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Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E review

Andrew Williams

By

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

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Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E
  • Samsung Series 7 Chronos 780Z5E

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Pros

  • High-quality, colour-rich screen
  • Good power and battery life
  • Elegant design

Cons

  • Not light

Key Features

  • Intel Core i5/i7 quad-core processors
  • 8/16GB RAM
  • ATI Radeon 8800M GPU
  • Brushed aluminium lid and keyboard surround
  • 15.6-inch 1080p VA screen
  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Review Price: £1,199.00

Introduction

Last year's Samsung Series 7 Chronos was one of the most desirable laptops of 2012. All metal, fancy finishes and powerful innards, it gave Apple's laptops a run for their money in terms of getting the style-obsessed to lighten their wallets.

This year's Samsung Series 7 Chronos gets with the current trend for image-conscious laptops. It leaves out an optical drive in its 15.6-inch edition - something few of us use any more - ups the battery life to frankly excellent stamina levels and slims down the body even further. Few may be able to stomach its price, but there's little not to like about this fantastically well-made computer.

With quad-core Ivy Bridge CPUs, 8800M graphics and SSD storage for fast boot-up times, the 15.6-inch Samsung Series 7 Chronos is anything but a demonstration of style over substance.

Samsung Series 7 Chronos – Design and Build

Like its predecessor, the 2013 Samsung Series 7 Chronos is all about brushed metal. It loves the stuff.

Both the lid and keyboard surround are single plates of brushed aluminium. There's no imposter plastic on show here, unless you flip the laptop over - its underside is more conventional plastic.

Samsung uses the term “unibody” to describe the Series 7 Chronos's design, but it's markedly "less unibody" than Apple's laptops. A deliberate seam runs along the edge of the laptop's inside - visible while you're using it - where the Macbook models are virtually seamless.

This probably makes construction of the Samsung Series 7 Chronos a good deal easier, but it doesn't give you oodles more access to the laptop's innards. As most slim laptops, you have no easy access to the battery. However, there is an easy-to-remove flap on the bottom that gives you access to the RAM slots for easy upgrading.

Unibody or not, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos's build quality is excellent. There's some minor natural flex to its panels, but this is unavoidable in a laptop constructed in such a panel-based manner.

The Samsung Series 7 Chronos looks great too. The brushed metal of the inside and lid strike the right balance between being eye-catching and tasteful.

One hardware downside to the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is that it's not light. At just under 2.5kg, this is not an ultraportable laptop. The loosened definitions of an Ultrabook may mean you can call it such a thing, but the flexibility of its great battery life is best exploited at home rather than away.

Samsung Series 7 Chronos – Connectivity

Lying in a middle ground between a desktop replacer and a slim and light laptop, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos brings better connectivity than most aesthetics-obsessed computers. On its left edge you'll find two USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI video output, VGA output and a Gigabit Ethernet port. This uses a flip-out plastic port extender as the Series 7 Chronos is really a bit too thin for a full-size Ethernet port.

On the right edge, where last year you'd have found an optical drive, are two USB ports and an SD card reader - a shallow one that leaves an SD card sticking out the side. We think the removal of an optical drive option is a sensible move, as those tech-obsessed to spend the money on such a lovely laptop as this will probably have also moved away from physical media for the most part.

Most of us simply don't use CDs anymore. Oh, but Samsung still includes a Kensington lock port, which we're also convinced is as frequently used as a toilet brush in a public lavatory.

Samsung Series 7 Chronos - Specs

If the lack of an optical drive doesn't quite excuse the 20mm thickness of the Series 7 Chronos, you need only look at the laptop's core specs for more reasoning. Our review sample used an Intel Core i7-3635QM quad-core 2.4GHz CPU, 8GB RAM and dedicated Radeon HD 8800M graphics with 2GB of its own memory.

For storage, it has a hybrid 1TB HDD/SSD combo, with 24GB of SSD storage to act as a super-fast boot-up drive. Other hardware options on offer include 16GB of RAM, a slightly lower-spec Core i5 CPU and a 256GB SSD rather than the HDD/SSD hyrbid.

Starting at £1,199, this is naturally a higher-end laptop.

Samsung Series 7 Chronos – Screen

Other than the removal of the optical drive, the move to Windows 8 and the sequential processor upgrades that come with every new wave of laptops, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos's most obvious change for 2013 is that it uses a touchscreen.

It offers 10-point multi-touch, great responsiveness and a pleasant surface to glide your fingers across. The Samsung Series 7 Chronos uses a similar kind of toughened glass to the type you'll find on tablets and smartphones, extending to the very edge of the screen to give a great-looking, seamless display area.

The display quality is similarly impressive. At 15.6 inches across, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos's 1080p resolution is nothing more than what we'd expect in 2013, but the panel quality is a cut above.

Where most laptops to date, even high-end ones, have used TN display panels, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos uses the VA type. Hate the way your current laptop's screen disappears into an ugly shadowy mess when turned the wrong way? A VA panel solves this issue.

Viewing angles are great, just a little under what an IPS panel like the iPad's can achieve.

Angled viewing isn't the strongest suit of the screen, either. The Samsung Series 7 Chronos's display is remarkably vibrant thanks to both unusually strong colour reproduction and excellent contrast. Most other Windows 8 laptop screens will simply look dull and lifeless in comparison.

This isn't Samsung's flagship screen technology - the IPS-a-like PLS is - but it could be argued that VA is a better fit here, where stronger contrast and colour reproduction is more valuable than performance at extreme angles. Touchscreen or no, this is a laptop rather than a tablet.

Just as important as the display itself, the Series 7 Chronos uses an anti-reflective layer to stop you from blinding yourself when using the laptop outdoors. Some reflections remain - unavoidable when dealing with a glass top layer, but they're remarkably unobtrusive for a glossy-finish display. This laptop always has one eye on usability, the other on aesthetics.

Samsung Series 7 Chronos – Keyboard and Touchpad

The same is true of the keyboard. It's here that the "unibody" style of the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is most evident. The chiclet keys sit upon a single layer of contoured, brushed aluminium, rather than splitting the build into two or three separate parts, as a cheaper laptop might do.

The other high-end extra is the keyboard backlight. Letters on the keys light-up subtly, rather than blasting light through the gaps around each key, although in complete darkness there is a soft halo of light around each key.

There's an ambient light sensor up by the webcam in the screen bezel that automatically judges whether the backlight is needed. It also determines screen brightness, if this is enabled within the Series 7 Chronos's settings.

Compromises are necessary evident in the keyboard, though. The action is a little shallow, as it is in virtually all Ultrabook-style devices. However, the keys are crisp and well-spaced and the layout is sensible. Only the function keys and arrow keys are significantly cut-down, making everyday typing a joy.

The Samsung Series 7 Chronos touchpad is also typical of the Ultrabook style. It's large and topped with textured glass to give just the right blend of resistance and smoothness.

It's a two-button pad with just a small dead zone - virtually all the pad is press-able. The left mouse button's sensor is given about 80 per cent of the pad's real estate, meaning there's very little chance of accidentally pressing the right button. Here's a diagram to demonstrate -

newovrhere

April 10, 2013, 2:01 pm

great review!! thanks....hope samsung updates it with haswell+pure ssd before september-october because thats when i intend to buy this beast!!!

SetiroN

April 10, 2013, 2:16 pm

How is this "not light"? It's a quad core CPU laptop with high end graphics and a touch screen, that kind of weight is impressively low.

Finding a con is not mandatory.

danielfrisbee

April 10, 2013, 2:26 pm

why doesn't it have display-port? increasing numbers of people use hi-res screens, and while hdmi can technically do 2560x1600 they are limited at imput and output to 1080p.
It kills me having a nice dell 27" monitor I can't use with my laptop, so certainly a requirement for the future.

Byron Hinson

April 10, 2013, 2:42 pm

Been looking at the i5 version - has slightly slower graphics chip too though. Still great laptop

mothergoose85

April 10, 2013, 4:07 pm

This! It won't stop me buying it but it is a very VERY valid point. Why not use display port and bundle a VGA adapter?

mothergoose85

April 10, 2013, 4:09 pm

Andy, any idea who's going to be stocking it?

Yiannis Demetriou

April 10, 2013, 5:51 pm

Where can we get this i7 for 1199 pounds? I searched everywhere. All I can find is the i5 version!

Niko Keček

April 11, 2013, 6:47 am

You can use a VGA cable to get those resolutions, the quality will be slightly inferior compared to a digital connection though

danielfrisbee

April 11, 2013, 11:42 am

no you can't you need dual-link dvi or display port or an uprated version of hdmi. While theoretically vga's analogue can stretch out in reality modern monitors aren't looking for it and windows doesn't want to output it, and additionally it would look shockingly bad which defeats the point of investing in high-end monitors and computers for graphics work.

Paul W Waby

April 11, 2013, 2:25 pm

Nowhere seems to be stocking this laptop at the moment, PC-world have a sales holder on the website but just give out of stock. trawled everywhere, no indication when it might arrive

David Gray

April 11, 2013, 4:46 pm

i5 variant was on sale in PC world for ages at £899, now it has gone back up to £999 I'm pissed off that I didn't buy it before. Will probably wait till it goes back down again. 8850m looks like similar silicon to 8870m but clocked lower, which tbh appeals to me cos it just means a bit less heat and it'll still be a massive step up from my current Nvidia 425m

Byron Hinson

April 11, 2013, 6:43 pm

If it helps anyone - Currys told me today that the i7 version is due to be a John Lewis exclusive now.

Andrew_TR

April 11, 2013, 9:37 pm

It's likely that we're just a bit too early at this point. I expect it'll be widely available through the usual suspects within weeks.

Samsung gave us a nice and early review sample this time.

John Chen

April 12, 2013, 9:48 am

the version on sale at john lewis does not have a touch screen.

John Chen

April 12, 2013, 9:57 am

in a few weeks we might as well wait for the haswell cpu update from intel.

mothergoose85

April 12, 2013, 1:31 pm

Cheers Andy.

John Chen - it'll take 6 months (at least) for those to work there way in to top end laptops like Alienware. Probably won't see them in the main stream for at least 9 months (which will be in time for CES) and then another 3 months to market (like this Samsung has been). It's not too bad really - the performance differences won't be that big either.

MikeX

April 12, 2013, 4:11 pm

Biggest problem with this machine is Windows 8! I would much rather have a MacBook Pro and OS X for "serious" work. Not many will buy this just as a gaming laptop, its market is really for users who will be using it for pro or semi-pro applications. Both better served in many cases by Apple and OS X. At least with the MacBook Pro, which is better built, you can always run Windows if you must.

RSD179

April 12, 2013, 5:45 pm

It's on the PCW website but 'out of stock' - maybe they're expecting supply?

http://www.pcworld.co.uk/gbuk/...

Byron Hinson

April 14, 2013, 12:56 pm

I have the i5 version and just be warned as it wasn't mentioned in this review - the laptop comes with Intel's Centrino 6235 wi-fi which is having major issues for many users. I wondered why my laptop was disconnecting from wi-fi every 30/40 minutes, but it turns out its been a known issue with the intel drivers/hardware for sometime. Just do a search on it for thousands of users of not just this laptop, but others that have the same issue.

SoulGamer

April 15, 2013, 9:04 pm

unfortunately I ended up with the 770 model rather than the 780 version with touchscreen. John Lewis have a pretty generous policy so I took the time to try out the laptop (using right now!) before I had it in later this week. Overall? A very lovely laptop - just waiting for the touchscreen version impatiently!

Matt Bickell

April 15, 2013, 10:52 pm

Pretty sure this doesn't have a hybrid drive - think this review is wrong!

Stephen Hinton

April 16, 2013, 3:18 am

This laptop does not has a 24gb ssd cache/hybrid drive as you state. I physically pulled apart the laptop when putting in an ssd and can confirm that the original drive is a samsung st1000LM024.

Byron Hinson

April 16, 2013, 5:12 am

Forgot to also mention - you say the laptop comes with a hybrid drive - the i5 version doesn't and I don't believe the i7 one does either. It's just a plain 1tb drive.

BestJinjo

April 16, 2013, 6:24 am

Yup, 1TB 5400 rpm SATA2 in the US at least.
http://www.samsung.com/us/comp...

Although with SSDs dropping in price so fast, in 2-3 years one can get a 1TB SSD to put into this laptop for $250-300 as Crucial M500 960GB is now $600 USD.

ronnie

April 18, 2013, 5:33 am

well the 2012 model has the hybrid drive...i bought it with 1 tb 2 weeks ago but i replaced it with intel 520 and its great :)

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