Yes, there's no score on this review. If you're curious to find out why, hit the performance section. For everyone else, read on.
While we all wait to see what Windows 8 will bring to the slate world, manufacturers are still putting out Windows 7 touch devices. The latest to crop up is from Samsung, with some interesting points of note — the first being eight points of simultaneous touch, meaning that it should be an acceptable upgrade target for Windows 8.
There are three SKUs available; two have a 64GB SSD and either Windows Home Premium (with dock) or Professional (no dock), both AU$1699. Another AU$200 will pick you up a 128GB SSD instead, but it once again forgoes the dock option.
An 11.6-inch, 1366x768 screen is the centrepiece of the product, with a single USB 2.0 port, microSD slot, micro HDMI and an audio in/out jack being the only expansion options on the device itself. Slot it in to the supplied dock, and you'll gain yourself an extra full-sized HDMI port, gigabit Ethernet and another USB 2.0 port. A Bluetooth keyboard is included to complete the package.
Hardware is, on the face of it, rather impressive. Samsung has essentially packed an ultrabook into a slate, including a Core i5 2467M and 4GB of RAM.
Unlike most laptops or slates, the base level Series 7 Slate doesn't come with a backup partition, with Samsung opting to let the user have as much of its 64GB SSD as possible. Instead, a software utility called "Recovery Solution" backs up the system to an external hard drive. Yes, this isn't pure factory reset, but it creates an image of whenever you choose to make the snapshot. As such, if you buy the Slate, this should absolutely be the first thing you do.
As is common among touch devices, DPI is set to 125 per cent in Windows to provide a larger touch area for fingers. Regardless, Samsung has built its own interface ("Touch Launcher") to try to bridge the Windows touch divide. As has always been the case with software layers, things aren't great. Loading apps is slow — something that is perhaps acceptable on the desktop, but not tolerated in a tablet environment, especially in an age where responsiveness is key. Even swiping between apps in the app launcher can be laggy, and often doesn't work if you swipe too quickly.
It ultimately comes across as a not-quite-there attempt to merge two different designs and usage languages, as you'll end up flipping between interfaces to get things done. Need to do something more complicated? Go back to Windows. Need to do something that requires a higher security clearance? You'll get dropped to a UAC prompt. These inconsistencies grate as much as the low responsiveness.
There's one software addition that does make Windows life in a world of touch easier, and that's a drag-able toolbar called "Touch Supporter". It features common functions, such as cut, copy, paste and undo, and useful additions like the magnifying tool and a numpad. There's even the option to add additional shortcuts, such as rename, refresh and quit program.
We were keen to see how Samsung managed BIOS entry, and you can enter it by holding down the button at the bottom while booting. The volume buttons navigate up and down, and the lock button selects, but there's no way to select sub menus. If you want to BIOS edit, you'll need to plug in a keyboard.
We're unsure whether this is a hardware or a software thing, but there was quite a bit of lag when using the stylus, let alone touch. A click and drag across the desktop showed the highlight box to lag some time behind the touch interface. This isn't a unique property to the Samsung; it has reared its head on Asus' Eee Slate EP121, as well.
Despite coming with a stylus, Samsung provides no place on the Slate to store it, which is an odd omission.
While hardware on the face of things looks impressive, Samsung has a heat problem. This causes the CPU multiplier to drop to 8x when things get toasty, effectively halving the speed. Just check out the results below, when compared to equivalent ultrabooks. We eliminated our sample unit as an issue by asking Samsung to send another; however, it was affected by the same issue.
Handbrake encoding (in seconds)
Samsung Series 7 Slate PC (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
To get close to normal speed, we had to resort to drastic measures.
We got close to the performance we'd expect by benchmarking in a freezer, indicating an overheating issue.
The thing is, it's not just under the heavy load of Handbrake (where we recorded approximately 70 degrees Celsius temperatures on the CPU) that performance crumbles. Even the comparatively easier tasks of iTunes encoding and Photoshop actions suffered. It's not something that we regularly witness, with HP's Folio 13 the only product in recent memory to have suffered from the problem — and only via Handbrake, and nowhere near as severely. Admittedly, Samsung is packing the hardware into a tighter space than an ultrabook, but the performance promise just isn't executed.
Samsung's official response is below:
Samsung Series 7 Slate PC manages the speed of the CPU based on the operating temperature for the CPU at 70 degrees. The Samsung Slate PC CTDP (controllable thermal design power) is set at 70 degrees Celsius. This is to ensure the device is never too hot to continuously hold. Each specific model has a different design of the CTDP, depending on its intended usage. Samsung takes product quality very seriously, and is commitment to manufacturing the highest-quality products that enrich the lives of customers.
In general operation, the performance of the Slate is quite snappy, as one might expect. However, it certainly doesn't fulfil the promise of high-level performance all the time.
Battery life (time)
- Heavy battery test
- Light battery test
- 6h 27m
- HP Folio 13 (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 6h 7m
- HP Envy 14 Spectre (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 5h 23m
- Asus ZenBook UX31 (Core i7 2667M, 4GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
- 5h 8m
- Toshiba Satellite Z830 (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 4h 53m
- Dell XPS 13 (Core i7 2637M, 4GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
- 4h 2m
- Samsung Series 7 Slate PC (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD)
- 3h 21m
- Asus ZenBook UX21 (Core i7 2677M, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 2h 54m
- Acer Aspire S3 (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The Slate does quite well indeed on battery, especially considering that Samsung has had less room to play with than the ultrabook makers.
We're quite torn on the Slate. On the one hand, as a casual product it will fulfil the user's need, and is quite nice to use. On the other hand, if someone wanted a casual tablet, they'd go iPad or Android, as the huge performance issues can't be ignored. For that reason alone, we'd recommend that if you're looking for a Windows slate, wait for Windows 8 and the new crop that will arrive.
To that end, we haven't scored it. It's not necessarily a bad product, but it is a broken one. To that degree, we recommend that you avoid it.