The Samsung Series 7 tablet is a compact yet flexible machine. This business-ready 11.6-inch slate tablet costs more than an Android tablet and an iPad put together, but it packs more powerful components along with Windows 7 Home Premium, or in our case, a preview of Windows 8.
Our evaluation unit also included a host of accessories, including a Bluetooth keyboard, a wireless mouse, a dock, and a case/stand. With keyboard and mouse in tow, the Series 7 can replace your laptop. And with Windows 8 in particular, the touch interface is superb, whether you are using your fingertip or the included digitizer pen.
Samsung sells seven Series 7 models. We reviewed entry-level model, which, if you are scoring at home, carries the model number XE700T1A-A01US. It costs $1,099.99 and features a second-generation (Sandy Bridge) Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory, and a 64GB solid-state drive (SSD). The total price for our entire kit, which includes the Slate Dock/Cradle ($99.99), the Samsung Stand Case ($49.99), the Samsung Compact Wireless keyboard ($79.99), and the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse ($59.95), comes to $1,389.91.
If your requirements for a tablet go beyond Angry Birds, Facebook, and YouTube videos, the Samsung Series 7 offers the performance and functionality of a laptop. Of course, we base much of our positive experience with the Series 7 on the fact that it was running Windows 8 Release Preview. If you purchase the Series 7 today, or any day between now and October 26, you'll get Windows 7 Home Premium, which doesn't come close to matching Windows 8's loving embrace of the touch interface.
There is a price to pay, however, for a running a Core i5 instead of an underpowered Atom processor or its ilk. And that price comes in the form of a cooling fan, which spins nearly constantly. It's relatively quiet, but you can hear it when working on the tablet, and you can feel the warm air it pushes out of the vents along the tablet's top edge. Also, both the front- and rear-facing Webcams are subpar.
For road warriors looking to lighten their load, the Samsung Series 7 packs an impressive amount of functionality into a sub-two-pound package. At this point, however, we'd suggest waiting for the Series 8 or whatever Samsung decides to call its forthcoming Windows 8 slate tablet.
Build & Design
The Samsung Series 7's design is solid if unexceptional. A plastic chassis surrounds a bright 16:9 screen. The screen's image is crisp, but the 16:9 aspect ratio makes the tablet appear extra long (in portrait mode) or extra wide (in landscape). The plastic backing flexes a bit at its center but not to a degree that is overly concerning. Still, the Series 7 does not feature the ruggedness of the Motion Computing CL900 tablet. You won't find any rubber bumpers or port covers on the Series 7.
The lack of any ruggedization allows the Series 7, at 1.9 pounds, to come in a few ounces lighter than the 2.1-pound Motion CL900, which features a smaller 10.1-inch display. Of course, a 10.1-inch consumer tablet will be lighter. Samsung's own Galaxy Tab 2, for example, weighs only 1.3 pounds. The Series 7 is a hair thinner than the Motion CL900, measuring only a half inch thick. The Series 7, however, is about 1.5 inches longer and 0.3 inches wider than the Motion.
The Series 7 offers a smattering of ports and buttons on its four sides. On the left side you'll find a micro HDMI port, a full-size USB port, a combo headphone/microphone jack, a volume rocker, and the AC adapter jack. On the right side sit the power button and a rotation lock button. On the top edge dual microphones flanks a MicroSD card slot. On the bottom sit the dock connector and two speakers. The optional dock provides a full-size HDMI port, a USB 2.0 port, an Ethernet port, and a headphone jack.
There is one button the tablet's bezel. In Windows 7, it activates Samsung's Touch Launcher, which provides shortcuts to your touch apps. On our eval unit running a preview of Windows 8, this button was inactive, perhaps indicating Microsoft's next OS will not need such assistance with touch. Also, the rotation lock button on tablet's right edge was deactivated.
The Samsung Series 7 features a front-facing 2.0-megapixel webcam and a rear-facing 3.0-megapixel webcam. Images and videos captured with either, sadly, resulted in grainy, dark images. The tablet's speakers, however, were a mild surprise. They certainly can't fill a room and offer a poor experience for music playback , but they suffice for watching Hulu, YouTube, and other Internet video.
We did not benchmark the Series 7, but in anecdotal testing, the tablet felt peppy and responsive. Applications loaded quickly, and we experienced little to no lag when using touch applications. The Series 7 ran for roughly 4.5 hours under a balanced power plan when using a mix of Office applications and watching the occasional Hulu video. You can expect a bit longer running time when running in power saver mode, but the battery will still fall short of getting your through an entire workday on a single charge.
The Samsung Series 7 ships with a digitizer pen, and there are a number of optional accessories that extend the tablet's functionality. First, the pen. It's pressure-sensitive and features a right-click button on its side, and you can turn the pen over and use its top as an eraser. We found it to be very easy to use and useful with Windows 8. Many apps in Office 2013, for example, support handwriting with Ink and Drawing Tools. The pen felt smooth and accurate, and while the screen is large enough to comfortably navigate Windows 8 via fingertip, the pen provides added accuracy that is useful in some tight spots.
The onscreen keyboard features large keys and was responsive during our tests. Samsung's Bluetooth keyboard, however, will quicken your typing pace. It's the same width as the tablet and very thin. It's powered by a pair of AAA batteries, and the battery compartment runs along the keyboard's top edge, providing a comfortable angle for typing. Use the either the dock or Samsung's Stand Case along with the keyboard, and you'll feel like you are typing away on something resembling a two-piece ultrabook.
Samsung does not sell a wireless mouse, but our eval unit came equipped with Microsoft's Arc Touch Mouse. It features a thin, flexible body. When straightened, the mouse is off. Snap it into an arch, and it turns on and creates a comfortable palm rest. In place of a scroll-wheel between the two mouse buttons is a touch-sensitive scroll zone, which makes scrolling through long documents or Web pages easy.
If the Samsung Series 7 is any indication, Windows 8-based tablets are going to be a big hit with the business set. Soon, we will have a Windows OS that is built for such a device. There will no doubt be a rush of Windows 8 tablets this fall after Microsoft officially releases Windows 8 on October 26, and we believe the Samsung Series 7 or its successor will be a player in the Windows 8 tablet mix.