Review: Samsung Series 7 Chronos

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Review: Samsung Series 7 Chronos


Samsung wowed us with its ultra-thin, surprisingly powerful Series 9 laptop earlier this year, but the £1,000-plus price tag lifted it beyond the grasp of most common folk.

We’ve spent a week with the latest Samsung portable, the Series 7 Chronos (or Samsung Series 7 Chronos 700Z5A-S01, to give it its full catchy monicker), which isn’t quite as portable but certainly packs in the power – as well as a hefty price tag.

Although the rather curious name conjures up images of psychotic androids hell-bent on human extermination, the Chronos is a rather tame-looking beast.

Anyone expecting a super-slender chassis like the Series 9’s will be disappointed. The Chronos is still slender, at just 25mm, but the 2.4kg weight means it’s more of a chore to lug around than ultrabooks such as the Acer Aspire S3 and the Asus Zenbook.

The sleek silver lid is solid at the edges to keep the display from bending, and even the centre is surprisingly firm. Inside, the metallic motif continues. However, the palmrests are less sturdy than the lid, flexing under light pressure. It isn’t a major concern, but a pity considering the otherwise strong build quality.

We have to admit to being a little disappointed by the overall appearance of the Samsung Chronos. Perhaps our expectations were too high, but this laptop isn’t exactly a beauty compared to some of the new ultrabooks, or even the older Series 9.

Samsung series 7 chronos

Still, we were pleased to see the isolation-style ‘chiclet’ keyboard stretching the width of the interior, giving well-sized keys and enough room for a numeric keypad. Typing is a smooth experience, although the keys don’t travel far when hit.

The arrow keys are once again crushed into a single row, but we could find them without looking, thanks to their wide design.

The keyboard is also backlit, and a built-in light sensor ensures the subtle glow only turns on when the atmospheric lighting is poor, thus saving your battery life as well as your eyes.

However, it isn’t all good news. We noticed after typing for a while that the sharp edges of the chassis were cutting into our wrists.

Not hard enough to open up a vein, thankfully, but enough to leave a red mark. It isn’t so bad if you don’t slouch in your chair, but we found ourselves sinking further down as the working day progressed, putting our tender skin at risk.

We were also less than enamored with the Samsung Chronos’ touchpad. It’s spacious enough, taking up a generous chunk of the palmrest, but opts for annoying integrated mouse buttons.

You have to push the bottom corners to simulate left and right mouse button clicks, which quickly frustrates, since the cursor jerks each time. We gave up and started tapping the surface instead, which occasionally doesn’t register but is less annoying.

Specifications and performance

Samsung series 7 chronos

The Samsung Series 7 Chronos’ 15.6-inch display stretches almost to the edge of the lid, with only a slender bezel in place. It isn’t quite as sleek as the Dell XPS 14z‘s display, with its edge-to-edge glass, but the screen does appear larger than it actually is.

A sharp 1600 x 900 WXGA++ resolution keeps images crisp and clean, whether you’re browsing through embarrassing Facebook pictures or enjoying an HD movie. There’s no glossy coating, so you can use the Samsung Series 7 Chronos outside or in brightly-lit interiors without squinting through pesky glare.

Colours are still rich, and the screen is reasonably bright. However, the narrow viewing angles are less impressive.

If you need a machine to keep you entertained on the move, the Chronos’ spacious 750GB hard drive gives you plenty of space for your games, movies and music. A slot-loading DVD drive has also been packed into the slender chassis. If you’d rather use this laptop as a home entertainment machine, an HDMI port can be used to hook up televisions or monitors, and you have three USB ports for attaching peripherals, two of which are zippy USB 3.0 connections.

Samsung series 7 chronos

Samsung has joined a host of other manufacturers in the challenge to create the fastest booting laptop. The Windows desktop pings up just 20 seconds after hitting the power button, while the Samsung Series 7 Chronos also wakes up from hibernation in just two seconds. That gives you plenty more time to browse mucky Scandinavian websites.

Of course you get the usual range of trial software that has to be uninstalled, while Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11n Wi-Fi can be used to get online.

The Samsung Series 7 Chronos may be light on features, but it doesn’t skimp in the performance department. A mighty Intel Core i7 2675QM processor running at a standard speed of 2.2GHz is in charge, backed up by a generous 8GB of memory. This blasted through our benchmark testing, hammering every task we threw its way.

You can run any software imaginable, and should be able to for some time to come. If you want future-proofing, the Chronos lays it on thick.

Gamers and hardcore editors are also catered for, thanks to the AMD Radeon HD6750M graphics card. While the likes of the Alienware M18x provides twice the graphical power, you can still run some of the latest games on modest graphical settings, and older games run without issue.

Movie fans can enjoy the latest films in HD quality, with no stuttering or other issues. Video editing suites and other multimedia applications also run smoothly.

Despite all this power, we were highly impressed by the Samsung Series 7 Chronos’ excellent battery life. We put our laptops through a tough test, playing HD video on loop with performance settings turned to max, until the battery is drained. Most laptops last a mere three hours before dying, but the Chronos powered through four hours of video before the screen faded to black.

Cinebench 10: 16828
3D Mark ’06: 10049
Battery Eater ’05: 239 mins


Samsung series 7 chronos

The Samsung Series 7 Chronos may not be quite as thin as some of the emerging ultrabooks, or the glorious Series 9 that hit stores earlier this year, but can it stand out from the crowd with killer performance instead?

We liked

The latest Intel Core i7 Sandy Bridge processor crushes anything you throw at it, and will do for some time to come. You also have a powerful GPU that can handle the latest games (albeit with some graphical compromises) and multimedia software.

The screen is sharp and vibrant – a great way to enjoy the latest HD movies. The lack of a glossy finish means there are no annoying reflections when working out of doors, while a 750GB hard drive gives you plenty of room for your media. You also have a slot-loading DVD drive.

We were also impressed by the solid build, while the backlit isolation-style keyboard is spacious and well constructed. And although the Samsung Series 7 Chronos isn’t the slimmest or lightest laptop around, its excellent battery life will see you through a full day of office use.

We disliked

Although we like the keyboard, there are some usability issues. The sharp edge of the palmrest cuts into your wrists at times, and the touchpad opts for annoying integrated mouse buttons, which knock the cursor out of position when pushed.

The Samsung Series 7 Chronos also lacks that certain something to get us excited. It doesn’t have the sexy, curved chassis of the Series 9, or the ridiculously slender build of some of the new ultrabooks.

Final verdict

If you need a portable machine to entertain you on the move, which won’t be out of date any time soon, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is well worth considering. Just don’t expect great beauty.

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Review: Dell XPS 14z

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Review: Dell XPS 14z


We first checked out Dell’s XPS 14z at IFA, a slightly dinkier version of its excellent XPS 15z laptop. The XPS 14z hits stores today and we’ve already spent a few days snuggling up and getting to know it.

While a 14-inch version of a 15-inch laptop might seem a little pointless, we were impressed by how slim and light the XPS 14z turned out. With its 23mm build and 2kg weight, it more closely resembles a 13-inch portable. The XPS 15z wasn’t exactly a chubster, but commuters will want to consider this laptop first.

The slender body may seem less impressive compared to the upcoming slew of ultrabooks, including the ridiculously skinny Asus Zenbook which is just 9mm thick. However, we had no problem slipping the XPS 14z into our backpack and carrying it around all weekend.

In terms of design, almost nothing except the size has been changed from the XPS 15z. You get the same beautiful brushed metal finish, which feels as solid as it looks – we pushed and prodded every inch and found no worrying weak spots. Even the paper-thin aluminium lid is firm enough to take a pounding, so you won’t need to pad your bag with bubblewrap.

An isolation-style keyboard fills the centre of the XPS 14z’s chassis, bordered at both sides by the built-in speakers. We love the curved design of the keys, which gives them a futuristic appearance. They’re firmly set and comfortable to type on, while typos are a rarity thanks to the gaps between each key.

Dell xps 14z

The board is surprisingly well-sized too, despite not stretching the width of the laptop. The tiny arrow keys are the only casualty. As with the XPS 15z, the board is backlit for late-night sessions, and Dell also touts it as ‘spill-resistant’. However, we didn’t have the guts to assault it with a bottle of Evian.

We also liked the spacious touchpad, which thankfully avoids the irritating integrated mouse buttons you find on many compact laptops. Instead, the XPS 14z has two dedicated buttons underneath. The pad also supports multi-touch gesturing, as is the norm.

Our only issues with the design are the stiff lid hinges, which to be fair at least keeps the screen still when you’re on rocky public transport. The screen only tilts 45 degrees back from vertical, so finding a comfortable viewing angle can be tricky when the XPS 14z is resting on your lap.


Dell xps 14z

The Dell XPS 15z was a perfect way to enjoy HD movies on the go, thanks to its 1080p screen. The dinkier XPS 14z display isn’t quite as sharp, featuring a standard 1366 x 768-pixel resolution, but video still looks pleasingly crisp.

Images are also colourfully reproduced, but we were disappointed by the brightness levels – even with the settings turned to maximum, the XPS 14z’s screen isn’t as bright as the 15z’s. Viewing angles are also merely acceptable. However, the edge-to-edge glass gives the display a classy appearance which complements the slick design.

The built-in speakers are once again powerful enough to fill a small room. Sound is a little tinny on top volume, so audiophiles will want to hook up an external pair, but if all you need is a little background music you won’t be disappointed.

Regular travelers will want a sizeable hard drive for carrying their entire media collection around, and the XPS 14z doesn’t disappoint, packing in 500GB of storage. The drive spins at 7200rpm, faster than the standard 5400rpm, so software loads quickly and movies stream perfectly.

A 7-in-1 memory card slot can be used to boost storage space further, or access your holiday snaps on the move. The slender body also houses a slot-loading optical drive, so you can watch DVDs and install games from disc. Quite a few compact laptops skip on the DVD drive, so it’s good to see Dell cram one into the XPS 14z.

Other features are limited to a 1.3MP webcam for chatting with friends and family. We were surprised by the lack of ports, with only two USB connections available (one of them USB 3.0). Thankfully you get HDMI and Mini DisplayPort connections for hooking up a television, monitor or projector, but that’s your lot.

Networking is standard, with 802.11n and Gigabit Ethernet available for getting online. You also have Bluetooth 3.0 support for transferring files with mobile phones and hooking up headsets.


Dell xps 14z

The Dell XPS 14z comes in two Intel Sandy Bridge flavours: Core i5 and Core i7. We tested the Core i5 2430M version which performed typically well in our benchmarking tests. This powerful CPU is backed up by 6GB of memory, and even with bucketloads of programs running at once, we saw no slowdown.

Our model also packed an Nvidia GeForce GT 525M graphics card for gaming and running multimedia applications. This card is getting on a bit and we were disappointed by the stilted performance during testing. Recent games will stutter, unless you turn detail levels down to low or medium – you’re better off sticking with older titles.

If you want to play the latest games, we’d recommend boosting your budget and looking at a gaming machine such as the MSI GT680 or Alienware M11x instead. The Alienware M11x is a similar weight although a lot chunkier, but more than makes up for it with fantastic all-round performance.

Although you can’t smash up terrorists in high detail, you can easily run video-editing software and other multimedia applications. HD movies play perfectly too. And despite featuring some powerful components stuffed into a slender chassis, the XPS 14z remains cool and quiet at almost all times. Only when we inserted a DVD did it make any real noise.

We were also impressed by the excellent battery life, something the XPS 14z has in common with its elder brother. Usually Sandy Bridge laptops are defeated by the ruthless Battery Eater test in under three hours, but this portable played HD video on a loop for 200 minutes before finally submitting. This is almost as good as the XPS 15z’s four hour longevity, and beats most other multimedia laptops we’ve seen lately.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Cinebench 10: 9769
3D Mark ’06: 5345
Battery Eater ’05: 200 mins


When we first heard that a 14-inch version of the XPS 15z was in the workings, we were intrigued and excited, but also curious at how much difference an inch would make.

We Liked

As it turned out, that inch makes a considerable difference. The XPS 14z is surprisingly slender compared to its elder sibling, and a good chunk lighter too at just 2kg. The same slick brushed metal design is in place, and is just as drool-worthy, while the edge-to-edge glass of the display is a classy touch.

Build quality is also just as strong. There’s nary a weak spot, from the solid chassis to the ridiculously thin aluminium lid, while the isolation-style keyboard is a pleasure to type on.

Movie and music fans also have plenty to enjoy. The XPS 14z’s 500GB hard drive gives you plenty of space for a large media collection, and spins fast to keep things streaming smoothly. The 14-inch screen is colourful and crisp, while the speakers are better than most we hear.

Performance is good enough to run the latest multimedia software, and the Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge processor won’t be out of date any time soon. Yet despite these powerful components, we still managed well over three hours of intensive use before the battery died.

We Disliked

Unfortunately, some sacrifices have been made in slimming down the mighty XPS 15z. The screen only tilts back 45 degrees on its stiff hinges, and the Full HD 1080p resolution has been lost. We were also disappointed by how dim it was, even on the highest settings.

There’s obviously less space for ports, especially as Dell has crammed in a slot-loading optical drive, but the two USB ports seem a little stingy. Peripherals fans will want to invest in a USB hub.

The XPS 14z is also less graphically capable than its bigger brother, and we found the latest games were stuttery affairs unless we turned detail settings right down. Gamers should look elsewhere for their fix.


The XPS 14z is a more compact ultraportable version of one of the best laptops of 2011. While it isn’t quite as technically impressive, it’s still an excellent machine that can keep you entertained and productive on the move.

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Review: MSI FX720 Review

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So the British summer is having another shocker, and let’s face it, autumn will likely be just as grim. On that merry note, it’s well worth saving up some cash for a new entertainment machine to keep you occupied during those long, dark evenings, so you don’t have to resort to conversations with family members.

We’ve seen some excellent and unique multimedia laptops recently, from the sleek and powerful Dell XPS 15z, to the Acer Aspire Ethos 8951G, with its detachable remote control touchpad. The MSI FX720 certainly has a lot of competition, but it comes with a less eye-watering price tag than many of its peers.

This laptop might be half the cost of its competitors, but it also lacks the slick and attractive design that most multimedia laptops boast. While the XPS 15z sports a beautiful brushed metal finish, the FX720 makes do with a black plastic frame. It isn’t exactly ugly, but it doesn’t give us those ‘must have’ vibes.

The body doesn’t feel too solid either. It won’t break or fall apart in your hands, but some areas, such as the palmrests, do flex under pressure.

With a weight of 3kg it can be carried around when needed, although we wouldn’t drag it out on the daily commute. It’s best used as a home machine that can be shifted between rooms.

Build quality might not be as strong as we’d like, but the FX720 has a firm keyboard that is comfortable to work on for long periods.

Keys are well laid out and a great size, including the arrow keys which are often squashed. The only casualty is the Return key, which is cropped to fit a single row.

The isolation-style layout means each key is separated from its neighbours by a strip of plastic. Touch typing is more accurate, as you’re less likely to hit the wrong key.

You also have a separate numeric keypad, in case you take a break from movies and games to work on your accounts.

Just above the keyboard is a row of shortcut buttons. These allow you to power down the display, start Windows Media Player, eject the DVD drive and change the power settings. You also have a user-defined shortcut key, for loading your favourite application.

MSI fx770

Although size might not matter, it’s hard to enjoy the latest blockbusters on a tiny laptop screen. Thankfully the MSI FX720 comes with a 17.3-inch widescreen display, so you won’t be squinting to make out the action.

Images are impressively sharp, whether you’re browsing your photos or watching a film. Although the 1600 x 900 resolution means you don’t get full 1080p visuals, we’d struggle to tell the difference when kicking back with an HD movie.

However, as with many recent media laptops, the base FX720 model doesn’t come fitted with a Blu-ray drive. You either have to make do with DVDs, or download your HD content from an online provider. Alternatively, you can stump up more cash for the Blu-ray option.

While the screen isn’t the brightest we’ve seen, it’s still vibrant enough to bring photos and films to life. Viewing angles are reasonable, but the glossy Super-TFT coating is highly reflective, so you should stay away from windows.

The in-built speakers are also surprisingly good, with enough volume to fill a small room. Whether we were watching a film or blasting out music, the sound quality was consistently strong, with no distortion. Of course, if you want to enjoy some serious bass, you should invest in an external pair of speakers.

While many multimedia laptops feature at least 620GB of storage, the FX720 settles for a 500GB hard drive. This fills up surprisingly quickly if you download a lot of HD movies and install loads of games, but external drives are cheap these days so it’s not a crucial factor.

Other features are rather slim. Four USB ports can be used to hook up peripherals, with two of them supporting USB 3.0 technology. VGA and HDMI connections allow you to attach monitors and televisions, if the screen isn’t satisfactory.

As expected, you have 802.11n Wi-Fi for connecting to wireless networks, and gigabit Ethernet if you need to hook up to a wired LAN.

MSI fx770

The MSI FX720 uses an Intel Core i5 2410M processor, which is one of the latest Sandy Bridge models. Backed up by 4GB of memory, you get strong mid-range performance. We ran a number of resource-sapping software suites and noticed little slowdown, even when we tried doing several things at once.

One of nVidia’s older GeForce GT 520M graphics cards still holds up well, with HD movies streaming perfectly. Media editing software also runs smoothly, so you can mess around with your home photos and video as much as you like.

When it comes to gaming, the FX720 isn’t quite as strong as we’d hoped. Older titles such as Half Life 2 run perfectly, but more recent, action-heavy games tend to stutter on the highest detail levels. If you want a gaming machine that’ll last you more than a few months, we’d recommend looking elsewhere.

We were also a little disappointed by the overall performance compared to some other machines we’ve seen lately. While we weren’t expecting results comparable to the Dell XPS 15z or Acer Aspire Ethos laptops, which are twice the price of the FX720, there are better-value multimedia laptops available.

For instance, Dell’s Inspiron 15r has very similar specs for more than £100 less, while you can pick up the Lenovo IdeaPad Z570, which comes with a Blu-ray drive as standard, for just under £600. If you’re looking for a 17-inch multimedia laptop, we’d have to recommend HP’s Pavilion dv7 or the Samsung RF711 instead.

We also weren’t blown away by the FX720’s battery life. We know this laptop isn’t made for lugging around, but we barely made it through a two-hour film before the screen went black. Compare this to other multimedia laptops, which often last at least three hours, and it’s just another disappointment.


CineBench 10: 9746
3D Mark 06: 6221
Battery Eater 05: 120 mins

MSI fx770

We’ve seen plenty of multimedia machines over the summer, and while some of them have been rather pricey, very few have disappointed. MSI’s FX720 has some tough competition but does it offer enough to warrant a purchase?

We liked

If you’re a cinebuff, or simply enjoy relaxing with the latest Michael Bay explode-a-thon, you’ll love the FX720’s excellent screen. It might not be the brightest panel, but it’s impressively sharp and brings images to life with its rich, deep colours.

Performance is strong enough for everyday use, with no irritating long load times or unexpected stuttering. The dedicated nVidia graphics card means you can get stuck into games, although you’ll need to turn down detail levels on more intensive titles.

If you’ve had enough of games and movies, you can stay productive with the firm isolation-style keyboard.

We disliked

Sadly, the FX720 is lacking that sleek, polished design that makes most multimedia laptops so desirable. We’ve seen laptops around this price point with solid, brushed metal bodies, so the lower cost is no real excuse.

Also, while performance is perfectly fine, there are better value laptops with similar specs out there. On the other hand, if you’re a gaming fan you should look to spend a little bit more on a laptop that will last you longer.

The 500GB hard drive is a little stingy, considering how many portables at this price point have 640GB or 750GB of storage. There’s also no Blu-ray drive, which quite a few media laptops have missed out recently.

Also, it might be an obvious point to make, but the FX720 is best left on a desk at home. The 3kg frame and two-hour battery life hamper portability, so look elsewhere if you need a machine for the daily commute.

With a sexy design and slightly better spec, the FX720 could have been a winner. The 17.3-inch screen is excellent, but there are better multimedia machines to be had for this price.

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