We have yet to see any officially branded 17-inch ultrabooks, but I suspect the Samsung Series 7 Chronos 700Z7CH would be an excellent approximation of one. At first glance, at least, this thin desktop replacement seems like it has everything going for it. A new quad-core third-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, Nvidia GeForce 650M graphics, and a body that's just under 1 inch thick.
Samsung lists this model at $1,499, but I've seen it in stores for $1,399, and at that price, if not a steal, then it's at least a pretty good deal, especially as you can't even buy a similarly slim 17-inch MacBook Pro any more (and that system was much more expensive when you could).
My main knocks are the slower 5,400rpm hard drive (but it's still a large one, at 1TB), and the lack of high-end options, such as SSD drives or Blu-ray. The system also got noticeably hot on the back part of the bottom panel, hitting 120 degrees while gaming.
Gaming performance was also a little underwhelming considering the high-end CPU and midrange GPU inside, but if that's your main goal, Samsung does make a thicker, more expensive ($1,899) version with an Nvidia 675M GPU, called the Series 7 Gamer.
|Price as reviewed||$1,499|
|Processor||2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3615QM|
|Memory||8GB, 1600MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||1.0TB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GT 650M / Intel HD4000|
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||15.9 x 10.3 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||17.3 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||6.5/7.5 pounds|
With the 17-inch MacBook Pro now relegated to the dustbin of laptop history, finding a 17-inch desktop replacement that doesn't look and feel like a overstuffed beast is a bit of a trick. Taking its design cues from other Series 7 and Series 9 laptops, this 17-inch Series 7 is one of the slickest-looking big-screen laptops I've seen.
The curved silhouette of the Series 9 is flattened out here, but the basic lines are similar. A sunken keyboard tray extends to the left and right edges of the chassis, giving each side a little dip, as the lid remains completely flat. In that sense, it's very close to the 15-inch Series 7 we reviewed late last year.
Like that other Series 7, the clean-looking aluminum design is not a MacBook-like unibody, but the large one-piece keyboard tray nevertheless feels very solid and sturdy. There's a little bit of flex to the lid, and the entire lid wobbles a bit with every movement of the long center hinge.
But at just under 1 inch thick, the entire chassis looks great, especially when closed. Few desktop replacement laptops bother much with aesthetics, which is unfortunate, as they're so much harder to hide than smaller computers.
The keyboard and accompanying number pad span nearly the entire width of the system. The raised island-style keys have tightly rounded corners, and a very pleasing matte surface. Not simply backlit, the keys have both glowing letters against a black face, and translucent white sides that glow blue-white, making the key faces feel like they're floating in low-light situations.
The keyboard is overall excellent, but I wish the multimedia controls, such as volume and mute, were mapped to the primary function of the F-keys, rather than requiring a Fn+F-key combo.
The large touch pad is very Apple-like, with a single surface integrating the buttons, rather than separate left and right mouse buttons (this is often called a click pad). The matte metallic surface had just the right amount of drag, but note that it's offset to the left side, so as to sit directly under the space bar. Some people prefer touch pads to be in the exact center of the body, even if a number pad moves the QWERTY keyboard off to the side. Multitouch gestures such as two-finger scrolling worked, but not as smoothly as you'd find on a MacBook or even Dell's new XPS 14.
One of the definite highlights of the system is the 17.3-inch display. Samsung calls its screen technology Superbright, and claims it's 36 percent to 50 percent brighter than other laptop displays. That would depend on what you're comparing it with, but I was very impressed by the brightness, image quality, and even the off-axis viewing. The bezel is also very small for a 17-inch laptop. And, finally, the screen has a matte finish, something rarely seen in consumer laptops, but it's something my colleagues and I generally prefer for fighting glare.
The built-in audio, with two JBL-branded speakers and a subwoofer, was fine, above average, even. Laptop speakers still can't push the kind of air required for a real cinematic or musical experience, so headphones are recommended for serious gaming or movie watching.
|Samsung Series 7 Chronos 700Z7CH||Average for category [desktop replacement]|
|Video||VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, combo headphone/mic jack.||Stereo speakers with subwoofer, headphone/microphone jacks.|
|Data||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, SD card reader, eSATA|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner, optional Blu-ray player|
On a larger desktop replacement, you may need a different collection of ports than, say, an ultrabook. You'll probably want plenty of USB connections to hook up backup hard drives, game controllers, or a mouse, for example. This system has two each of the USB 2.0 and 3.0 variety, although I hope it's sooner rather than later that we all switch to USB 3.0-only. I've always liked an eSATA connection for external drives, but the faster USB 3.0 makes that less necessary, unless you've already got an eSATA-only drive.