September 1, 2011 3:12 pm

Hands-on with the Samsung Series 7 Slate PC

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a new Windows 7 slate, which is why I was so interested to check out the brand-new Samsung Series 7 Slate PC, which Samsung debuted today at the IFA conference in Germany. Samsung was cool enough to give me sneak-preview of the Series 7 about a month before today’s launch, so what you’re reading today are my thoughts on the almost-finished version. My unit came with a full-voltage second-generation Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and a lightning-fast 64GB SSD. When it hits store shelves in early October you’ll be able to get one for $1299. There will also be a model with the same specs,minus the Bluetooth keyboard and dock (more on that later) for $1099, and a full-loaded version with a 128GB SSD  for $1349.

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Look and Feel

The Samsung Series 7, much like the ASUS EP121 that I looked at a few months back, is a pure-slate device. It’s super thin and light, measuring only 13mm thick and weighing in at just a hair over 2lbs. Like all Samsung products it’s solid without being bulky and well balanced without being heavy. It’s 11.6” across and sports a 16:9 aspect ratio with a 1366 x 768 HD resolution, which puts it on-par with most 11-13” widescreen laptops. It’s responsive and comfortable to use in widescreen mode, and that extra screen width comes in very handy when browsing the web in landscape mode.

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In the box with my Series 7 came three accessories – a dock that has a headphone jack, HDMI out and USB, a Bluetooth keyboard (which Samsung thoughtfully made exactly the same width as the PC, so when you carry them together they just “fit”) and a WACOM intelligent pen for taking notes. The inclusion of these accessories makes the Series 7 extremely versatile and equally good as a portable slate and a desktop PC. I used the PC as a pure touch device when watching video and browsing the web (making use of the on-screen keyboard when I needed to type in URLs), as a tablet-with-pen when scribbling down notes in OneNote in meetings and brainstorming sessions, and as a docked PC-with-keyboard when at my desk. The latter two modes were my favorites – I found the pen very responsive and fluid and the “docked” setup as good as a traditional laptop when sitting at my desk. The Bluetooth keyboard connects almost instantly so there’s no annoying lag between when you fire up the PC and when you can get to work.

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All together, the PC plus all of the accessories and power cord weigh less than 4lbs, making it an ideal travel companion. For comparison that’s a few ounces less as my Lenovo ThinkPad X220, and about the same weight as my Toshiba Portege R830.

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Performance

Well-executed industrial design is one thing, but it’s of little use without the performance to back it up. Fortunately Samsung didn’t skimp in this area – the Series 7 is FAST. Like, crazy fast. In my fundamentals test it outpaced almost every laptop in my inventory, particularly in the sleep and wake tests. In those areas it’s so fast that for me, it effectively served as my “instant on, instant off” solution:

  • Sleep (sleep button clicked to power down): Less than 1 second
  • Wake (power button pressed to desktop): Less than 1 second
  • Start up (power button pressed to desktop): 21 seconds
  • Shut down (no apps open; shut down clicked to power off): 11 seconds

The other area where I found the Series 7 to excel was battery life. Whereas many Windows 7 slates (and laptops, for that matter) conk out after a few hours of use, I got well over 5 hours of real-world use time off of a single charge. That’s really impressive stuff for a PC that’s this thin and light.

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One other feature worth noting is Samsung’s proprietary touch login system. This tool overlays a numeric touch login panel over the normal password scree so you can log back in to your PC very quickly. It’s less secure than typing your password in every time (I should note that you always have to log in with your password on boot), but much, much faster. It’s up to you if you’re willing to make that tradeoff.

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Final Thoughts

The Samsung Series 7 is a really nice slate PC. Maybe the best one yet. It’s an excellent choice for anyone who needs a touch-centric device today and a really positive herald of what’s to come.

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