Samsung Series 7 (15-inch) review: Samsung Series 7 (15-inch)

Samsung Series 7 (15-inch)

Scott Stein

Scott Stein

Editor at Large

I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets.

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7 min read

First came the Series 9, then the Series 3; Samsung, an increasingly impressive manufacturer of laptops, has chosen to make 2011 the year to debut a variety of notebooks delineated by series numbers. The Series 7 line falls between the high-end Ultrabook-style Series 9 and budget-targeted Series 3, and includes both a 15-inch laptop and a Windows slate. The $1,299, 15-inch Series 7 Chronos NP700Z5A-S03 resembles, in terms of price and specs, a Windows version of the 15-inch MacBook Pro.


Samsung Series 7 (15-inch)

The Good

The <b>Samsung Series 7</b> laptop has a thin screen bezel, a sleek and attractive metal chassis, and plenty of processing power and features, along with an extremely impressive battery life and a crisp backlit keyboard. Dedicated AMD graphics also come included.

The Bad

While the large multitouch click pad is the same size as a MacBook Pro's, it's not as responsive. This pricey laptop also lacks Blu-ray and a 1080p screen.

The Bottom Line

Samsung's Series 7 Chronos 700Z5A-S03 is the closest Windows equivalent to a MacBook Pro in terms of specs, power, and design and even nearly matches on battery life, but it's $500 less expensive than an entry-level Apple 15-incher.

To some it may seem like a lazy comparison, but it's far more apt than you may realize: this Series 7 has a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, a 1GB AMD Radeon graphics card, a backlit keyboard, a sharp aluminum design, a slot-loading DVD drive, and a gigantic multitouch click pad, all similar to the 15-inch MacBook Pro. While $1,299 is at the top end of the mainstream Windows laptop spectrum, it's $500 less than the entry-level 15-inch MacBook Pro, with equivalent performance and then some. Particularly impressive? A battery life of more than 6 hours and a higher-resolution 1,600x900-pixel display.

This isn't a slam-dunk killer laptop--not having Blu-ray is odd, and the touch pad isn't as silky-smooth as a MacBook's--but the Series 7 is, overall, a pretty excellent product at a price that's not terrible when you consider the components.

Price as reviewed $1,299
Processor 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-2675QM
Memory 8GB, 1,333MHz DDR3
Hard drive 750GB 7,200rpm
Chipset Intel HM67
Graphics AMD Radeon 6750M / Intel HD 3000
Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 14.3x9.4 inches
Height 0.9 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 15.6 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 5.3 pounds / 6.3 pounds
Category Midsize

A sleek, clean aluminum design. Magnetic hasp. Center hinge. Tremendous click pad. Where have we seen this before? The easy comparison--and the one most people will make--when they see the Series 7 will be the Apple MacBook Pro, a design that's been around since 2008. The deeper similarities are to Samsung's own product lines, including the QX series, and the clean metal looks of some Asus laptops and Sony Vaios. The industrial-style design is very appealing--even more so when you get up close to appreciate the details.

It's not all roses; despite seeming like a unibody design, the edges reveal the seams. There's a slight amount of flex to those edge connections, and to the palm rest and back lid. The Series 7 Chronos doesn't feel honed from a single slab of metal, or anywhere near that, but its dimensions are very similar to those of the 15-inch MacBook Pro, while having a slightly shallower footprint between the back of the laptop and the front of the palm rest. At 5.3 pounds, it's a little lighter than both the Pro and the slim Sony Vaio SE.

This Samsung makes efficient use of its edge-to-edge real estate, both with its keyboard and screen. A very thin bezel surrounds the 15.6-inch display, with practically no wasted space. The raised island-style keyboard and number pad also span the crisp edges, recessed below the palm rest so the keys come up flush. It's not often that keyboard keys are striking, but these are: the squared edge-lit keys have glowing letters and glowing blue-white sides. They're also among the cleanest-feeling Samsung keys I've ever used.

A large click pad below has the right idea, but the wrong execution. The click pad is off-center because of the number pad, creating a narrow palm-rest area on the left. Also, the pad itself simply isn't as responsive as the equivalent Apple version. My fingers sometimes grazed the surface with little response, and two-finger gestures like scrolling got a little jumpy. It's closer than the Asus Zenbook's pad, but it's still subpar.

Controls such as volume and screen brightness are function-key-activated, meaning you'll have to fumble for the Fn button. I was expecting function-reversed keys on a high-end laptop like this. A large circular power button on the top right is all the Series 7 offers outside of the keyboard.

The big, bright 15.6-inch display offers two surprises: it's matte, a virtual rarity in laptops nowadays, and it has a larger-than-average 1,600x900 resolution. The former helps to reduce glare, obviously. For photos, videos, or games, I'd argue that matte seems to dull the picture down ever so slightly, but overall the end result here is that the Series 7 is better off for the matte finish. Viewing angles for movies, games, and documents deteriorated once the screen was tilted even a little bit: view this display head-on only.

Stereo speakers with grilles tucked away inside the center lid hinge provide ample volume and clarity for Web videos and even casual music. They're equivalent to the quality of those found on other slim laptops like the Vaio SE and MacBook Pro.

An HD 1,280x1,024 Webcam comes bundled with CyberLink YouCam software. The camera quality is good, better than the average, but not quite as excellent as recent HD Webcams I've seen on $1,000-plus laptops such as Dell's XPS series.

Samsung Series 7 Chronos 700Z5A-S03 Average for category [midsize]
Video VGA (with dongle), HDMI VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone combo jack Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, 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, optional mobile broadband
Optical drive slot-loading DVD burner DVD burner

I wasn't surprised by the ports and features on the Samsung Series 7 Chronos; they're in keeping with most midsize laptops. USB 3.0, Bluetooth, HDMI. The Ethernet port on the left side is unusually compressed--a small pull-down tab opens the port up to full size. Also, the normally standard VGA port has been replaced with a mini video port that connects to an included dongle. Saving valuable space makes sense, but this laptop isn't svelte enough to necessitate such maneuvers.

There are several similar versions of the Samsung Series 7 Chronos laptop 700Z5A; some have only 6GB of RAM, others in retail configurations appear to drop Bluetooth and the extra VGA dongle. Comparing it with equivalent Sony Vaio SE and Dell XPS 15z configurations, the Series 7 offers a very similar set of specs. The 15z almost completely matches on price and specs, although the 15z has a 1080p display; the Vaio SE is more expensive in a $1,499 version, but also has a Blu-ray drive. It's a full $500 less than the closest entry-level MacBook Pro, but everyone expects Windows laptops to undercut Apple on price.

A 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-2675QM processor is similar to what's available on the Sony Vaio F236FM, fall 2011 MacBook Pro 15-inch, and Toshiba Satellite P775-S7320. Performance is, as to be expected, speedy; the Series 7 slightly outperformed the Toshiba Satellite while being a bit slower than the Sony Vaio, though on single-task benchmarks they were quite similar. The real advantage to a quad-core processor comes from advanced tasks that use the cores at once; most mainstream computing would do fine with a dual-core Core i5 processor without sacrificing too much speed, but the extra power here comes in handy for gaming, among other things.

AMD Radeon 6750M graphics offer a satisfying level of gaming power: Street Fighter IV ran at 53 frames per second at native resolution, while Metro 2033, a far more demanding game, ran at 11.3 frames per second at native resolution and high graphics settings. Dialing down graphics settings or playing at 1,366x768 pixels should help most games be very playable. I'd call this laptop gaming-friendly, but wouldn't call it a gamer's laptop.

Juice box
Samsung Series 7 Chronos 700Z5A-S03 Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent) 0.34
Sleep (10 percent) 0.72
Idle (25 percent) 11.38
Load (5 percent) 56.55
Raw kWh 52.11
Annual energy cost $5.91

Annual power consumption cost
Dell XPS 15Z
Samsung Series 7 700Z5A-S03

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The integrated battery lasted 6 hours and 31 minutes in our video playback battery drain test. That's an excellent score, especially with onboard dedicated graphics. It's only about 20 minutes less than the battery life of the fall 2011 MacBook Pro, the current leader in the field. I'd consider buying this Samsung based on the battery score alone.

A one-year standard warranty is included with the Samsung Series 7 Chronos 700Z5A-S03. Samsung's support Web site offers a clear pull-down menu for bringing up your relevant laptop model, and commonly asked questions and driver/manual downloads are easily accessible. Samsung's 1-800 service number is also prominently displayed, which isn't always the case on support pages.

The Samsung Series 7 Chronos is Samsung's take on the over-$1,000, high-end 15-inch laptop. It's expensive, but no more so than similar premium alternatives from Sony, Dell, and Apple. Excellent battery life and plenty of features make it worth the investment, especially if you care about having a top-notch keyboard and matte screen. The finicky touch pad and lack of Blu-ray, however, keep us from recommending it unconditionally.

System configurations

Samsung Series 7 700Z5A-S03
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.2GHz Intel i7-2675QM; 8 GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB AMD Radeon HD 6750M / 1GB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 750GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

Alienware M14x
Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit); 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-2820M; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 3GB Nvidia GeForce GT 555M + 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 720GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Dell XPS 15z
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-2620M; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 525M / 64MB (Shared) Intel HD 3000; 750GB Seagate 7,200rpm

Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (Fall 2011)
OS X 10.7.2 Lion; 2.2GHz Intel Core i7; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 512MB AMD Radeon HD 6850M / 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 3000; 500GB Toshiba 5,400rpm

Toshiba Satellite P775-S7320
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-2670QM; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB Intel HD 3000; 750GB Hitachi 5,400rpm

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Samsung Series 7 (15-inch)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Battery 9Support 7