Review Price £1,199.00
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 -
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