When you need a full-strength laptop packed with power and style, Samsung’s Chronos 7 may be just the ticket – a notebook that feels smaller and more powerful than a typical 15-incher.
Unlike the stripped-down, thin, light notebooks coming to market now, the Samsung Chronos contains power, size, graphics, and even an optical drive.
A second-generation 2.4GHz Intel Core i5 processor – reasonably fast, though not the fastest – drives all operations, plus there’s 4GB RAM and a mid-range AMD Radeon 6750M dedicated graphics chipset with its own 1GB memory. Intel’s own graphics chipset is also included, and depending on the needs of the application being used, the Chronos is able to switch between the two.
There’s a lot of space here too, with 750GB of storage divided between two partitions. There’s also an 8GB solid state drive that, although not accessible by the user, helps speed up operations through the use of Samsung’s “Express Cache,” a technology that caches frequently-used files to speed up boot time and running programs.
Optical media is catered for as well, with Samsung eschewing the more common tray-based drives for a DVD-RW slot-loading unit.
Then there’s the screen: a 15.6 inch LED-edge lit matte LCD screen with a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels. Slightly above the screen is a 1.3 megapixel webcam, useful for video conferencing. A microphone is also included, and this is found on the palm rest near the keyboard on the left side.
Connectivity is strong with this laptop, with three USB ports, two of which are the new USB 3.0 variety (backwards compatible with USB 2.0). You’ll be able to connect the Chronos up to different displays, thanks to the inclusion of a full-sized HDMI and mini-VGA out with an included dongle.
Networking options here include a wired Gigabit port, 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, and Bluetooth 3, while multimedia is catered for in the form of a combined headphone-microphone 3.5mm jack, and an SD card slot.
A Kensington Lock is also included.
Cosmetically, the Chronos 7 is fairly minimalist: the lid is presented in a brushed metal look that continues throughout the body of the notebook. There’s lot of grey here, with the only accent found in the black of the island-style keyboard.
The keyboard occupies the entire width of the notebook’s chassis – bar a few millimeters at the left and right edges – with the inclusion of a numeric keypad accounting for the keyboard’s extra-large footprint.
Directly below the keyboard is a large 12.7cm (5 inch) diagonal trackpad, with one giant button and multi-touch features. Backlighting is provided, making the keyboard easy to use in darkened environments.
With its brushed aluminium lid, gun-metal grey plastic body, black island keyboard and discreet slot-loading drive bay, Samsung’s Chronos successfully channels a look of understated style. It’s a handsome chunk of mobile computer, but at just over two kilos, is around double the weight of many ultrabooks. And little wonder, really, because there’s a lot going on inside the Chronos.
Loaded with Windows 7 64-bit, it provides a fairly snappy experience for most activity, including regular office work, web browsing, and even a little bit of gaming if that’s needed.
The keyboard was mostly a joy to use, the keys providing a good tactile experience for the heavy-handed and feather-touch handed typists in our office. We say mostly because the plastic casing of the Chronos can be a little rough on wrists, the edges pressing hard into flesh and causing some discomfort.
The multi-touch trackpad was a little too sensitive for our liking, as we often inadvertently dragged items, or activated a left-click instead of a right-click.
Gesture control was better here than on other PCs we’ve tested, though, with pinch-to-zoom, two-finger scrolling, and even four-finger gestures (such as minimise windows to desktop and the Windows 7 flipping program manager) working with little effort.
Battery life is strong, providing us with roughly seven hours of use across activities that included word processing, WiFi and web surfing. For more multimedia-based activities, battery life is more likely to be around 5-6 hours, especially if you’re using applications that run the optical drive.
We like the matte screen of the Chronos: it doesn’t collect reflections from around the room like gloss surfaces do, making it easier to discern text and images in bright ambient conditions. That said, the colour on the screen can appear washed out, lacking in contrast and vibrancy, even when viewed dead-on.
The inclusion of an optical drive is a welcome touch, and the slot-loading mechanism complements the premium look Samsung has achieved with the Chronos. Given that this is a full-sized notebook with an HD capable screen, however, we’d have preferred Blu-ray support rather than just standard definition DVD playback. Other brands market smaller-screen notebooks with Blu-ray support, so this is an oversight on Samsung’s behalf.
Samsung’s Chronos manages to combine a fair chunk of power with a handsome design. There are, of course, many 15 inch notebooks selling for less than $700, but the extra power in the Chronos is what pushes it into a higher price bracket.
At a smidge under $1500, it’s more of a competitor to the 15 inch MacBook Pro range from Apple, even though the Mac arrives with a faster chip. If you like the look of that laptop but fancy a model with native Windows, the Chronos is worth checking out.