If you’re looking to satisfy your craving for brushed-metal exteriors, look no further than the mesmerizing 14-inch Samsung Series 7 Chronos. The machine’s subtle minimalism and smooth curves may suggest a MacBook Pro wannabe, but it bears the comparison quite well.
The Series 7 Chronos is a very pretty machine. The cover, bezel, and wrist rest are adorned in gunmetal-gray brushed aluminum, and the keyboard deck and trackpad are free of unnecessary lines or buttons. Even the power button is stylish, with just the chrome-covered symbol raised up.
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The system does have a couple of minor design flaws. First, the curved bottom of the computer is made of plastic, so there’s a thin line around the edge of the keyboard deck where the plastic meets the aluminum. And second, the backlit keyboard features two-tone keys with black tops and white edges, which allow for a lot of light to seep through. Another consideration: For a slim 14-inch machine, it’s surprisingly heavy (5.3 pounds with accessories), but on a positive note the entire machine feels rock-solid.
Our review model, priced at $1100, sports an Intel Core i5-2430M processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 750GB hard drive. It also comes with Bluetooth, a built-in webcam and microphone, and Wi-Fi, as well as switchable graphics (with a discrete AMD Radeon HD 6490M graphics card). Our test model ran the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium.
The Chronos’s performance was somewhat disappointing. In our WorldBench 6 benchmark test suite, the Chronos finished with a mark of 118, which is a few points lower than the average score posted by other all-purpose laptops we’ve tested recently–and several points lower than the 125 turned in by the much thinner Asus Zenbook UX31E. Chalk that up to the Chronos’s lack of a solid-state drive. The laptop’s battery life was a little better than average for its class, clocking in at around six hours.
Samsung arranged the Chronos’s ports in an array typical of a slim machine such as the MacBook Air or an Ultrabook, but of course the Chronos isn’t that slim. You get two USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0), an HDMI out, a mini DisplayPort, an ethernet port, a combination microphone/headphone jack, and a lock slot. Because the laptop curves underneath, the ethernet port is hinged to accommodate a full-size connector. Samsung also provides a four-in-one memory card reader, a slot-loading DVD-RW drive, and an included VGA adapter that plugs into the mini DisplayPort slot. For additional networking, the Chronos offers built-in Bluetooth 3.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n.
The Chronos comes with a 14-inch matte LCD screen, with a native resolution of 1600 by 900. Matte screens do a nice job of reducing glare, but they often cause images to look less crisp and to have softer edges. Nevertheless, images on the Chronos’s screen looked sharp enough, and color representation was good, though a little oversaturated at times. The screen was sufficiently bright for comfortable use in direct sunlight. Unfortunately, Samsung turns the auto-brightness setting on by default, which I found annoying because the sensor is extremely sensitive. Unless you’re working in extremely consistent lighting the screen will flicker often as it alters its brightness level.
Video looked and sounded merely okay on the Chronos. In my multimedia tests, the laptop streamed HD video seamlessly but with occasional artifacts (blockiness) in the clips, especially during dark scenes. In PCWorld’s Far Cry 2 graphics tests, the Chronos managed an acceptable frame rate of 37.8 frames per second (at low quality and 1024-by-768-pixel resolution), and a less-than-ideal frame rate of 22.1 fps (at high quality and 1024-by-768-pixel resolution).
The Chronos’s speakers are adequate for basic multimedia consumption, but I wouldn’t recommend them for audiophiles or DJs (even dorm-room DJs). The audio was acceptable, but the speakers had little bass, a tinge of tinniness, and a slightly muffled quality. The speakers’ maximum volume is fairly low.
Overall, the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is a very attractive machine. Unfortunately, looks can take you only so far, in laptops and in life. The Chronos is larger, heavier, and a worse performer than some Ultrabooks, but it’s a great budget-friendly choice for Windows users who lust after MacBook Pros.