Samsung made the announcement of the new Chronos series of notebooks a few months ago but availability in Australia was non-existent until very recently. I was happy to see that finally JB hi-fi got these great business notebooks in stock. Today I will give you our first impressions having used this machine for about a week. Hint: it's by far the best business notebook I've had the pleasure to use. And here is why.
Up till now I have been using mainly Asus business notebooks for my personal use and have been very happy with their performance and build quality. In fact, most of our team members use Asus equipment. Having reviewed quite a few Samsung products over the last year we've been impressed with the quality of the products they have brought out recently. I'll just mention the Samsung Smart TV series, the Galaxy S2 phone which is arguably the best smart phone around, and the Galaxy Tab Tablet PC which should have been dubbed “Unobtanium” here in Australia…. It's no different with the Chronos notebook: it embodies the best in mobile computing I've been looking for.
Here is a short list of things that attracted me in this i7 model and I'll try to compare it with the Asus N61J Series which I have used over the past 18 months.
First up it has a gorgeous matte screen. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is in an office environment where you have reflections from overhead fluorescent lights or from windows behind you. It is also a much brighter screen at 300 nits. The resolution is not quite HD which is fine with me as the letters can become too small when it is 1080p. At 1600 x 900 is a lot better than the 1366 x 768 my very glossy Asus screen dished up.
Talking about glossiness: our regular readers know how much I hate the piano black veneer that many of our products have! Yes, Samsung has been one of the worst offenders with a home entertainment system that now collect dust (literally) in my lounge. Not only is the dust very visible but also any fingerprints. Fortunately, the new Chronos notebook has none of that. It's made of aluminium which has a light brownish sheen to it. This means it is also quite strong compared to your standard plastic laptop housings. It has some flex to it but that also gives it its strength. As a pilot I like my wings from aluminium with the ability to flex somewhat in the turbulent air when I fly!
The keyboard is another big reason for selecting this model as my main computer on the road. It is backlit! This makes a huge difference when you're typing an e-mail in the semi-dark of your lounge. Other members of my family have also been converted to the usefulness of a backlit keyboard. The keys themselves are the typical chicklet type and are very comfortable to type on. It also has a dedicated Num Pad and these extra keys are not only handy for accountants….
Courtesy of the large keyboard the screen is 15.6 inches which is only about half an inch shorter than my Asus even though the Samsung is a full inch less wide. Samsung utilises a thin bezel and is able to eke out a little more screen real estate as a result, similar to the Smart TVs which came out this year.
Another must have in my search for a new notebook is a longer, much longer battery life. I'm on my second battery with the Asus which will never give you much more than just an hour's worth of average computing. This Samsung model will easily get four times as much and has been tested out to get about eight hours of play time (screen off and just playing MP3s). The company is putting a lot of confidence in their battery as it is a nonreplaceable one. They say it is good for 1500 charges if you charge it not more than 80% for optimal conditioning. I can live with that but would have liked it better if it was user replaceable as well.
- It has a slot loading DVD. Good riddance to the ejecting trays! Yes, it's only a DVD and not a Blu-ray player. Not a big deal as it is not meant to be a gaming notebook.
- It's got two USB 3.0 ports and one of them can be charging a mobile device when the notebook lid is closed. Very handy.
- Even though the Samsung doesn't feel much lighter at 2.3 kg than the Asus it looks and is a lot sleeker. It's about half the height and that means that some compromises had to be made with the ports. And they found a clever solution: the LAN port needs the most room but it looks like it is only half height. So if you want to use this port just click the lower lip down to get the full-size port. The display port is very minimalistic already and the headphone out and microphone are combined. The HDMI port is slim enough to not need any special solutions. There is a full-size multi card slot in front.
Faster Boot Times
Here is where reality differs somewhat from the advertising. Samsung claims a complete boot up in 19 seconds and fast starting of common programs. It also will wake up from sleep mode in about two seconds. This is due to the clever use of a small SSD type drive in addition to the normal 750 GB HDD. It is also known as express cache technology. Now these good boot times may be true on an absolutely clean machine with no programs installed. Here is a reality check: with about half a dozen programs installed like Norton, Lightroom, Microsoft Office PocketFMS flight planner, Acronis and Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the boot time from scratch is about 45 seconds and another 10 seconds to open up Outlook and do something productive. Wake up from sleep is about seven seconds. Not as brilliant as having an SSD as your main drive but a pretty good compromise. On that score, I would have appreciated it if Samsung had made the hard drive replaceable but the only thing you can upgrade is the memory. This model has 8 GB of RAM. Compared to my old Asus the chip is also faster, being the second generation Intel Core i7. The notebook generates heat of course but much less than what I'm used to. The ventilation openings are on the bottom and the front of the unit.
This Samsung notebook comes with some software already installed and usually I am not a pretty big fan of that. One particular program, KIES, was constantly chewing up over 12% of my CPU usage so I quickly had to disable it.
The only other aspect that I would like to be different in this notebook is the ability to replace both hard drive and battery. Knowing how prone to failure these components in general are it's a bit of a gamble particularly in light of the warranty being only one year. I've seen other countries where this notebook is available with a two year warranty and it should be standard for a notebook of this class.
We are a little bit light on the technical details as this is more of a comparative first impressions look at the Samsung series 7 Chronos notebook.
My take? This outstanding all-round business notebook is great value for money even at its official RRP of 1999 Aussie dollars. If you're in Aus talk to your local JB hi-fi store for a much better price. I would be surprised if you can't shave off at least a couple of these yellow notes with Edith Cowan on the front…
But if you want to go budget, there is also an i5 model with 4 GB of RAM which carries an official sticker price of 1499. You can find great value laptops at Argos.