So far, so good, but what’s this 15.4in Samsung Series 7 Chronos 700Z5A like in use? The large chiclet keyboard offers enough room for a full, uncompromised number pad – something number crunchers will doubtless be pleased to hear. In fact, our only minor complaints with the keyboard are that the keys are a bit widely spaced and that their surface is a tad too smooth. Otherwise, typing on the 700Z5A is a pleasure.
Layout is logical and key feedback good, with plenty of travel and a nice click. The keyboard's white LED backlighting is strong and the light sensor seems to turn it on whenever your working environment becomes even slightly dark.
We’ve seen Samsung’s single-surface, button-less touchpad before on the Series 9 900X3A and loved it there. Of a similar size and feel to Apple’s pads, we said it was the best of its kind on a Windows laptop.
Oddly enough, we didn’t find our experience to be quite as accurate on this Series 7, since on a few occasions the cursor would jump unexpectedly (especially when clicking). Otherwise it was a similarly impressive: the pad’s surface is responsive and lovely to the touch, while its click action is crisp and well-defined.
After passing our build quality and usability criteria with flying colours, we’re really hoping the screen will live up to that on the Series 9, which was one of the best TN panels we have encountered. Things are off to a good start with a matt finish, which Samsung has said it will make the standard on all its productivity-oriented laptops. This might not enhance perceived contrast and colour vividness the way a glossy screen coating does, but it cuts down on annoying reflections and is far more usable in sunlight.
The 700Z5A’s screen also goes very bright, though not to the same eye-searing level as the Series 9 (it’s ‘only’ 300nits compared to the 900X3A’s 450nits). Despite this it maintains excellent black level differentiation, with even the subtlest greyscale distinctions easily visible.
In this regard it’s easily one of the most impressive laptop panels we’ve come across, and since it’s combined with even backlighting and no noticeable light bleed, you’ll see every single little detail in dark movies or games. The only contrast downside is that blacks aren’t the deepest around.
Sharpness is superb, for though the screen’s 1,600 x 900 pixels aren’t up to the Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) you’ll find on some 15.6in laptops (like the XPS 15z), it’s nevertheless more than the standard 1,366 x 768 resolution you’ll find on most and still beats the equivalently sized Apple MacBook Pro’s 1,440 x 900 default (Apple will give you a 1,680 x 1,050 panel for an extra £80).
Unfortunately, there is a downside too: viewing angles are not as good as we had hoped. Mind you, they’re not bad for a TN panel and more than adequate to watch a movie with some friends. However, they still don’t hold a candle to those of the Series 9 or the rare laptops that use superior IPS panels. Still, overall this is one of the better laptop displays we’ve come across.
And the good news continues in the audio department, where the 700Z5A’s three-watt stereo speakers manage a fairly detailed and punchy sound at decent volume levels. While no rival to the likes of Toshiba’s excellent Harman/Kardon speakers in its laptops (and even netbooks like the NB550D), headphones or external speakers are not a requirement for this Samsung.