When closed, the glossy, curved surface of the Samsung Series 7 Gamer is a mysterious black slab that could be mistaken for the rumored “PlayStation 3 ultra-slim.” Open, it’s made from dark, brushed gunmetal that looks great until smudged up by fingerprints, and its 17-inch, 1920×1080 glossy screen is sharp and bright almost to a fault. It’s full of some respectably high-end hardware, and if not for a layer of “gamer” software apparently designed for a comically exaggerated gamer stereotype, it’d be a very dignified-looking machine. As long as you turn that crap off and don’t try to treat this like a portable laptop instead of an all-in-one desktop, the two of you will probably get along just fine.
It’ll perform admirably while it can pipe electricity from the socket directly to its GeForce 675M GPU and mobile i7 CPU, almost maxing out current games, and it looks great doing it. But for $1,900, I expect at least a short blaze of battery-draining mobile gaming glory, yet when unplugged The Series 7 Gamer automatically throttles back to a fraction of its full potential. Performance goes straight down the tubes, losing almost 75% of its framerate numbers, rendering games like Batman: Arkham City all but unplayable at anything close to high settings. So don’t do that.
Not that this is a PC I’d want to carry around much. At almost eight and a half pounds, it’ll weigh a bag down like a couple of bricks — and that’s not including the large, brick-like power adapter. It puts the bulk to good use, though, and makes no compromises in features. Its many external orifices include four USB (two of which are 3.0), ethernet, HDMI, VGA, and DisplayPort plugs, multiformat card reader, and a tray-loading Blu-ray drive. It’s even got a WiDi (wireless display) transmitter inside, though I don’t have a receiver to test that out. The one thing it doesn’t have is an SSD of any kind — a surprise for any PC on sale in mid-2012. Instead, this one’s equipped with two un-RAIDed Hitachi 750GB 7200rpm hard drives. Can I give back some of the gratuitous 16GB of RAM and get a 128GB boot SSD in here?
|Samsung Series 7 Gamer Specs|
|CPU: Intel Core i7-3610QM 2.8GHz
RAM: 32GB DDR3 1333MHz (2X 8GB)
Hard Drive: 2X 750GB 7,200rpm HDD
Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce 980M
Optical Drive: Blu-ray
Operating System: Windows 10 Home Premium (64-Bit)
Warranty: One-year standard parts and labor
Price of Reviewed System: $1,900
The parts you touch, though — the full-sized keyboard and trackpad — are excellent. The keyboard is firm, springy, and comfortable, and the trackpad is large and recognizes two-finger scrolling gestures well. The only problem is the size and positioning of the trackpad, which makes it vulnerable to my left palm accidentally triggering it. However, realistically the amount of time I see myself using this type of PC without a real mouse is next to nil, so I mostly kept the trackpad disabled during my play time. Additionally, the aforementioned screen also has a respectably wide viewing angle, and the speakers are loud and clear enough that you probably won’t need a speaker system to game without headphones — which makes it a pretty good movie-watching machine.
On the right side is a knob that allows for quick switching between low-power mode, a muted and dimmed “library mode,” normal balanced settings, and of course “gamer mode.” The latter throws caution to the wind as its internal Mr. Scott puts everything she’s got into the GPU, at which point it takes over the screen for a few seconds to play a ridiculous sci-fi animation, complete with mechanical whirrs and bleeps, that illustrates how much the Series 7 means serious gaming business. As if that weren’t enough, It also illuminates a blue “TURBO” sign above the keyboard and makes the WASD keys glow red, changes the desktop background to neon cyber-eyeball, and even changes the mouse cursor icon for no reason. It’s the kind of thing that’s awesome the first two or three times you see it, provided you’re a 14-year-old who’s recently decided you’d rather have a gaming laptop than college tuition. Everyone else will probably spend the next few minutes trying to figure out how to disable that flourish after the first time. (Spoiler: it’s in the ModeShift utility.) Dammit Samsung, stop watching Hollywood hacker movies.
As a more minor gripe, I kind of hate the volume control, which is a strange touch-sensitive non-button above the F3 key. Why does it look like a flat knob you can rotate to adjust the sound level when all it wants you to do is tap the right or left sides? I don’t know, but whoever thought that was a good idea is quite wrong. The other touch-sensitive buttons next to it, which toggle on and off wifi, keyboard backlighting, and mute, are much more reasonable.
For my actual gameplay experience, I had a rather comfortable couch-gaming session playing Batman: Arkham City’s Harley Quinn’s Revenge DLC with the Series 7 on my lap and a rigid mousepad on the armrest. My comfort factor declined eventually, however, as my lap became increasingly toasty by the time I got an hour in.
It should also be noted that this system does come with a mild case of pre-installed crapware, including a Norton security utilities setup that nags for registration. Your first stop should be the add/remove programs control panel to get rid of the garbage.
Max It Out
Because all anybody’s really interested in doing when they buy a new gaming PC is turning everything up to maximum, that’s what I did here: all sliders pushed as far to the right as they’d go — no compromises. All of this, by the way, is happening at 1920×1080 resolution.
Batman: Arkham City
With PhysX on normal, it limped across the finish line with a 25fps average and a 32fps max. I like to average at least 40 in a timing-sensitive Batman game — a result I achieved by turning down antialiasing to “FXAA (High).” It still looks pretty good at that setting, so I’m happy.
With PhysX cranked to high, of course, the framerate slowed to the mid teens. To be fair, any single card short of a full-fledged GeForce GTX 680 fails at that task.
Total War: Shogun 2
Shogun 2’s high-settings benchmark clocked in at a choppy 25fps average. That’s manageable but ugly for a slow-paced strategy game, so I’d recommend turning down antialiasing here as well.
Forza Horizon 3
I’m a little disappointed by the showing in Forza Horizon 3. Desktop systems don’t break a sweat pushing this aging racer over 60fps, but the Series 7 only managed to averaged 44fps. That’s good enough for most folk, but unspectacular.
X1127 on Extreme settings.
But is it a good deal?
$1,900 will, of course, go considerably further in a desktop (where you aren’t paying for a screen and your GPU can be the size of a Volkswagon) but for this type of PC, it’s a respectable performer and affordably priced. For context, a comparably configured Alienware MX18 ran more than $2,600, which is quite a bit to pay for one extra inch and a half of monitor space. And once you’ve disabled the obnoxiousness, the Series 7 Gamer is a more elegant-looking PC to boot.
Pros: Respectable performance; cool lookin’; great screen and keyboard.
Cons: Poor performance while unplugged; obnoxious “gamer mode” frills; heavy.