Samsung Series 7 Ultra review
Samsung's laptop range seems a bit untidy at the moment. When it arrived, this laptop had the name Series 7 Ultra clearly printed on the box as well as on the aluminium case of the unit itself. The Samsung web site, however, refers to it as the Series 7 Touchscreen Notebook. And, just to confuse things even further, there's also a model with the same design, dimensions, and even model number (NP740U3E) that is now referred to as the Ativ Book 7. See all high-end laptop reviews.
But if Samsung's naming system is a mess, we can at least report that the Series 7 Ultra is a smart, attractive laptop that provides good performance for a wide range of applications. See also: Samsung Series 7 Chronos NP780Z5E review.
The Series 7 range has been around for a while, and this latest version sticks with the same slimline, silver-grey aluminium casing as its predecessors. That inevitably prompts comparisons with Apple's MacBook Air, but the 13-inch Series 7 Ultra is actually larger and heavier, measuring 18.9mm thick and weighing 1.65 kg, against 17mm and 1.35 kg for the 13-inch version of the MacBook Air. A closer comparison can be drawn to Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro. See also Group test: what's the best high-end laptop?
You do notice that extra weight when you pick up the Series 7 Ultra with one hand, but 1.65 kg is still very much in Ultrabook territory and you can certainly carry it around in a backpack or briefcase without strain. It's sturdily built too, so we wouldn't worry about it coping with the occasional bump along the way.
The keyboard and trackpad are both spacious and comfortable to use, and we like details such as the fact that the symbols are stenciled onto the keys rather than just painted, which allows the Apple-style backlighting to glow right through each individual key. Our only minor complaint is that the hinge for the screen panel is rather springy, and it makes the screen wobble a bit when you're typing away on the keyboard.
The 13.3-inch screen itself is excellent, very crisp and bright, with full 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution and good viewing angles both horizontally and vertically, although the glossy screen coating will be annoyingly reflective in bright daylight. The screen on this latest model is touch-sensitive too, and even the JBL speakers stand out, producing a warmer, less tinny sound than most laptop speakers.
The Series 7 Ultra is currently only available in a single configuration, typically priced at £1000 with previous-generation Ivy Bridge Core i5 running at 1.8GHz, 6GB of memory, 128GB solid-state storage and both integrated Intel HD 4000 and discrete AMD Radeon 8570M graphics processors.
This is where you need to watch out for the Ativ Book 7, which has a very similar design and specification but only includes 4GB of memory and loses the dedicated graphics processor. Oddly, though, the online prices for both machines seem to be about the same, so we'd recommend that you make sure to get the Series 7 Ultra as that offers better value for money.
It performed well too, even if it's still using last year's Ivy Bridge version of the Core i5. A score of 4889 points with the PCMark 7 benchmark means that it edges ahead of the current MacBook Air, which scored 4602 points with its modest but more efficient 1.3GHz Haswell Core i5 processor.
And while the Radeon 8570M isn't exactly state of the art it could run Stalker at 39 fps at 1280 x 720 resolution at Medium graphics settings, which makes casual gaming perfectly possible.
Switching to the more power-efficient integrated graphics allowed us to get exactly 5 hours (300 minutes) of streaming video from the Series 7 Ultra. You may be able to stretch that with casual web browsing although, of course, that's still far short of the 14 hours that you can get from the MacBook Air these days.
Go to the next page to see our orignal hands-on review.