Samsungâs gone and done it guys. Itâs made a perfectly wonderful laptop that retails for under a grand, is of exceptional quality, and is neither under-powered nor teeming with crappy finishes. This is the college-bound laptop everyone, including Apple, has failed to make for the last couple of years.
Weâve been busting Appleâs balls a lot lately, and it definitely has everything to do with my four-year-old Macbook Pro being on its last legs and my refusal to spend $2500 on the paltry-ass upgrade that is the current Macbook Pro. While other laptop companies furiously pack whiz-bang features and new ideas into a slab of aluminum and plastic, Appleâs been moseying along with a product so long in the tooth you might mistake it for an elderly relative who says inappropriate things at family gatherings.
Meanwhile, there is Samsung. Last year it had exactly one laptop in its line up. It was a great laptop, but it was hardly going to help the company take the computer business by storm. This year Samsung has been quietly rolling out a multitude of devices. It started with the brutally efficient Samsung 9, and now itâs back with the chunkier, and much more affordable, Samsung Notebook 7 Spin. The Notebook 7 Spin is the rare quality âdo everythingâ laptop for under $1000.
Yeah itâs bigger than the laptops we usually prefer here at Gizmodoâlarge enough that it feels clunky opening and closing and making use of the 360-degree hinge. And at 5 pounds for the 15-inch, itâs heavy enough to be used in your daily workout routine. Yet itâs also got a 1TB hard drive, space for a zippier M2 SATA drive, a 15.6 inch 1080p display, USB and USB-C ports, and the 15-inch even has an Nvidia Geforce 940 MX video cardâin case you need to get in some clutch play of the games in Overwatch. More importantly, itâs a lot more satisfying and easy to use that similarly priced laptops like the Dell Latitude 5000 series or HP Envy 15.
This may sound shocking to a lot of you cheapskates, but it is actually very hard to find a really good Windows laptop for under a grand. Thereâs always a drawback. Theyâre all fucking huge, and screens are washed out and ugly, or keyboards feel like your typing on marshmallows. The worst offender, though, is the trackpad. Budget laptops always have trackpads designed in the seventh pit of hell and put on this earth to destroy our will to compute.
The Notebook 7 Spin has a remarkable trackpad. Itâs every bit as intuitive and responsive as the Mac trackpad (the gold standard). There are no misclicks. No accidental icon draggings. No âoopsâ right clicks when you meant to click left. The trackpad doesnât feel buggy and the mouse doesnât hop around the screen as if possessed. For a Windows machine itâs exceptional.
There are other little nods of quality that are unexpected in a laptop so cheap. The 45Wh battery in the 15-inch variant gave me a solid 6 hours of Nyan Cat streaming at full brightness, and the 13-inch version, which features the same battery and much less battery-consuming screen, should perform even better.
The Notebook 7 Spin also features âfast charging,â so in my testing it went from zero to 20 percent battery in under twenty minutes, and it would be fully charged in less than two hours. I donât know if I would characterize it as the fastest-charging laptop available, but itâs certainly in the upper echelons.
The ability to upgrade keeps it up there. The bottom of the laptop is covered in soft-touch plastic and held together by glaringly shiny screws. Remove the screws and you have instant access to the hard drive, M2 SATA slot, and RAM slots. You can also peer at the latest generation i7 Skylake processor, if you really want to (the 13-inch comes with an i5). That means in addition to being cheap and powerful, itâs also user upgradable. This instantly tags another two years onto the lifespan of the computer.
Samsungâs also included an ethernet port. Thatâs usually the first port to get sacrificed to the thinness gods, especially in a world in which wi-fi is more or less a given just about everywhere you go. Its inclusion here is a deliberate move and not just a vestige of the wired times of yore. Thin laptops and super-light laptops are still a luxury in Samsungâs book, and Samsung is betting that most people would be happy to forgo that luxury to experience a laptop that can tackle any need that might arise.
In other words, Samsung is trying to build a Swiss Army Laptop for everyone. So thereâs an ethernet port for lugging this thing to college where the dank library basement or science lab might have spotty wireless. A USB-C port for the nerd who needs to run their 4K monitor, an HDMI port for streaming anime on a TV, and three regular USB ports for thumb drives, hard drives, and the charging of the countless USB-powered devices weâre all stuck with. Thereâs an SD card slot for the photographer too. Thereâs also a touchscreen for the dad who insists he needs one (whether he actually uses it or not), and thereâs a 360-degree hinge because some people actually like to use their 15-inch laptop like a tablet, or prop it up so they can lie on their beds watching new episodes of Orange is the New Black.
Another feature meant to please the crowd is the âHDR modeâ that alters the color of the 1080p display. Iâm using quotations when calling it âHDR modeâ because it is an infuriatingly confusing feature. HDR is a term currently used to describe two things.
- HDR in photography, where identical photos with different exposures are layered together to provide a highly detailed image (either static or moving).
- HDR in video, where those highly detailed images are then reproduced perfectly on very expensive TVs.
Samsung has introduced a third HDR mode that has nothing to do with HDR and everything to do with the rising popularity of the term. Samsungâs HDR mode is really just âbrighter colors and higher contrast at the cost of accuracy.â Itâs not so much HDR as a badly named display preset for people who donât know any better.
Which is a lot of people! I review displays for a living, so Iâve gotten very good at judging the accuracy of one and I deeply value that accuracy, but I also know that friends and family often find âaccurateâ to mean âdull and sort of brown.â This mode is absolutely for themâtoo bad it couldnât have a different name.
As it stands, calling the preset âHDR modeâ is bound to lead to people proudly showing off their $800 laptop and saying itâs got a display thatâs better than the one on an $8000 TV. This would be inaccurate, so if you buy this laptop do not do this.
And you should buy this laptopâat least if youâre in the mood for a not-so-lean but very mean Windows machine. Sending a kid to college? Are yourself a kid headed to college? This is the perfect device for you. Itâs what used to be the bread and butter of Apple and Dell. This big guy can go anywhere and do just about anything, and wonât make your bank account cry in the process. Apple take note, this is what people are actually looking for in a laptop under a thousand bucks.
- I really, really hate that HDR mode, but if you donât know any better it makes video look real pretty
- Between this and the 9, Samsung knows what theyâre doing with regards to trackpads.
- A 360-hinge and touch screen. Because reasons.
- Memory and storage can easily be upgraded by the end user.
- It is not attractive unless you think soft touch plastic and fake silver finishes are hot, but hey, appearance isnât everything you jackass.