Samsung is a well-known and generally respected brand within the computer and consumer electronics world, but we actually haven’t had a chance to look at very many of their laptops. We’ve reviewed many of their smartphones, some of their displays, and quite of few of their storage offerings (including HDDs and SSDs) over the years, but this is the first time in a long time that we’ve had a chance to review one of their upscale consumer notebooks. Given what we have in our hands, that’s unfortunate, as Samsung’s latest Series 7 notebook has plenty to offer.

We’ve praised the build quality, aesthetics, and design of Apple’s MacBook Pro offerings for several years, and more recently we really liked the way Dell’s XPS 15 looks—though we’re still waiting for the throttling issues to be addressed. The Series 7 certainly isn’t a direct attempt to copy a MacBook Pro, but it does have quite a few similarities in terms of the overall design. The aluminum and magnesium chassis is definitely a cut above average, and while the it isn’t a machined aluminum block and the metal isn’t as thick as on the XPS 15 (leading to less rigidity), the weight is actually quite reasonable for a 17.3”-screen chassis. The notebook itself is of a nearly-uniform z-height, eschewing the wedge shape that we’ve seen in many other laptops and notebooks over the years, and that’s something else I can appreciate. In terms of feel, the Series 7 chassis is a bit closer to something like the Dell XPS 15z rather than the MacBook Pro 15, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The design and aesthetic of the new Series 7 is really nice, driving home the point once more that you have to pay more for better designed products. Samsung uses aluminum for the LCD and palm rest, and the profile of the 17.3” model is still very thin and sleek. It’s nowhere near as close to looking like a MacBook Pro as the XPS 15 is, but it does follow some of the same design language where it makes sense. Moving on to the spec sheet, here’s what Samsung shipped us for our review unit.

Samsung Series 7 NP700Z7C-S01US Specifications
Processor Intel i7-3615QM
(Quad-core 2.30-3.30GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 45W)
Chipset HM76
Memory 8GB DDR3-1600
Graphics Intel HD 4000
(16 EUs, up to 1200MHz)
 
NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 2GB GDDR5 (Optimus)
(384 cores at 745MHz/835MHz Boost, 128-bit GDDR5-4000)
Display 17.3" WLED Matte 16:9 1080p (1920x1080)
(Appears to be Chi Mei Innolux N173HGE-L11)
Storage 1000GB 5400RPM HDD (Seagate ST1000LM024) with
8GB caching SSD (SanDisk iSSD P4)
Optical Drive DVDRW slot-load (Matshita UJ8A7AS)
Networking 802.11n dual-band 300Mb WiFi (Intel 6235)
Bluetooth 4.0 (Intel 6235)
Gigabit Ethernet (Realtek RTL8168/8111)
Audio Realtek ALC269
Stereo Speakers plus Subwoofer
Headphone/Microphone combo jack
Battery/Power 8-cell, ~16.5V, ~4600mAh, ~77Wh
90W Max AC Adapter (19V, 4.74A)
Front Side Memory Card Reader
Left Side Headphone/Microphone jack
Mini-DisplayPort
2 x USB 3.0
HDMI
VGA
Gigabit Ethernet
AC Power Connection
Kensington Lock
Right Side 2 x USB 2.0
Slot-Load Optical Drive (DVDRW)
Back Side 2 x Exhaust Vents (Behind Hinge/LCD Cover)
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 15.9" x 10.3" x 0.98" (WxDxH)
(404mm x 262mm x 24.9mm)
Weight 6.26 lbs. (2.85kg)
Extras 1.3MP HD Webcam
102-key Backlit Keyboard with Dedicated 10-Key
Memory Card Reader (MMC/MS Pro/SD)
Price $1500 MSRP, online starting at $1400(8/15/12)

Samsung equips the Series 7 (specifically, the NP700Z7C-S01US) with several components that are becoming standard fare on modern mainstream notebooks. The CPU is a quad-core Ivy Bridge i7-3615QM (basically the same as the i7-3610QM but with a slightly higher 1.2GHz maximum IGP clock instead of 1.1GHz) while discrete graphics come courtesy of NVIDIA’s GeForce GT 650M Kepler chip—with Optimus Technology to improve battery life, naturally. While the CPU is reasonably high-end, the graphics are more of a mainstream offering, and that same dichotomy exists in many of the other components.

For a relatively high-end notebook, the storage subsystem is going to be something of a sore point. Yes, Samsung provides some SSD caching, but frankly it just doesn’t feel particularly snappy in practice. I’m not sure if the fault lies with the 5400RPM hard drive, the pitifully small 8GB SanDisk SSD, the ExpressCache software, or some or all of those elements. We recently got our first taste of Intel’s Smart Response Technology in a laptop with the XPS 15, and while 32GB wasn’t enough to completely mitigate the slower HDD performance, overall the experience was quite good. With the Samsung, I’ve been shocked by how frequently the HDD activity LED goes solid, particularly during Windows boot and post-boot as well as post-resume. There were times where the HDD light would be lit up for minutes on end, and applications wouldn’t respond to user input. Given that Samsung makes an excellent SSD in their PM830 series, I can see no good reason—other than penny pinching—to not include a better storage subsystem.

That penny pinching extends to other areas—and explains the use of the ExpressCache software rather than Intel’s Smart Response Technology. The HM76 chipset only supports two USB 3.0 ports and no SRT, and that’s what Samsung is using. The price difference between HM76 and HM77 is very small—Intel lists the HM77 at $48 and the HM76 at $43—and yet the impact on the final product is definitely felt. I’m not sure many people will actually need more than two USB 3.0 ports during the life of this notebook (since they’re mostly of benefit for external storage right now), but SRT with a larger and faster SSD would significantly improve the responsiveness.

As mentioned earlier, the matte LCD is quite good and is another highlight of the Series 7, and considering that’s where your eyes will be focused any time you’re using the notebook we appreciate the use of something better here. We’d still prefer to see companies push for good IPS displays, and Apple’s MacBook Pro Retina is leading the charge in the high-quality display arena, but at least the LCD isn’t going to drag down an otherwise good experience.

When we get to the bottom line is where things start to get a bit dicey. I mentioned in the XPS 15 review that you can get very similar performance if you’re willing to give on the build quality and materials for $1000 from the ASUS N56VZ. The Series 7 is built better than the N56VZ and I prefer the keyboard as well, but this particular model is also slightly larger and it costs $400 extra. Samsung’s notebook looks and feels better, but is it $400 better? If Samsung had equipped the notebook with a 256GB PM830 SSD I’d go for it, no problem, but with the lackluster HDD/SSD combination (basically no better than a Seagate Momentus XT in my experience, and actually worse according to our benchmark results), the decision isn’t quite so clear cut. Let’s dig a little deeper into the design and overall experience before hitting the benchmarks.

The Samsung Series 7 in Practice
POST A COMMENT

49 Comments

View All Comments

  • nerd1 - Sunday, August 19, 2012 - link

    Exactly WHAT problems? I own 13" MBA and my friend has series 9 2011 model and I think s9 is better in almost all aspects. Reply
  • bennyg - Saturday, August 18, 2012 - link

    Where are the comparison with the 95% AUO 1080p TN screens used in Clevo's high end gaming laptops
    B156HW01 v4, v7
    and the ones used in 17"

    Very ironic how AUO and Chimei are responsible for so many cheap crappy low res screens now they're the only ones turning out top notch high res TNs!
    Reply
  • rwei - Monday, August 20, 2012 - link

    (1) EVEN MORE SHALLOW KEY TRAVEL!!!
    http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/20/synaptics-enter...

    (2) Clickpads with NO BUTTONS AT ALL!!!
    http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/20/synaptics-force...

    Gonna be some good-@$$ rants coming up in the near future. Bet you're loving Synaptics today.
    Reply
  • jsa - Tuesday, August 21, 2012 - link

    My 2004 Dell Inspiron 8600 just can't keep up with some fairly basic tasks, so I've been following reviews here (and elsewhere to supplement--wish there were more here!) for the past few months to try to decide on a new machine. The Asus N56V is currently my top contender after being disappointed with the findings in the last couple of reviews.

    One thing I haven't gotten straight in my head is whether there is some benefit to having the discrete GPU for a nongamer (or occasional gamer at most) such as myself. I understand there may be some battery life disadvantages to having it; are there also some benefits I might reap? Perhaps the whole question is moot as I haven't really seen any interesting options for use as a main computer (not quite ready to relegate the optical drive to my secondary machine), that are limited to integrated graphics.

    One thing that seems important to me is having good sound, as I'd like to move around the house and, if I'm going to stay put for a while, listen to music from the notebook without dealing with external speakers; another is a high resolution display, because I like to fit a lot on that screen. The main other contenders seem to be the Series 7 reviewed here, which has a much nicer case and maybe better sound and keyboard, but not as good a screen, much more expensive, and some disappointments in the review; the HP Pavilion dv6, which also seems to have better sound than the N56V, but seems like it may have quality control issues (as well as a glossy screen); the Lenovo Y580, which I don't know much about, but doesn't seem quite as appealing as the N56V; and the Sony Vaio S 15", which generally seems like a good machine, but doesn't seem to have very good sound at all.

    Apologies if this isn't appropriate as a comment.
    Reply
  • infoilrator - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    The greatest difficulty is to extend performance, size, cost, and battery life.
    With speakers more sound is easier with larger speakers. Some of the USB plug ins do pretty well. Being small, light, and power efficient is a contradiction. Piezo tweeters can be loud and efficent if you sacrifice bass. There are dome speakers thar do better, these get expensive fast. Cone speakers are a possible answer, require space and magnets.
    Possibly someone makes cordless USB headphones for you, a possible answer.

    Every laptop is a marketing/price compromise.

    Recently SSD prices have dropped. Please remember lead time in choosing components for mass production. You can have "just in time delivery" but prices and choices can reflect over a year back. Or more. Contracts have to e signed so assembly lines are not idle for want of parts

    If prices of HDDs and SSDs continue to fall expect this first to appear with smaller producers.
    Reply
  • infoilrator - Friday, August 24, 2012 - link

    Around the house maybe a wireless connection to an existing sound system? Reply
  • jsa - Sunday, August 26, 2012 - link

    Thanks for all your insights. I don't have an existing sound system, but it may be worth getting rid of the "good sound" requirement, since I won't get great sound, anyway. Then I can either implement a wireless system of some kind or check out USB speakers. (Cordless USB headphones are a pretty interesting option, but don't work when my girlfriend is over.)

    That opens up my options, and in particular makes the Vaio S 15.5" a more attractive choice.

    As someone who wouldn't be playing games much (if ever), is there a strong benefit to losing the dedicated GPU, or is it pretty much a draw?
    Reply
  • jemccloskey - Sunday, October 21, 2012 - link

    Sorry if I'm posting and this thread is already dead. I have a Samsung Series 7 17" - NP700Z7C-S01US and I am unable to frame rates even close to those mentioned in the benchmark results. I get frame rates between 8-12 @ 1366x768 on Batman Arkham City, Battlefield 3, Fallout: New Vegas. DX11 on and off etc..

    This is with drivers ranging from 296.87 through all betas and the current released version 306.97. In addition, I have tried every configuration and I have specified to use the nVidia discrete graphics: via context menu, Physx config, and 3D Settings. However, I am unable to pass the 12 fps threshhold. In addition I have installed, the latest BIOS update, Windows7(64bit ultimate and pro) 3 different times, and used Nivdia Optimus GPU Tools state viewer, GPU-Z and Throttlestop 500a.

    Just to sum things up: I get better fps average results from using the Intel IGP HD Graphics 4000. And I'm not confusing the nvidia with the intel when profiling. Verified harware ID's, throughput and bandwidth via 3 different utilities.

    I have played with all power management issues etc...In any case, I'm totally confused as to how to achieve the frame rates mentioned in your benchmarks. I must be doing something wrong. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    Thank you,
    jmccloskey@gmail.com
    Reply
  • FlavioJuan - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    I have bought this great Computer a week ago.

    The GOOD ones
    It has a good design is lightweight (4 a 17" Laptop)
    Aluminum design is also great looking
    Battery last almost the 6 promoted hours,
    Bright is OK
    Multi touch pad works fine.
    Sound is also OK.
    Great Battery life extender feature in BIOS.

    The BAD ones

    For this kind of “high range” computer, I really do not understand why max RAM was designed up to 8Gb.

    Battery is not removable (not even a switch to turn it off).

    Boot from Pen drive not available in BIOS boot options.

    No Blue ray reader.

    No button to eject discs from reader, you can eject disc only from windows. (Not even an eject hole) so if you don’t have Windows running… there is no way to take a disc out.

    A lot of Samsung proprietary software must be loaded to get this machine full working,

    Several features are software dependent, like for example, keyboard backlight, controlled by Fn + F9 F10, so u have to wait till complete windows + driver properly loaded, to have this feature available.

    If you are on a non-dark environment then every time you wish the keyboard backlight ON, you will receive a warning telling you that you can just turn in ON only in dark environment.
    (In the other hand I tried to disable Light sensor from control Panel >Sensor but it didn’t works. So the solution I have found for this issue was covering the sensor with a coin or piece of tape. Really amazing!)

    But what I really hate, (and this seems not only belongs to Samsung laptops, but for most of suppliers) is all the garbage software pre-installed on a new machine.
    I buy a new laptop every year, and all I wish is a CLEAN computer installed just with SO + DRV.
    I spent almost a day cleaning it in order to get the machine working without all these pre-installed software. Because in this process, sometimes uninstall some vital soft, and as
    Re-installing doesn’t works properly, the only solution is perform a complete recovery then start again with the task.

    I would prefer my windows 7 working at full range just with my applications instead to waste resources with all the Samsung resident softs that degrades my machine's performance.
    But this kind of practice seems to be normal for all the laptop suppliers.
    Could we (the customers) do something to change it?

    Model NP700Z7C-S03US
    SN / HUY691DC800028
    Purchased on oct 30 2012 Tiger direct Miami, FL

    Best regards for everybody.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now