Monday, April 16, 2012

Review: Samsung Series 7 Slate

The bottom line: As Windows tablets go, the Samsung Series 7 Slate is an admirable attempt to make it more competitive with Android and iOS rivals.

Launched last year, Samsung's Windows 7-based tablet has taken its time to reach this part of the world. With manufacturers focusing on Android tablets, the Samsung Series 7 Slate feels like a throwback to a different era. Yet, the hardware is as contemporary (and as Ultrabook-like) as you'll find. Together with the optional docking stand and keyboard, consumers will get the power of a touch-enabled Windows desktop experience while having the mobility of a tablet.

However, at S$1,688 (US$1,350) for the tablet alone, it's more expensive than comparable Ultrabooks. Samsung's touch interface does a good Android/iOS impersonation, but it ultimately lacks the breadth of those platforms--the ability to run Windows programs is meaningless if they aren't natively designed for touch. Meanwhile, the default touch experience on Windows 7 is an exercise in frustration, even with the bundled Swype keyboard that's an improvement over the Windows version.

With its computing horsepower, the Samsung Series 7 Slate is probably the best tool now for developers looking to test new apps for Windows 8--it was the reference hardware given to developers at Microsoft's Build conference. However, unless you're looking to get the best out of Windows 8 beta, the Series 7 Slate has little mainstream appeal.

With its 11.6-inch widescreen display, the Samsung Series 7 Slate is long for a tablet and feels unbalanced when held with just one hand. This difference is likely even more pronounced for those coming from the iPad and its 4:3 aspect ratio. It's actually not that much heavier than some tablets--at 860g, it's only around 150g more than the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet--despite having a larger display.
The bezels are thick bands around the display and coupled with its 12.9mm thickness, the Series 7 Slate gives a chunky feel. The back of the unit is plastic with a smooth brushed finish, with a sizable ventilation grill running across the top half. The chassis can get warm, especially after prolonged usage, but it never got too uncomfortable to hold.

Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)
Samsung has dotted the sides of the device with useful ports and connectors. Besides the usual tablet controls for volume, power and a screen rotation lock, the Series 7 Slate has a micro-HDMI output along with a full-sized USB 2.0 port on the left. The USB port comes with a removable dust cover that can be easily lost since it's not attached to the tablet.

A microSD card slot is located at the top and you can also insert a SIM card for cellular connectivity on the right. At the bottom, there's a proprietary dock connector that links to the optional docking and charging stand (available for US$100).

This docking stand props up the tablet and adds Gigabit Ethernet, one more full-sized USB port, a full-sized HDMI and a headphone jack. Samsung also sells an optional, chiclet-style Bluetooth keyboard for US$80 that connects to the Series 7 Slate, though you can pair the tablet with any Bluetooth keyboard.
The 11.6-inch capacitive touchscreen on the Series 7 Slate has a 1,366 x 768-pixel resolution that's typical for its size. Off-axis viewing is good and with a maximum brightness of 400 nits, it's one of the better displays we have seen on tablets or laptops. The glossy screen does pick up a fair amount of fingerprints, so you should have a cleaning cloth handy.

Samsung also includes a digitizer stylus with the Series 7 Slate, though there's no built-in compartment on the tablet to store the pen. Having the pen input is useful for taking notes and it's also much faster to activate a right-click with the stylus--you hold down a button on the pen and tap the required spot, which takes less time than the usual way of holding your finger down for a few seconds.

Average for category (Ultraportable)Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone combo jackStereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks1 USB 2.0, microSD card reader802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, SIM card slotEthernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband
If you have used a touch-based Windows 7 device, the default experience on the Samsung Series 7 Slate is similar. The default Windows onscreen keyboard has tiny keys that can be frustrating to use. In fact, it usually took us a few tries to get our password correct when logging into the system. Screen rotation is often slower than we liked, which is quite annoying.
Samsung has installed the Swype virtual keyboard so you can take advantage of this unique input method (and the larger keys). However, the size of the screen means that it's difficult to type while holding the tablet. 
Clicking on the small physical Windows button at the front of the display brings up Samsung's custom touch interface. This interface consists of a grid of app icons that should be immediately recognized by anyone who has used a modern smartphone or tablet. These icons are significantly larger than the ones on the default Windows 7 desktop, though the cursor is still the small star-shaped pointer in Windows that can be quite hard to target.

Among the included apps are familiar names such as YouTube, Twitter and Bing Map. There's also a Social Dashboard app that aggregates updates from Facebook and Twitter. We counted 24 apps but it's quite easy to add new ones from your list of installed programs. Of course, adding them here is just a shortcut--it doesn't mean that they will be optimized for touch. You can also create folders for groups of apps, just like you would on Android or iOS.

Besides the apps, there's a sidebar at the left that displays the clock and weather information. You can also pin your To-Do list there and adjust settings such as Wi-Fi and power options.
The Series 7 Slate has a pair of Web cameras. The front-facing version is a 2-megapixel camera while the rear shooter is 3 megapixels. Both are capable of capturing 1080p content using the included CyberLink YouCam software.
Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone combo jackStereo speakers, headphone/microphone combo jackStereo speakers, headphone/microphone combo jackBluetooth, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, SIM card slotEthernet, Bluetooth, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
The Samsung Series 7 Slate has a more capable processor than the other two Windows tablets compared here. In fact, the Acer's AMD processor is only slightly better than an Intel Atom chip. However, unlike the others, Acer did manage to fit an Ethernet port. The Samsung and the Asus tablets cost around the same, though you'll get a larger display on the Asus. 
We said earlier that this tablet has the innards of an Ultrabook and with a Core i5 2467M processor, but with just 2GB of RAM and a 64GB SSD, it certainly feels like a slightly underpowered version. Booting up the tablet took around 15 seconds and it was quick to resume from sleep, taking about two seconds.

The fact that it runs Windows 7 on an Intel processor meant that we could test PC benchmarks on this tablet. In PCMark7, the Series 7 Slate scored 2,771, which is higher than Ultrabooks equipped with hybrid HDDs.

Despite having a similar energy-efficient processor as Ultrabooks, the Series 7 Slate falls behind these notebooks when it comes to battery life. After all, the battery has to fit within the smaller confines of an 11.6-inch tablet. Even Samsung rates the uptime at a maximum of 6 hours.

We got around 4 hours and 38 minutes in our testing, which involved playing a standard-definition video at 50 percent brightness and with Wi-Fi disabled. It's obviously not in the same class as power-sipping tablets using ARM processors, but compared with other Windows tablets such as the Asus Eee Slate (2 hours and 27 minutes), it's clearly better. 
A one-year standard warranty is included with the Samsung Series 7 Slate. Samsung's support Web site offers a clear pulldown menu for selecting your relevant laptop model--commonly asked questions and driver/manual downloads are easily accessible. Samsung's 1-800 service number is also prominently displayed, which isn't always the case on support pages.
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Source From CNET

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