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Samsung 700Z7CH review: Samsung 700Z7CH

A high-end big-screen multimedia laptop that's highly portable (for a desktop replacement), the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is what we imagine a 17-inch ultrabook would look like.

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Dan Ackerman
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Dan Ackerman

Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times

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7 min read

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 Series 7 700Z7CH - 17.3" - Core i7 3615QM - Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit - 8 GB RAM - 1 TB HDD
8.0

Samsung 700Z7CH

The Good

The <b>Samsung Series 7 Chronos</b> stands out from the desktop replacement crowd by hiding high-end components, including a quad-core processor, inside a very a slim design.

The Bad

Gaming performance could be better and the bottom panel can get very hot.

The Bottom Line

A high-end big-screen multimedia laptop that's pretty portable (for a desktop replacement), the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is what we imagine a 17-inch ultrabook would look like.

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
Chipset Intel HM77
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GT 650M / Intel HD4000
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 15.9 x 10.3 inches
Height 0.98 inch
Screen size (diagonal) 17.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 6.5/7.5 pounds
Category Desktop Replacement

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 7we 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.

This is a fixed-configuration laptop, but Samsung does make a different 17-inch Series 7 laptop. The Series 7 Gamerhas a thicker body, and costs $1,899, but includes twice the RAM, at 16GB, and 50-percent more hard drive space, with a big 1.5TB drive, as well as a very high-end GeForce GTX 675 GPU. It's also nearly twice as thick and weighs 2 pounds more.

In this thinner version, the 2,3GHz Intel Core i7-3615QM CPU performed well, only slightly behind the more expensive 17-inch Origin Eon-17S, and closely matching Samsung's similar Series 7 Gamer laptop. This is definitely more than enough laptop for nearly any task, from video editing to heavy multitasking.

That said, I wish gaming performance from the not-at-all-shabby Nvidia GeForce GT 650M GPU was better. The system ran our Street Fighter IV benchmark at full 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution at 86.8 frames per second, and the very challenging Metro 2033 test at the same resolution as 12.3 frames per second. The Series 7 Gamer from Samsung ran those two tests at 161.5 and 19.3 frames per second -- which, to be fair, is why that system is called the "Gamer." Still, for around $1,500, it's reasonable to expect more, especially when while anecdotally trying to play a brand-new PC game, Spec Ops: The Line, I found performance to be choppy, even at low detail settings (but still at the maximum resolution).

Juice box
Samsung Series 7 700Z7CH Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent) 0.32
Sleep (10 percent) .65
Idle (25 percent) 8.62
Load (5 percent) 55.88
Raw kWh 45.60
Annual energy cost $5.18

As a large 17-inch desktop replacement laptop, it's wise not to go in expecting too much in the way of battery life from the Series 7. In fact, in our video-playback battery-drain test, the system ran for an impressive 5 hours and 42 minutes. Thanks to the efficient third-gen Intel Core-series processor and Nividia Optimus GPU switching, this is a rare long-lasting 17-inch laptop. The Samsung Series 7 Gamer system ran significantly for less time, only 2 hours and 33 minutes on the same test.

Samsung includes a standard one-year warranty with the Series 7. Samsung's Web site has an easy-to-find phone number (1-800-726-7864) and a variety of live chat support options, plus manual and driver downloads. The support page also inlcudes contact info for tech help via Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus.

As 17-inch and larger laptops become less common (even Apple has ditched the cult favorite 17-inch MacBook Pro), your choices for a desktop replacement are narrower than ever. That said, the slim, ultrabook-like Samsung Series 7 might be the nicest-looking big-screen laptop I've seen in a long time, and it's just about as powerful as many bigger, less attractive, more expensive systems.

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

Adobe Photoshop CS5 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)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations:

Samsung NP700Z7C7-S01
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3615QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 1TB Seagate 5400rpm

Dell XPS 14
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 630M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5400rpm

Apple Macbook Pro 15-inch w/ Retina Display (June 2012)
OS X 10.7.4 Lion; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M + 512MB Intel HD 4000; 256GB Apple SSD

Samsung NP700G7C-S01US
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M; 750GB Hitachi 7200rpm

Origin EON17-S (Ivy Bridge - Intel Core i7-3920XM)
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 2.9GHz Intel Core i7-3920XM; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 675M + 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; HDD #1: 1TB SAMSUNG 5400rpm + HDD #2/3: 240GB Corsair Force SSD (x2) RAID 0

Samsung Series 7 700Z7CH - 17.3" - Core i7 3615QM - Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit - 8 GB RAM - 1 TB HDD
8.0

Samsung 700Z7CH

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Battery 8Support 7
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