There's nothing very fancy about this updated version of Samsung's Series 7 Chronos. It doesn't have a Haswell processor, and it's way too heavy to call itself an Ultrabook, but if you're looking for a smart, powerful desktop replacement machine for use at home or in the office then the Chronos has a lot going for it. See all high-end laptop reviews.
Externally, this version of the Chronos looks very similar to the less expensive Core i5 model that we reviewed earlier this year, with the same brushed aluminium finish as before. However, pretty much all the main components have been upgraded, providing a much more powerful alternative to its predecessor. See also Group test: what's the best high-end laptop?
The 15.6-inch display is now touch-sensitive, and provides full-HD resolution of 1920 x 1800. Image quality is excellent – bright and colourful, and with a wide viewing angle both horizontally and vertically, although it's a shame that the anti-glare matt finish of its predecessor has been dropped in favour of a glossy, reflective finish. Take a look at The 8 best laptops: What's the best laptop you can buy in 2013?
The spacious keyboard and trackpad are nice and comfortable to use, and we like details such as the stenciled logo on the Windows key that allows the backlight to glow through. Samsung has gone an extra yard with the sound too, using JBL-branded speakers that produce a much fuller sound than we're used to hearing from most laptops.
It is not, however, the most portable of laptops. The Chronos measures 23mm thick and weighs 2.5kg, which means that this model has actually gained 0.1kg in weight – and that's despite the omission of the optical drive found in its predecessor, so must the price to pay for touchscreen Windows 8. But, of course, the Chronos, is intended to stay indoors most of the time, and it's still light enough to carry around when needed.
The Intel Core i5 model that we reviewed earlier this year cost £699, but this new model steps up to a quad-core Ivy Bridge Core i7 running at 2.4GHz (3.4GHz with Turboboost) along with 8GB of memory, a 1TB hard disk, and AMD Radeon 8870M graphics that supplements the low-power integrated Intel HD 4000 processor. You can't buy it direct from Samsung, but online pricing seems to typically be around the £1050.
The Chronos works hard to justify that price, though. It achieved a score of 4742 points when running PCMark 7, which is actually rather impressive for a laptop equipped with a spinning hard drive. It certainly has the raw power required for heavy-duty professional applications such as video-editing or audio-recording.
The Radeon GPU also means that it can handle some serious gaming action too, hitting 71 fps when running Stalker at 1280 x 720-pixel resolution at Medium quality, and only dipping a little to 59 fps at full 1920 x 1080 resolution.
Even more demanding games such as Batman: Arkham City didn't faze it, and the Chronos could still manage a smooth 38 fps even at 1920 x 1080 and High settings.
The Chronos provided pretty good battery life too, as you would hope for a product named as such. It lasted for a full 7 hours and 10 minutes when streaming video from the BBC iPlayer. That's still short of true all-day battery life but not bad for a pre-Haswell processor.
We did find that with the 5400rpm hard drive it booted rather slowly. A cold boot took a full 50 seconds, although the Windows 8 fast-start option then cut that to 30 seconds. But even that now seems like an age when you've gotten used to the speedy performance of laptops with solid-state drives.It's not going to win any awards for sleek design or portability, but the strong performance and multimedia features of the Series 7 Chronos make it a good Windows desktop replacement system, while still offering usable battery life for those occasions when it needs to go out and about.