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Samsung announced the next step into its ultrabook line earlier this year with its ATIV brand of products expected to be released in 2013. We were introduced to the ATIV Book 9 Plus earlier this year, but that isn’t the only ATIV product Samsung has up its sleeve as the company released its ATIV Book 7 ultrabook earlier this year.

The ATIV Book 7 has a number of impressive specs as it features an Intel Core i5 1.8GHz processor a 13.3-inch display, 128GB SSD, 4GB DDR3 RAM, and JBL speakers, but will this ultrabook be able to take a step into the spotlight when the ATIV Book 9 Plus was just released over the weekend? There’s only one way to find out and that’s by diving into our review.

Context

As someone who travels on a regular basis to press events, I’m a big fan of ultrabooks as they allow me to carry around a computer that is powerful enough to keep up with the kind of work that I do, while also not breaking my back that can result from carrying around a heavy computer. Portability has always been important to me, but I also don’t want to work on a machine that isn’t able to keep up with some light photo editing and multitasking while I’m working.

One area that’s extremely important to me when using any laptop is its keyboard and trackpad. As you could imagine, I do a lot of typing on a daily basis, so if a keyboard doesn’t offer just the right amount of feedback, I don’t feel as productive. As for the trackpad, I tend to enjoy a smoother feel rather than ones that have textures to them as I enjoy being able to slip and slide my mouse cursor as I please.

Battery life is also pretty important, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker as I tend to hang around outlets whenever I’m working just in case my machine isn’t able to last for a couple of hours. For a machine to be considered at least good, it needs to last at least two hours, or else I could run into some serious trouble when I’m covering events.

ATIV Book 7 NP740U3E-K01UB Specs

13.3-inch LED Full HD display (1920 x 1080) with 350 nit brightness
Intel Core i5-337U 1.8GHz (2.7GHz with TurboBoost) Processor + Intel Graphics HD 4000
4GB DDR3 RAM
Windows 8 (64-bit)
128GB SSD
802.11 a/b/g/n + Bluetooth 4.0
1x USB 3.0 , 2x USB 2.0, HDMI, RJ45 Port, 3.5mm headphone / microphone combo jack, 3-in-1 multi card reader.
324.10mm x 224.02mm x 18.79 (12.76in x 8.82in x 0.74in)
1.65kg (3.64lbs)
57Whr Battery

Full specs of the ATIV Book 7 NP740U3E-K01UB available on Samsung.com

Industrial Design (excellent)

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One of the first things I thought when I laid eyes on the Samsung ATIV Book 7 is how premium the notebook both looks and feels. When you first open the notebook, you’ll be presented with its 13.3 Full HD LED display, which feels like just the right size for this machine. The display fully supports Windows 8 with multi-touch support, meaning you’ll be able to reach out and poke and prod as much as you want.

"THE TRACKPAD MAY BE ONE OF MY MOST FAVORITE PARTS"   Surrounding the 13.3-inch display is a black bezel which measure in less than an inch on the sides, about an inch at the top, and over two inches at the bottom. You’ll find the ATIV Book 7’s webcam inside of the top bezel, while the bottom bezel has Samsung’s logo prominently displayed. The bottom of the display is held by a silver hinge, which keeps it attached to the base of the notebook.

The upper portion of the base of the ATIV Book 7 is completely made of aluminum, with about ⅓ of the bottom portion being brushed metal, while the rest of the base has a matte aluminum finish. The brushed aluminum gives the notebook an extremely smooth feeling when resting your wrists on top of them, making the palm rests easy to navigate with very little friction. The edges of the base are also smooth all around, which means you won’t be accidentally poked or come in contact with a rouge edge. Towards the top of the base is where you’ll find logos for Samsung’s “Series 7 Ultra” line, a JBL logo,an LED for power and an LED for the notebook’s battery which glows orange when charging, and green when it’s fully charged. The upper-right portion of the base is where you’ll find the notebook’s power button, which is just a simple grove in the base with the power logo slightly raised, making it blend very well with the rest of the base.

The rear of the display is covered in brushed aluminum with Samsung’s logo sitting towards the middle-right portion of the laptop lid. The top portion of the lid has a thin area of matte aluminum with a piece of aluminum protruding from the edge, which makes it easier to open and close the notebook. The underside of the base has a total of 10 screws outlining the edge of the area, with vents located in the middle of the area, and additional vents in the upper-right portion, which are located just below the ATIV Book 7’s ports. At the four corners of the base’s underside are rubber stubs, which are used to help elevate the notebook when it’s being used on a desk or table.

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The keyboard on the ATIV Book 7 is an island-style keyboard that are made of a slightly-reflective aluminum. The keys feel very clicky, without any notice of any sponginess to them, which is something I personally prefer. The more click a keyboard has, the better as I personally tend to feel more productive with a responsive keyboard. All of the keys seem to be the ideal size for a notebook this size, and they feel extremely smooth when typing. The characters on the keyboard look to be colored black, which gives them a nice contrast when compared to all of the silver found all over the notebook.

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The trackpad may be one of my most favorite parts of the ATIV Book 7 as it easily catches the eye and delivers an exceptional experience. First, the trackpad is outlined by a thin film of glass which highlights the area very well, especially when your eyes are staring at the screen. The trackpad itself is a darker color of gray and looks to be made of aluminum as well. The trackpad supports Windows 8’s gestures, and overall is extremely smooth. Navigating the mouse cursor with the trackpad is extremely easy and there’s absolutely no friction with it, meaning you could trackpad all night long if you like to, that is, as long as your wrists are strong enough to be on a notebook for that long.

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Ports: The ports on the ATIV Book 7 are done right as all of the important ports are located on one side of the base, rather than mixed and matched. The right side of the base is where you’ll find the two USB 2.0 ports as well as the multi-card reader, while the right side is where the notebook’s power port, RJ45 port, HDMI, USB 3.0, 3.5mm headphone / microphone combo jack and a proprietary port that supports an optional VGA dongle.

Display (excellent)

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We’ve seen a number of ultra-high definition ultrabooks come and go, such as the KIRAbook, but as nice as UHD displays are, there’s nothing wrong with working on a Full HD display (1920 x 1080). The ATIV Book 7 features a Full HD display and it looks fantastic along with the rest of the ultrabook. You’ll be able to pick up a lot of detail in high-resolution images and enjoy 1080p videos in all of their high-definition glory.

"THE ATIV BOOK 7 FEATURES A FULL HD DISPLAY AND IT LOOKS FANTASTIC"  

The display has a 350nit brightness rating which we found comfortable to use at around 40% – 50% of its full potential while working indoors in a well-lit room on a sunny day. At its full potential, the ultrabook could easily be read outdoors on a sunny day, although doing so in direct sunlight was difficult considering how much aluminum there is.

Webcam (good)

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The Samsung ATIV Book 7 features a 720p HD webcam that is located directly above the monitor, which most webcams tend to be located in that very spot. Our webcam tests were taking on an overcast day in a well-lit room, so let’s see just how the notebook’s webcam did. For the purpose of this review, we put the ATIV Book 7’s webcam up against the Toshiba KIRAbook.

The 720p webcam that is included in the ATIV Book 7 performed well in our test as there was a nice amount of detail in the image, the colors looked closer to their real-life counterparts and the amount of noise in the image wasn’t too bad, although it’s certainly noticeable. Compared to the KIRAbook though, which we rated its webcam to be poor, it did a good job, although it certainly could be better.

Performance (very good)

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The Samsung ATIV Book 7 features an Intel Core i5-337U 1.8GHz processor, which can be turbo boosted under the right conditions to 2.7GHz and the Intel Graphics HD 4000 GPU. Both chips have been extremely popular for current generations of ultrabooks as they both allow these notebooks a nice boost in performance, although the GPU tends to perform poorly in our benchmark tests.

One of the first benchmarks we like to run for PCs is PCMark 7, which is a  benchmark used in order to simulate real-world tasks such as opening applications, booting up your computer and doing some mild graphical tasks.

pcmark 7 results

The Samsung ATIV Book 7 performed very well as its PCMark 7 score was 4060. That score means the performance of this ultrabook is pretty much on par with what we’ve seen in the past, although it isn’t exceptional when compared with other previously released ultrabooks. All in all, the ATIV Book 7 should be able to keep up with much of what you’ll throw at it, especially if you’re prone to multitasking on your notebooks.

The second benchmark we like to run on our test machines is 3D Mark 11, which is a benchmark that is more demanding as its primary focus is how well itl perform as a gaming machine. This, of course, doesn’t mean Facebook or Flash-based games as most computers can run those. Instead, we mean games like the latest Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed or any other graphic-intensive game.

3DMark 11 results

The Intel Graphics HD 4000 GPU is extremely popular in the world of ultrabooks as it’s able to just get by with a small amount of graphical work, but when it comes to graphic-intense programs, it has always underperformed. The Samsung ATIV Book 7 is no different as its 3DMark 11 benchmark score came in at P601. To be honest, this score is average compared to what we’ve seen in the past, and ultimately, if you’re looking for a gaming computer, don’t look to the ATIV Book 7.

geekbench results3

The final benchmark we like to run on our test machines is Geekbench, which isn’t a benchmark that tests the laptop with real-world applications, but instead squarely focuses on the CPU’s raw performance score by throwing mathematical equations at it. In other words, this test simply tests out the machine’s processor and nothing else.

For our Geekbench benchmark, we were surprised to see the Intel Core i5-337U score as low as it did on the ATIV Book 7, especially since similar notebooks tend to score in at least the 4000 range. In our test, Geekbench scored the ATIV Book 7 at a 1869, and after several additional tests, the score ranged within that score. We know the Intel Core i5-337U can perform better than the score we received in Geekbench, so we wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the results of this particular test.

Value for weight, price (good)

The Samsung ATIV Book 7’s weighs a total of 3.64lbs, making it a light ultrabook, but not one of the lightest. You’ll still be able to hold the ATIV Book 7 with one hand comfortably, so its weight shouldn’t be an issue to the average user. But does the notebook perform well enough to warrant its weight? That’s exactly what we’ll be looking at in this category.

value weight results

In our equation, we found the performance of the ATIV Book 7 to be worth its weight, but it isn’t as highly recommended as other machines we’ve seen, such as the ASUS Zenbook or Microsoft Surface Pro. In our real world testing, I can tell you the ATIV Book 7 is comfortable to carry around in a backpack or other kind of school or work-related bag.

Battery Life (excellent)

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What’s the point of buying a laptop if it isn’t able to give you the longevity you need in its battery life? As important as a notebook’s specs are, its battery life is equally as important. For the ATIV Book 7, Samsung added a 57WHr battery, which is for the most part, is a battery size we’ve seen in a good majority of ultrabooks these days.

The first battery test we run on our machines is a long-term battery drain test. In this test, we have the computer sitting on our desk with its brightness set at 50% and its Wi-Fi activated for an hour. The outcome of this test resulted in a 10% drop in its battery, which means under these conditions, you can expect 10 hours of battery life.

We know having your laptop sitting on your desk is probably not ideal to your productivity, so we also perform an additional test that pushes the battery to its limit. For the first test, we stream a 1080p video for one hour with the notebook’s brightness set at 50%. At the end of this test, we noticed a 16% drop in the ATIV Book 7’s battery life, which means you can expect a little over 6 hours of battery life under these conditions. The second test measures how long the battery will last for local videos, which we also play a 1080p video with the notebook’s Wi-Fi on and brightness set at 50%. This test resulted in a 14% drop in battery life, which means you should expect a little over 7 hours of battery life under these conditions.

Battery Charge (good)

Battery life is an important category in any notebook review, but we also like to take a look at how long a machine takes to recharge since you’ll be doing it quite often. For this test, we set a timer for one hour and let the ATIV Book 7 do its thing with its lid closed. After one hour of charging, the battery increased a total of 30%, meaning it’ll take over three hours to charge your notebook if its battery is completely drained.

Conclusion (very good)

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The Samsung ATIV Book 7 is in a weird spot since Haswell-powered ultrabooks will be on the market very soon, which means better performance in both speed and battery life. The ATIV Book 7 performs very well in both categories, but knowing some new ATIV ultrabooks are coming down the pipe in just a few short weeks means you should consider your options.

"THE ATIV BOOK 7 OFFERS A PREMIUM EXPERIENCE BOTH INSIDE AND OUT"   If you take the coming wave of Haswell-powered ultrabooks out of the equation, the ATIV Book 7 offers a premium experience both inside and out that we’re sure many will enjoy. Its keyboard and trackpad are among the best we’ve ever seen and its performance is pretty much on par with what we’ve seen in ultrabooks this size. Battery life on the ATIV Book 7 is also great, although we could certainly do with a better charging rate.

Those who want the latest and greatest may want to hold off on the ATIV Book 7 as you can either purchase another ATIV ultrabook with a Haswell chip inside of it in a few weeks, or you can wait until Samsung drops the price of this ultrabook.

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