Review: Samsung Series 7 Slate PC

Calling Samsung's 11.6-inch Series 7 device a 'tablet' feels inaccurate. Yes, it uses the same form factor as devices like the Apple iPad and Samsung's own Galaxy Tab, but it's really not a comparable product.

NameMobile device: Samsung Series 7 Slate PC
At a glance:11.6-inch, 1366 x 768-pixel touch and pen-based screen,Intel Core i5-2467M CPU, 4GB RAM,Includes docking station and bluetooth keyboard ,Performance similar to low-end laptops
Summary:An excellent business-oriented Windows 7 'Slate' device, limited by a lack of USB ports.

Calling Samsung’s 11.6-inch Series 7 device a ‘tablet’ feels inaccurate. Yes, it uses the same form factor as devices like the Apple iPad and Samsung’s own Galaxy Tab, but it’s really not comparable. For now, we’re just going to use Samsung’s term: the Series 7 is not a ‘tablet’, it’s a ‘slate’.

The Series 7 Slate most closely resembles an ultraportable laptop with its keyboard removed. It runs atop an Intel Core i5 2467M – a processor more powerful than those driving some low-end laptops. The 2467M has two cores (4 threads) with a base clock speed of 1.6GHz (2.3GHz with Turbo Boost). Graphics on the Series 7 Slate are provided by Intel’s on-CPU HD Graphics 3000 engine. It ships with Windows 7 Home Premium or Professional.

The Series 7 also features 4GB of 1333MHz DDR3 RAM, and a 64GB SSD as storage. Disappointingly, you can’t yet buy the 128GB SSD version here, though it’s available abroad.

Input is via a capacitive touchscreen for finger-based control. There’s an included pressure-sensitive digitiser pen for more precise control.

As with most mobile devices, connectivity is central to the Series 7: it includes Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), Bluetooth 3.0, a single USB 2.0 port, m-HDMI, headphone socket, and a micro SD card slot.

This whole setup is bundled into a 13mm-thick package, weighing just 860g. It’s a little heavy to balance one-handed for long periods, but undeniably more portable than a laptop.

With its mini docking station, which provides an additional USB 2.0 port, gigabit Ethernet and a full-sized HDMI port, the Series 7 Slate costs a laptop-sized $2,399.

So, those are the numbers – but how well does it perform?

Based on the results of our testing, and as its specs might suggest, it does anything a Windows 7-based PC could, excepting those tasks that require a dedicated graphics card or a physical keyboard and mouse. Definitely no 3D gaming or intensive 3D-accelerated rendering – yes, I tried.

If you want a keyboard and mouse, the Bluetooth support and USB port help immensely. I ended up using Samsung’s supplied Bluetooth keyboard and hooked up the transceiver of Microsoft’s Arc Touch mouse to the docking station. With those additions, the Slate becomes a small all-in-one desktop, perfect for typing up long documents in your favourite productivity suite, or surfing the web for hours on end. It’s also no slouch at video playback, and provides more than enough grunt to run full 1080p video. It can either downscale full HD to fit its 1366 x 768-pixel display or output via HDMI to your big-screen TV.

Removed from the docking station, the slate is no less powerful. You can still use the Bluetooth keyboard, and USB-connected peripherals if you unplug them from the dock and plug them straight into the tablet itself (though again, there’s only one USB port – if you’re using your own USB-connected keyboard or mouse, you won’t be able to use USB flash drives for storage, for instance).

I would have liked additional USB ports on the device itself and preferably three or four on the dock. Part of the appeal of Windows is the massive support for peripherals you just don’t get with other platforms, and limiting that through a lack of ports is disappointing.

The micro SD card slot is also a strange option – it gives you card-compatibility with smartphones, but how often will that come in handy? A full-sized SD card slot would have been far more useful, and I can’t see how Samsung would have had trouble fitting it into the Series 7 Slate.

Still, a few connectivity disappointments aside, the Slate has its uses. I found it great for office work – take rough notes using the pen or touchscreen at an event, then dock the Slate when you’re back in the office and have a large HDMI-connected screen, keyboard and mouse to edit those notes into a meaningful document.

The pressure-sensitive pen works well in image editing applications and the Series 7 Slate could be a nice but expensive alternative to a graphics tablet for designers and graphic artists. It even worked well enough with a couple of CAD/architectural packages I tested, though the lack of graphics acceleration made live 3D views sluggish.

Corporate IT environments based around the Windows platform will likely find the Series 7 Slate a far more manageable device than the average consumer tablet. In particular, the ability to run in-house applications developed for Windows without any modification is a major cost and time-saving advantage.

In terms of performance, the Slate sits near – though not at – the bottom of the laptop ranks. It easily outperforms many current-generation AMD Fusion-based netbooks and laptops, but struggles against Intel Core i3 and i5-equipped models. The results simply confirm my view that the Series 7 Slate is not a device for gaming or heavy 3D work. For office productivity, photo work and 2D art, it’s perfectly capable.

Battery life in our standard ‘productivity’ test came in at 2 hours 34 minutes – at the lower end of the laptop ranks. However, it’s not made to run heavy tasks, continuously, on battery. With more casual ‘around the office’ use, it came closer to the stated 7-hour maximum.

Samsung’s Series 7 Slate is not a device the average consumer would pick up over an iPad, Galaxy Tab or Kindle Fire. It’s a business-oriented device, for business-oriented users. In that domain it shines, notably brighter than other Windows-based slate devices we’ve seen in the past.

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Tags slatesamsungPCseries 7touchscreennotebookWindows 7laptop

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Harley Ogier

Harley Ogier

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