scenes with lots of action going on. It wasn't completely flawless, and there were one or two pauses when playing - and even scrolling through menus - but on the whole it worked well.
Praise should not just go to the components driving this laptop, though - the fantastic 17-inch screen played a huge part in making the game look so good. Not only is the Samsung Series 7 Gamer's screen 3D capable, it can also handle resolutions of 1920 x 1080 - a relative rarity in laptops, even gaming ones.
Blu-rays looked great on the laptop, with the bundled Cyberlink Power DVD 10 software and the built-in speakers handling movies and sound very well. These speakers were loud enough not to necessitate buying extra speakers.
Battery life was a real disappointment, though, managing just over an hour on full settings. The Novatech nSpire 2760 Black Edition has nothing to worry about in this regard.
Battery eater: 1:00:46
Cinebench: 10 8603
The Samsung Series 7 Gamer is a bit of a funny one. Going by the laptop's specs alone, it should have been an astounding PC, but when using it we just can't get too enthusiastic about it.
It's got the graphical chops to handle the latest games, yet even in Windows 7 it doesn't feel as slick or accomplished as it should. It's a big beast, and the illuminated bells and whistles everywhere won't be to everyone's taste.
The mobile components in the Samsung Series 7 Gamer are pretty much the best you can get. Playing some of the latest games on their max graphical settings on a portable PC is undoubtedly great, and the laptop is future-proof enough for you to not have to worry about upgrading any time soon. 3D and Blu-ray playback give this laptop further versatility as a media PC.
The unnecessary LEDs, lights and desktop themes are at best an ugly distraction and at worse damaging to the Samsung Series 7 Gamer's performance. A laptop of this power shouldn't hang when we go to shut down Windows 7. We feel that wiping the hard drive and installing a vanilla version of Windows 7 without Samsung's pointless additions would give a much more satisfying user experience. Also we can't help but be disappointed by the minuscule battery life. If it needs to be tethered to a power supply, then what makes it so different from a desktop PC?
The Samsung Series 7 Gamer is a good laptop that could have - and should have - been great, but ultimately it doesn't do quite enough to justify its steep price tag.