Samsung Series 7 Ultra review: Nice, but you may want to wait for the update

The 1080p display is definitely a highlight. The Series 7 is available with or without a touch screen; the former is glossy, while the latter has a matte finish. I tested the touch screen, which performed flawlessly as I swiped and tapped my way around the Windows 8 interface or moved around windows and files. Off-angle viewing is excellent, with no issues viewing from the top, bottom, or sides.

It gets adequately bright, so that using it outdoors in the sun isn't out of the question, though the glossy screen will reflect everything. Fingerprints clean off easily and really, the screen is so responsive that you barely have to touch it. And, if you want to, you can turn touch off altogether.

Above the screen is a 720p Webcam, which handled mixed indoor lighting very well, and although the image was noisy in low light, it still looked good. The internal mics got the job done for my Skype call tests, too.

Samsung used JBL-branded speakers in the Series 7 Ultra. Located on the bottom toward the front of the laptop, they're small, but they produced clean, clear sound. They lack bass, though, and started to distort a bit when pushed to full volume. If you really want to crank your movies or music, you'll want to connect external speakers or headphones to the headphone and mic jack on the left side.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Also, on the left, you'll find the power input, an Ethernet port (the bottom drops down to accommodate), a USB 3.0 port, and HDMI and Mini VGA outputs. On the right are an SD card slot and two USB 2.0 ports. It's odd that Samsung didn't make the USB ports all USB 3.0 on this $1,000 laptop, but that's how it is. Also, if you're the type to put in an SD card and leave it there, you'll have to be careful with this laptop. The card doesn't go all the way in, so it would be pretty easy to lose or damage the card if you're not careful.

The laptop's wireless features include 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) support.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance and battery life
The Series 7 Ultra is available in a couple of configurations. I tested the NP740U3E-A01UB, which includes a third-gen Core i5 processor, integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics, 4GB of memory (expandable to 16GB), and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD). The combination proved fine for everyday use: streaming movies and music, Web browsing, work tasks, and basic photo and video editing. If you're a student looking for a good general-purpose laptop, this configuration works well.

Graphics performance was the only thing that was slightly unimpressive. Basically, it's fine for video playback and, again, basic photo and video editing, but anything too demanding might feel slow. Though, that could be said about many laptops with integrated graphics. You probably won't want to play more than casual games on it, or, at least, not at the screen's full resolution.

As I mentioned up top, battery life is excellent. In our video playback drain test it lasted 6 hours and 8 minutes. For general use, where the laptop isn't constantly working, you can easily go beyond that, especially with some power management. Plus, Windows 8 combined with the SSD gives a quick boot time of 10 seconds (from off to the Start menu) and it wakes from sleep in just 2 seconds.

Conclusion
The Samsung Series 7 Ultra is a very nice laptop for the average user on the go who want excellent battery life and good looks. Because of its older processor, you might want to wait and see if the price drops further below the $1,000 mark. Or, just wait for Samsung to refresh it with fourth-gen processors.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Samsung Series 7 Ultra
453 

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Samsung Series 7 Ultra
278 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Samsung Series 7 Ultra
122 

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Samsung Series 7 Ultra
368 

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Resolution 1920 x 1080 ( Full HD )
  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Color bare metal
  • Weight 3.6 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • CPU Intel Core i5 (3rd Gen) 3337U / 1.8 GHz
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