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Samsung Series 7 700Z5A review: Samsung Series 7 700Z5A

Samsung's Series 7 700Z5A looks set to tackle Apple's MacBook Pro with its sleek aluminium styling, powerful specs and much cheaper price tag.

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Andrew Lanxon
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Andrew Lanxon

Lead Editor, CNET Advice, Europe; Lead Photographer, Europe

Andrew is CNET's go-to guy for product coverage and lead photographer for Europe. When not testing the latest phones, he can normally be found with his camera in hand, behind his drums or eating his stash of home-cooked food. Sometimes all at once.

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Samsung's new addition to the Series 7 line of laptops is evidently hoping to get all up in the face of Apple's MacBook Pro. The sleek, aluminium design brings to mind Apple's offspring and similar specs are on offer. Samsung is hoping to do some damage by offering its new addition for much less.

orig-samsung-series7-chronos-front.jpg
8.3

Samsung Series 7 700Z5A

The Good

Sleek styling; Excellent performance; Cheaper than a MacBook Pro.

The Bad

Not a unibody chassis; Screen not quite Full HD; No Blu-ray drive.

The Bottom Line

Samsung's Series 7 700Z5A looks set to tackle Apple's MacBook Pro with its sleek aluminium styling, powerful specs and much cheaper price tag.

Various configurations are available now, ranging from an Intel Core i5 with 6GB RAM for £799 to an Intel Core i7 processor with 8GB RAM at the top end for £999.

Design and build quality

If you've always wanted a laptop so fancy that it melts the face of those around you, then you may be a little disappointed with the Series 7. It's wrapped in a brushed aluminium shell that is entirely devoid of fancy swirls or flowers.

Not that we're complaining; the minimal look works well here and makes the Series 7 700Z5A appear very sleek and smart. If we were trotting off to an important boardroom meeting we'd be very happy taking this guy along with us. He's definitely more about business than pleasure though, so we'd be less happy pulling him out in a bar than we would the MacBook Pro.

The only distinguishing feature found on the top is a subtle Samsung logo. It's much more appealing to look at than the massive branding found on Samsung's NS310 netbook. We're also glad that Samsung hasn't opted for the bright blue plastic look found on that either.

The 15.6-inch screen size makes the Series 7 700Z5A fairly portable. It's also pretty slim so it should slip into a case without too much trouble.

The metal shell made the Series 7 700Z5A feel very sturdy in our hands. We made sure to have a good prod and poke to see if we could detect signs of weakness. There was very little flex offered from the lid, the keyboard or from the wrist-rest. We're pretty confident it can put up with some punishment.

Samsung Series 7 700Z5A lid
It's not a unibody construction -- it's a mix of metal and plastic -- but what do you expect for £800 less than a MacBook Pro?

Dare we say the all-aluminium shell looks rather like the MacBook Pro? We will, yes. Because it does. The Series 7 700Z5A can arguably be seen as Samsung's rival to Apple's Pro, in the same way that the Series 9 was the rival to the MacBook Air.

The Series 7 700Z5A doesn't have the same unibody construction as the Pro. It's made from a combination of metals and plastics so it won't be as sturdy as the Pro. Neither does it have the same luxury look or feel. However, at a considerably lower price than the Pro, it's difficult to complain about this.

Screen

Under the lid is a 15.6-inch screen with a very narrow bezel, which looks great. Many laptops whack a huge amount of plastic around the screen that makes the whole machine chunkier than it needs to be. So it's nice to see Samsung cutting back here.

Samsung Series 7 700Z5A screen
The chunk-free bezel benefits from Samsung cutting back on the plastic.

The screen has a resolution of 1,600x900 pixels. Sadly that isn't enough to qualify as Full HD so it won't display your hi-def content at its best. It's not far off though, so your movies and pictures will still look pretty good. We found that even small text on web pages was displayed with great clarity.

The Series 7 700Z5A has an HDMI port so you can at least hook it up to a big TV if you want to watch a load of HD stuff.

The matte coating on the screen means that annoying reflections are reduced to a minimum, even under bright outdoor light. Matte coatings do have the tendency of making a good screen seem dull so Samsung has countered this by making the screen exceptionally bright.

The videos we watched on it looked very bright and clear and colours were displayed well. We could happily watch full-length movies on this chap without a single complaint (unless we ran out of sweets, then we'd moan like crazy).

Keyboard and trackpad

The isolated keys on the keyboard are set into more aluminium and have an attractive, rounded appearance -- not unlike the MacBook Pro. They are a good distance apart and offer a very comfortable typing experience. The keyboard is backlit too. That should please those of you with lighting problems in your house or who spend a lot of time in Arctic winters.

Samsung Series 7 700Z5A keyboard
The keyboard looks not unlike the MacBook Pro and is backlit.

There's a big trackpad that supports multi-touch gestures. It's very easy to slide your finger across. Like the Pro -- and the Series 9 -- it's clickable, meaning that valuable real-estate hasn't been taken up with dedicated buttons.

Samsung Series 7 700Z5A trackpad
The clickable trackpad is button-free and supports multi-touch.

Around the edges you'll find two USB 3.0 ports, an USB 2.0 port, a multi-SD card reader, an Ethernet port, HDMI-out as well as a DVD drive. It would have been welcomed if Samsung had popped in a Blu-ray drive. There's a webcam too for some video-calling shenanigans.

Samsung Series 7 700Z5A ports
Ports include two USB 3.0 ports, an USB 2.0 port, a multi-SD card reader, an Ethernet port and HDMI-out.

Performance

The Series 7 that fell into our office for review was the top-end model, packing an Intel Core i7-2675QM processor clocked at 2.20GHz, with 8GB RAM tucked alongside.

That's a formidable line-up of specs. Never ones to shy away from a snarling beast, we threw our benchmark tests square in its silver face to see just what this thing was capable of.

We ran the Geekbench test and were given an extremely good score of 12,066. By comparison, the 15-inch 2011 MacBook Pro, with a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor running at 2.3GHz, achieved 9,886 on the same test.

When you take into account that you'd be paying around £800 more for the MacBook and getting half the RAM, the Series 7 is a very attractive option, offering serious power for less money.

With a dedicated AMD Radeon HD6750M graphics card with 1GB of VRAM, the Series 7 is primed and ready to take on your gaming needs. We ran the 3DMark06 test and were given a score of 10,002. That's not challenging the likes of the MSI GT680, which achieved 13,997, but it's an excellent score for something that isn't a dedicated gaming machine and costs about £500 less.

Samsung Series 7 700Z5A closed
The top-end model we reviewed packed 8GB RAM and an Intel Core i7-2675QM processor clocked at 2.20GHz.

To see how it really handles the games, we booted up Dirt 3 and sent our rally car zipping through the Finnish hills. The Series 7 did a good job of handling the game. Frame rates stayed at about 30 frames per second, which was just about playable. If it were any less though, it would have become a problem, especially as racing games are so fast-paced and rely on high frame rates.

To test it even further, we fired-up the hugely demanding Crysis 2 and went for a wander around the beautifuly rendered scenes, shooting a few people who looked at us funny. Again, we saw frame rates stay around the 30fps mark, with an occasional drop to around 25fps. For the serious gamer, those frame rates won't be enough, but it's certainly playable and you could improve things if you turned down the settings.

The Series 7 makes use of ExpressCache -- a system that stores important files for your most commonly-used programmes on an 8GB SSD. This will hopefully result in much faster loading times for your favourite programs as well as a dramatically-reduced boot-up time. If you think 8GB of storage seems a tad stingy then don't worry; there's also a 750GB hard disk drive for all your normal files -- the 8GB drive is just used for the ExpressCache system.

In our time with the Series 7, we didn't notice much benefit in reduced program opening times. Then again, we didn't have it for long enough for it to 'learn' what we most used. Our buddies across the pond at CNET.com got a look at how this system works on a different machine. They found that program loading times were roughly half of those on computers without such a system. Whether you'd notice much of a benefit in regular use remains to be seen.

We were, however, very pleased with the extremely quick resume-from-sleep time of around 2 seconds. That's particularly handy if you often find yourself pulling your computer out on the move, needing to bang out a quick email.

Conclusion

Samsung's Series 7 laptops look set on a mission to trouble Apple with looks and specs nipping at the heels of the MacBook Pro, but at a much lower price. If you're after a sleek-looking portable laptop that packs a power-punch, the Series 7 should definitely be on your radar.