Samsung Notebook 7 Spin review: A big-screen hybrid with some gaming chops

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MSRP: $999.00

The Good The Samsung Notebook 7 Spin offers very good Core i7 performance, some basic game-ready graphics, and impressive battery life.

The Bad The design is bland, especially for a laptop that costs more than $1,000. You're not going to love the touchpad, and the hyped HDR video mode offers only very subtle improvement.

The Bottom Line It doesn't have a lot of wow factor, but the 15-inch Samsung Notebook 7 Spin packs in decent premium features, including some you won't find in other hybrids.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 9

Many Windows hybrids are essentially full-time tablets that get a keyboard added on to become a part-time laptop. Potentially more useful is something like the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin, which looks and feels like a standard 15-inch laptop, but has a 360-degree hinge, allowing it to fold back into a touchscreen tablet without compromising its laptop ergonomics.

Like other 360-degree hinge hybrids, including the popular Lenovo Yoga series, you can stop at a few points along the way, such as a kiosk mode or table tent mode, which puts the display front and center.

But there are a lot of hybrid laptops with 360-degree hinges out there. At this point, making waves in this crowded pool requires adding new features, better designs or other extras. In the case of this 15-inch version of the Notebook 7 Spin, you get a full-HD touchscreen with an interesting special feature. Samsung has included what it calls an HDR mode -- which mean high dynamic range.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Now, some new televisions support a new video format also called HDR, which means special HDR content viewed on an HDR TV will have better contrast and clarity -- essentially a better balance between the light and dark parts of the picture.

In this case, Samsung has created a software HDR filter. When flipped on, it applies an HDR-like effect to any video you're watching. Honestly, in action the effect is pretty subtle, but it's an interesting idea, and if you don't like the effect on your favorite Netflix show, you can just turn it off.

Watching a variety of content on the Notebook 7 Spin with our in-house TV expert David Katzmaier, he described the effect of the HDR filter as a simple gamma change. In most of the examples we watched, flipping it on kept the bright parts of scenes correctly lit while deepening the black levels of other parts of the scene.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Overall, Katzmaier said he preferred the effect to not having it switched on, but it also was a very subtle change. Trying some actual Netflix content specially encoded for HDR televisions (you'll need the highest-end UHD Netflix account for that), there was no evidence that the laptop was making use of the native HDR-encoded content.

There's one other interesting extra in this model, an Nvidia 940MX graphics chip. That's not going to make you a top-flight gamer, but I could play some mainstream games at medium settings and full HD resolution, so that makes the Samsung Notebook 7 Spin one of the only game-friendly hybrids I've seen.

The 15-inch version of the Notebook 7 Spin comes in two configurations, currently discounted by $100 each in the US to $899 and $1,099. Both include Intel Core i7 processors and the Nvidia graphics chip, but the higher end model goes from 12GB to 16GB of RAM, and adds a 128GB SSD to the 1TB of platter hard drive space both machines share. We're testing the high-end of those two models. Samsung doesn't currently offer Windows laptops in the UK or Australia, but that works out to £845 or AU$1,420. There's also a $799 (£615, AU$1,040) 13-inch version that skips the Nvidia graphics and knocks the CPU down to a Core i5.

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