Samsung Series 7 Gamer £1200
5th Oct 2012 | 19:36
A big, beefy and shiny laptop ready for the latest titles
Overview and Specifications
With its blue backlit keyboard and i7 processor, Samsung's Series 7 Gamer laptop is a big shiny box of power. At 17 inches and 9 pounds, it's more of a semi-portable desktop replacement than a truly portable laptop. Still, this is a gaming computer, and with great power generally comes some serious bulk and a hefty down payment.
The first thing you'll notice about the Series 7 Gamer are all the blue lights, and a silver dial on the right side, near the monitor. This lets you cycle the computer into one of four modes: Gaming, Balanced, Library and Green Mode.
With an MSRP of $1,899 (note: Amazon is currently selling it for $1,742.98/£1,349.97), the Series 7 Gamer isn't cheap, but it's also not the priciest mobile gaming solution on the market (just look at the $2,500 Razer Blade). A little under two grand is pretty much par for the course with any machine that's (partially) portable and capable of running Skyrim at a respectable resolution.
Let's get down to brass tacks: how much horsepower are you getting for your money? Quite a bit, we're happy to say. Here are the hard and fast specs for the Series 7:
Intel Core i7-3610QM @ 2.3GHz
w/ 6MB L3 cache
16GB DDR3 RAM
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675M Graphics
1.5TB Hitachi Hard Drive
8GB SanDisk SSD
17.3" display with 1920x1080 resolution
The Samsung Series 7 Gamer also sports four USB ports (2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0), a Blu-Ray drive, four stereo speakers, plus built-in webcam and microphone. Our review unit had Windows 7 Home Premium installed.
The Series 7 is not customizable, this is the only configuration that Samsung currently offers.
Benchmarks, Design and Performance
With an i7 processor and a whopping 16GB of DDR3 RAM, the Samsung Series 7 Gamer laptop has the stats (and the price tag) that scream performance. The system boots up in about 35 seconds, thanks to the SSD that assists with vital system functions. We really enjoyed how the Series 7 could come out of sleep mode almost instantly. As soon as we popped open the lid, it was ready to go.
In Gaming mode, the Series 7 is impossible to miss. Everything from the keyboard to the mouse pad to the power button to a superfluous "Turbo" icon below the monitor glows a bright blue. It's rather gaudy, and not the sort of aesthetic we gravitate toward. We welcomed the laptop's Library mode, which keeps the fans running low and quiet, and turns off all illumination. It's a great option for the college bound gamer who needs to hit the books once in awhile.
Not that the thing is very loud. The fans are certainly audible when gaming, but they don't scream or whine, and the system remains surprisingly cool. It seemed to get warm, but not hot.
Samsung's custom UI, which plays flashy animations when shifting into Gaming mode, is gimmicky, and seemed to be fighting with the vanilla Windows 7. We would change the screen saver by right clicking on the desktop, like any good Windows user would do, and Samsung's UI would change it right back after shifting in and out of gaming mode. We found it had to be disabled using Samsung's software. Not exactly a deal breaker, but frustrating nonetheless. It would be great if Windows 7 and the UI played nicer together.
The UI did offer one or two tweaks we actually liked, such as being able to toggle power to the USB ports when the laptop is asleep (for charging gadgets via USB), and disabling the Windows keys and trackpad when in a game. These are redeeming features, but we wished the UI was more customizable. If we could have four power modes of our own design to toggle through, that would be a worthwhile. Overall, this software came off as tacky and annoying.
We also weren't big fans of the keyboard. Pushing one key tended to make those around it shift, giving the whole thing the feeling of a big cheap slab of plastic. Also, the touch buttons above the keyboard, which control the volume and toggle WiFi, are easy to accidentally activate.
The Series 7 does have a full numpad, which is not common for laptops, and we did appreciate that. It also has a very responsive touchpad. If wasn't for the inherent carpal tunnel risk, we'd say you could almost play Diablo 3 on this thing. Instead, we'll say it's great for casual web browsing.
The Series 7 has some beefy specs, and the benchmarks prove that it's ready to game.
3DMark Performance score: 3576
Batman: Arkham City (1920x1080, anti-aliasing FXAA high, detail level Very High, DX11 features disabled) average FPS: 53
Dirt 3 (1920x1080 multisampling, 4x MSAA, detail High, post processing Medium) average FPS: 89
Borderlands 2 (1920x1080, texture quality and game detail High, anisotropic filtering 4x, physx effects Low, FXAA Off) average FPS: 62
At these settings, the Series 7 was leaps and bounds above the 30 frames per second that most gamers consider the minimum for playability. Running at the display's maximum resolution of 1920x1080, the rain slick world of Gotham City looked pretty enough to make the Dark Knight himself crack a smile, and the reflective sheen of the hard driving racer cars in Dirt 3 was impressive. Even the brand new, system pushing Borderlands 2 ran butter-smooth. However, when we really turned up the specs, Samsung's laptop began to show some modest limitations.
Batman: Arkham City (1920x1080, anti-aliasing FXAA High, detail level Very High, DX11 features Enabled, DX11 tessellation Normal) average FPS: 29
Dirt 3 (1920x1080, multisampling 8x QCSAA, detail High, post process High) average FPS: 76
Borderlands 2 (1920x1080, texture quality and game detail High, anisotropic filtering 16x, physx effects High, FXAA On) average FPS: 30
While the DX11 features had Gotham City looking extra gritty, the frame rate dipped just south of what we'd consider optimal. Dirt 3 still performed admirably, providing enough responsiveness to execute those hairpin turns. Finally, the Borderlands 2 results, with the Physx turned up all the way, still maintained a playable framerate, during benchmarking, at least. Actually, when playing the game we found that setting too hot for the Series 7 to handle, but turning it down just a tad gave a striking balance of power and playability.
The Samsung Series 7 Gamer laptop is a bit of a gilded lily. It's got the hardware and performance that gamers care about, and a price tag that we would deem fair. Samsung's custom UI, however, doesn't add much to the experience. Short of one or two niceties, like being able to disable the trackpad and Windows keys, it mostly detracts from the overall experience.
Can the Series 7 still be recommended in light of its hardware, annoying software notwithstanding? We think so.
The hardware. The Series 7 Gamer has got it going on where it counts: inside. Its i7-3610QM processor is no longer the new, fastest kid on the block (we're looking at you, i7-3632QM debuting in the Razer Blade) but it's no slouch. It honestly blew us away with its Borderlands 2 Physx performance. We're sure that generous 16GBs of RAM had a something to do with it as well.
It's also pretty cool and quiet, which you don't often find with a powerful gaming machine. Sure, it gets warm, but it's no space heater like the Toshiba Qosmio X870. Even its brick of a power supply doesn't get that hot.
Samsung's UI. At its worst, it was tacky and a little annoying. It gets out of the way once you disable it, but we just didn't want to deal with it. We found the case lights ridiculous and always wanted to disable them.
The lack of 3D support is a little disappointing, only because you can get a 3D capable machine with the comparably priced Toshiba Qosmio X870. We also found the keyboard to be slightly subpar, and while the touch button toggles for volume, WiFi, mute and case lights are nice in theory, in practice it was a little too easy to accidentally trigger them.
From a purely processor to pennies perspective, the Series 7 Gamer is worth the money. Its a gaming machine capable of playing the latest titles at respectable settings. With all its case lights and fancy UI, its a bit like a party guest who arrives overdressed. You're glad they showed up, but the bow tie they're wearing just makes them look silly.
At 9 pounds, the Series 7 isn't the heaviest gaming laptop we've ever encountered, but you wouldn't want to haul it to and from work everyday. It's a great option for the occasional LAN party or gaming session at a friend's house. To get something easier to haul, you would have to spend quite a bit more, and we think most gamers would rather save their wallet then their back. After all, you've got to leave some money for your Steam wallet.