Review Samsung ATIV Book 7 740U3E-A01UB Ultrabook
A book for the road. Samsung's 13.3-inch Ultrabook features a 3rd-generation i5 CPU with integrated graphics, a 128 GB SSD, and a Full-HD touchscreen. How well the sleek-looking Ultrabook with previous-generation hardware compares to its competition is the subject of our review.
The Ativ Book 7 Ultrabook is part of Samsung's "Premium Series" and as such sits just one tier below the manufacturer's top-end, ultra-slim, and rather pricey Ativ Book 9 models. Considering the somewhat outdated processor and the fact that a dedicated graphics card is - at least in the US - not an option, the 13.3-inch notebook is by no means inexpensive with a price point above $1000. The hardware, consisting of an Intel Core i5-3337U with the integrated HD 4000 GPU, 4 GB of single-channel RAM, and a 128 GB mSATA SSD, is not cutting edge, but should still guarantee adequate performance.
Regular readers of our reviews know that Samsung renamed their Series-notebooks to "Ativ" earlier this year. Our European colleagues already took a look at the Samsung Series 7 Ultra Touch 740U3E-S02DE Ultrabook, which ships with a more powerful Intel Core i7-3537U and a dedicated AMD Radeon HD 8570M.
The category of Ultrabooks featuring a smaller form factor is hotly contested, as most manufactures have at least one, if not several similar-sized models in their portfolio. At the beginning of the year, we reviewed the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch, which also comes with a faster (at that time latest-generation) Ivy Bridge Intel Core i7-3517U and a Full-HD display panel. The fairly recently released premium Zenbook UX301LA ups the ante with a Haswell Core i7-4558U, Iris Graphics 5100, and an even higher resolution of 2560x1440 pixels. Of course, there are significantly less expensive options like Lenovo's IdeaPad U330p and U310 Touch, which come with a much lower resolution of 1366x768 pixels instead.
Let’s see how our review model compares to the similarly-sized competing Ultrabooks.
The chassis clearly borrows design cues from other models in the series and looks very similar to the larger 14-inch Ativ Book 5 Touch and the 15.6-inch Ativ Book 6 Touch. To reflect its more premium status, Samsung uses brushed aluminum throughout instead of a combination of metal and fiber glass.
The aluminum construction looks stylish and the build quality is very good with tight tolerances and even, barely noticeable gaps. The chassis and the lid are torsionally reasonably rigid, although the keyboard deck flexes a little bit too much for our liking when pressure is applied, especially in the middle towards the back. While the hinges on the bigger siblings allow the displays to tilt all the way back, the maximum opening angle of the Book 7 is about 135 degrees, which sometimes isn't sufficient to view the screen head-on when the Ultrabook is used on the lap. The single hinge is stiff enough to hold the display securely and without noticeable wobbles.
At 324 x 224 x 18.8 mm, our review model is almost identical in footprint and thickness to the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch, but with a weight of 1.58 kg, the Book 7 is on the heavier side. The UX31A weighs 1.47 kg and also comes with a lighter power adapter (185 vs. 260 grams). The IdeaPad U330p is also marginally lighter, despite its heavier platter-based hard drive. Still, the Ativ Book 7 740U3E-A01UB is easy to carry and to slip into a bag.
Ultrabooks are not known for a plethora of connectivity options, although the Book 7 does better than most here: it at least offers a full-sized HDMI port alongside the mini-VGA port, which requires a special, optional adapter dongle. Only one USB 3.0 port is included, the other two are USB 2.0. Just like on the 14-inch Ativ Book 5, all major ports are located behind the mid-line and cables or USB devices don't crowd the work space or interfere with operation of an external mouse. The one exception to the above is the SD card slot with its somewhat annoying plastic cover, which doesn't fold down, but rather needs to be rotated out of the way.
A Gigabit Ethernet controller from Realtek (RTL8168/8111) ensures decent cabled speeds, while an Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 adapter takes care of wireless connectivity via both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. The dual-stream (2x2) module supports Wi-Fi standards 802.11 a/b/g/n with a maximum theoretical throughput of 300 Mbit/s, as well as Bluetooth 4.0 and Wireless Display (WiDi). During our time with the notebook, we never had any issues with reception quality or dropped connections.
The shipping carton includes no accessories beyond the standard quick start guide, warranty information, the Windows 8 Basics guide, and the AC adapter. Optional accessories include the aforementioned VGA adapter dongle, a Slim External DVD Drive, as well as a carrying pouch.
In the US, the Ativ Book 7 Ultrabook is covered with a very basic 12 month standard parts and labor warranty.
While the entire deck is made from aluminum, the chiclet-style keyboard has to make do with silver plastic keys, which diminishes the premium appearance of the Ultrabook somewhat. The layout is very good and the keys are adequately sized at 15 x 15 mm, but feedback is spongy and the tactile feel very limited due to the extremely short travel of roughly 1.2 mm. Nonetheless, we were able to touch type with surprising accuracy. As expected, the keyboard is backlit and offers four brightness levels. One issue: with the backlight activated in moderately bright environments, the lettering on the keys blends in and it can be very hard to identify the keys.
The touchpad comes once again from manufacturer Elan and measures 102 x 68 mm. The clickpad, which features no dedicated left and right mouse buttons but a clickable surface area instead, is recessed slightly and supports multi-touch as well as Windows 8 swipe gestures. A very extensive control panel allows the touchpad gestures and behavior to be adjusted and fine-tuned. The click feedback is very good, fingers glide easily across the smooth surface, and general navigation, as well as two-finger scrolls and pinch-to-zoom worked well. Unfortunately, we had some of the same issues we experienced while reviewing the he Ativ Book 6 and ended up having to reboot the Ultrabook on a couple of occasions to stop erratic cursor movements. We hope that Samsung addresses this issue with a driver update.
As per Intel's revised Ultrabook-standards, the Ativ Book 7 is touchscreen enabled. The capacitive panel recognizes up to 10 fingers simultaneously and responds quickly and accurately. The thin rubber bumper protecting the display from touching the keyboard when the lid is closed, does get a little in the way of edge swipes, however.
The Full-HD 1920 x 1080 pixel touchscreen panel is supplied by Chi Mei. Samsung does not specify whether or not this is an IPS display, but the panel type CMN1343 (N133HSE-EA1) is also used in other models like the Asus Zenbook UX31A/UX32VD and listed as IPS in those cases. Samsung promises a brightness of 350 nits thanks to the "SuperBright Plus Technology", but our measurements can't confirm the claim: we determined a maximum of just about 270 nits and an average of about 262 nits when we measured the brightness across nine quadrants using our tool X-Rite i1Basic Pro 2. Although it stands to reason that the touchscreen layer on top of the panel decreases the brightness somewhat, we still find it a bit disappointing that Samsung's claim is so inaccurate.
The Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch achieved an average brightness of just under 290 nits; budget panels usually average around 200 nits. The display Lenovo uses for the IdeaPad U330p is downright dismal at below 100 nits. Dell's XPS 12 convertible, which uses a 12.5-inch Full HD IPS display, reaches a very good 340 nits average.
The brightness distribution of 95 % is outstanding. The screen of the Ativ Book 7 maintains its maximum brightness even when running on battery power. The black value of 0.732 cd/m² and the contrast of 363:1 are not that great when compared to the UX31A Touch, which managed 0.64 cd/m² and 523:1, respectively. The Dell XPS 12 achieves a similar contrast of 412:1.
Color space reproduction covers about 83 percent of the sRGB spectrum and about 62 % of AdobeRGB. While certainly not good enough for professional graphics artist, the color space reproduction is much better than what budget screens are capable of and should be more than sufficient for the average home user. The Dell XPS 12 only reaches about 63 % of sRGB; the Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch also has less coverage than our review model. The IdeaPad U330p once again underperforms significantly, as can be seen in the fourth screenshot below.
We continue our analysis of the review model's color reproduction using the CalMan 5 software. Just like the display of the recently reviewed 15.6-inch Ativ Book 6 Touch, the color accuracy is a clear cut above the rest: the average DeltaE-deviations for grayscale and colors are only 1.28 and 2.21, respectively. We measured a maximum deviation of a little over 5 for the color orange. The color temperature of about 6300K is actually slightly on the warm side, which is unusual for white-LED displays. The gamma value of 2.41 is also is very close to the ideal value of 2.2 (for sRGB). In this case, calibration does not significantly improve the quality of the panel, which is good news since most of the displays in a home-use scenario are going to remain uncalibrated. Overall, we are very impressed with the color accuracy of this particular touchscreen panel.
Although the average display brightness of 260 cd/m² is sufficient for decent outdoor performance, it's nonetheless advisable to avoid direct sunlight if possible, since this is a highly reflective edge-to-edge glass display and the screen content gets hard to decipher. We had no problems working in the shade, but brightly lit environments are bound to cause some eyestrain in the long run.
The display of the Ativ Book 7 Ultrabook looks very good even when the user deviates very far from the ideal center viewpoint. Contrast and brightness do drop somewhat, but significant color shifts or inversions do not occur even at extremely shallow angles. Viewing angle stability is much better than commonly seen with TN panels.
The Book 7 utilizes an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5-3337U CPU. The dual-core processor features a nominal clock speed of 1.8 GHz and a is designed for low power consumption. The integrated Intel HD 4000, which idles at 350 MHz and can overclock to 1100 MHz, is the sole source of graphics power. For additional information on the HD 4000 and how it compares, please check out our dedicated GPU page.
Samsung uses a 128 GB mSATA SSD from Liteon, which is connected to a SATA III interface. RAM for our review model is provided by a single-channel PC3-12800 DDR3 4 GB module. The RAM can be expanded, since one additional slot is open, although doing so requires the removal of the entire bottom plate of the system. After completing that task, the other components like the fan, the PCI WLAN card, as well as the mSATA drive become accessible and can be replaced or expanded.
At the point of writing, Samsung does not offer other configurations of the Ativ Book 7 Ultrabook.
The Intel Core i5-3337U is a dual-core 22 nm Ivy Bridge CPU. The 1.8 GHz ULV processor with a TDP of 17 watts supports both Hyper Threading and Turbo Boost and can overclock a single core to 2.7 GHz and both cores to 2.5 GHz. Although Haswell-generation ULV processors would offer a boost in performance per MHz combined with additional power savings, Samsung has not updated any of their Ativ Book notebooks except the high-end Book 9 with the 4th-generation CPUs.
Not much needs to be said about the capabilities of this particular CPU, as it is used in many different subnotebooks and Ultrabooks and performs exactly like expected. The i5-3337U in our review model scored 4716 points running the single-core rendering portion of the Cinebench R10 (64 Bit) test, which is marginally faster than the 4609 points for the same CPU in Samsung's own Ativ Book 5.
The 1.6 GHz Haswell Intel Core i5-4200U in the Dell XPS 12 scored 2.48 points during the multi-core Cinebench R11.5 (64 Bit) benchmark test, which is almost identical to the 2.49 points for the Ativ Book 7. The higher-end 1.9 GHz Ivy Bridge Intel Core i7-3517U Asus uses in the Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch ended up with 2.82 points, which is a plus of about 13 %.
Overall performance of the mid-range i5-3337U is sufficient for everyday tasks and we did not notice any CPU-related delays during the evaluation period. It's important to keep in mind though that this is a ULV processor designed primarily for low power consumption, so users interested in desktop-like performance need to look elsewhere. For more information about the CPU and various benchmarks please check our dedicated page.
We use PCMark 7 to evaluate overall system performance. Thanks to its fast mSATA SSD, the final score of 4617 points is a very good result. The Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Ultrabook (non-touch) with the same CPU is faster still and scored 5155 points (+ 12 %), while the Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch falls way behind with 3724 points due to a sub-par Entertainment score.
The advantages of SSDs are significant as far as the PCMark results are concerned: the Lenovo IdeaPad U330p, which is equipped with a standard platter-based Seagate ST500LM000 5400 rpm hard drive, topped out at 3529 points (- 24 %).
Subjectively, performance is very snappy no matter what task is at hand and way ahead of ultraportables equipped with conventional hard drives. Boot times are quick (about 10 seconds to the Windows 8 tile screen) and opening apps doesn't require a lot of patience.
|PCMark 7 Score||4617 points|
The 128 GB Liteon LMT-128M6M is a very good performer with average transfer rates of 269.5 MB/s and access times of 0.135 ms according to HD Tune. The larger 256 GB ADATA XM11 in the Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch is slower at 237.3 MB/s and 0.2 ms, respectively. For some reason, the same LMT-128M6M in the Dell XPS 12 is significantly faster still at 366.3 MB/s and 0.1 ms.
The CrystalDiskMark 4K tests, which are a good indicator as far as actual Windows and application performance is concerned, resulted in read and write speeds of 22 and 39.26 MB/s, respectively. The 256 GB ADATA XM11 in the UX31A Touch is faster here at 24.39 and 46.3 MB/s.
One caveat of this particular storage solution: 128 GB is not a lot of storage space by today's standards. Because of the recovery partition and the pre-installed software, only about 60 GB are available for the end user to install programs.
For a more detailed analysis of the SSD performance, please take a look at our hard drive benchmark table.
The performance of the integrated HD 4000 offers no surprises, as the GPU can only handle older and not very demanding games at decent frame rates. Current games need to be run at the lowest settings to be playable at all - and even then, stuttering will be unavoidable at times. During our graphic-intensive test with Furmark, the GPU frequency remained stable at 1000 MHz, so gaming is not going to be hindered by lower-than-normal GPU performance.
Games like Anno 2070 can be played with the settings set to low at just under 30 fps. The Ativ Book 5, which is equipped with the same processor and integrated GPU, managed a slightly higher 34 fps. For comparison: the Sony Vaio Duo 13 SVD1321M2E, which uses a Haswell-integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400, allows for a substantially higher 70 fps.
The performance of the GPU could probably be improved with a second RAM module to allow the memory to operate in dual-channel mode. For users not really interested in gaming, the performance of the HD 4000 should be sufficient.
|3DMark 06 Standard||4086 points|
|3DMark Vantage P Result no PhysX||2833 points|
|3DMark 11 Performance||597 points|
|3DMark (2013) Ice Storm Standard Score||27823 points|
|3DMark (2013) Cloud Gate Standard Score||3247 points|
|3DMark (2013) Fire Strike Standard Score||457 points|
During idle, we recorded sound levels of just under 30 dB, which means that the Ultrabook is more or less inaudible. Typical tasks like word processing don't increase the noise much beyond 31 dB. Under medium load levels, we measured an average of about 35 dB, which is still acceptable. During the stress test and hence maximum load, we recorded almost 45 dB, which can be annoying over prolonged periods of time. These noise levels are not going to occur under normal everyday use, however.
29.9 / 30 / 31.4 dB(A)
||35 / 44.6 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: BK Precision 732A (15 cm distance) (15 cm distance)
The Ultrabook stays reasonably cool during idle: we measured a maximum of about 33 degrees C. The hotspot is in the middle towards the back next to the hinge-based fan exhaust, so this is not a concern during use at all. The palm rest remains relatively cool at just below 30 degrees C. The Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch doesn't get much warmer at 35 degrees C during idle. The areas around the touchpad only get about two degrees warmer with the Ativ Book 7 subjected to our stress test, while the bottom back of the notebook now reaches up to 45 degrees. Like with the other Samsung notebooks we have recently reviewed, the hotspots are concentrated in the middle, so working with the Ultrabook on the lap is still possible without any major discomfort. The UX31A Touch tops out at over 50 degrees, which is already rather uncomfortable.
Please also note that our stress test measurements are not indicative of the temperatures that will occur under normal, everyday usage.
To determine the ability of the test candidate to handle heavy workloads and to see if throttling is an issue, we stress the CPU and GPU with Prime95 and Furmark while monitoring with the tools CPU-Z, GPU-Z and HWiNFO. With only Prime95 active, both CPU cores operated at their maximum Turbo Boost frequency of 2.5 GHz. With only FurMark active, the GPU was running at 1100/800 MHz (core/memory) before stabilizing quickly at around 1000 MHz.
Under maximum stress with both Prime95 and FurMark running in parallel for about 2 hours, the CPU was running at its nominal frequency of 1.8 GHz, while the GPU maintained 850 MHz. This means that Turbo Boost is not active on the CPU side under full load conditions.
At the end of the stress test, the CPU and GPU both reached right around 81 degrees C, which is well within the acceptable range. When we ran 3DMark 11 immediately after the test, the score was within a few points of the original run (597 pre, 599 post stress test). System performance is not reduced when running on battery power, either - although care needs to be taken as the power profile can switch inadvertently.
Considering this is an Ultrabook, the sound quality is impressive. The two JBL stereo speakers (2W x 2) sit on the bottom of the notebook and fire downwards. While the highs, mids, and lows are well-balanced, the speakers start to sound distorted at higher volume levels and bass is lacking a bit, as expected. Overall, the sound quality is certainly sufficient for videos and the occasional soundtrack, although external speakers or headphones are still recommended for those demanding the highest sound quality.
The Samsung Ativ Book 7 Ultrabook utilizes a rather large 57 Wh Li-polymer battery, which helps explain why the unit is heavier than competing models. The Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch comes with a 50 Wh battery, the battery of the IdeaPad U330p has a much lower capacity of 45 Wh.
To assess the battery life under various conditions, we use the tool Battery Eater Pro with the screen saver and timeouts disabled. To establish the maximum battery life, we turn the brightness all the way down, use the Power Saver profile, disable wireless, and then run the Reader's test. The Book 7 lasted for almost 10 hours and 30 minutes. The U31A Touch quit just shy of 9 hours.
For the significantly more relevant WLAN test, we set the profile to Balanced and the brightness to 150 nits. A script then visits different websites every 40 seconds to simulate typical browsing conditions. The review notebook shut down after about 6 hours and 30 minutes. The Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch lasted 4 hours and 20 minutes, the IdeaPad U330p 6 hours and 15 minutes. We should point out here that this is not a really fair comparison, as the display of the latter model doesn't even come close to reaching the required brightness of 150 nits. The Dell XPS 12, which admittedly has a slightly smaller screen, lasted close to 9 hours - a result that can be at least partially attributed to the new Haswell hardware.
To determine the minimum battery life, we choose the High Performance profile, enable wireless, and set the display to maximum brightness. The Ultrabook shut down after about 2 hours and 40 minutes, which is a very good result.
|Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)||10h 24min|
|WiFi Surfing||6h 28min|
|Load (maximum brightness)||2h 37min|
Samsung does many things right with the Ativ Book 7 Ultrabook. The stylish and sleek aluminum construction, high build quality, very bright 10-point multi-touch Full-HD display with great color accuracy, and long battery life all add up to a very usable and mobile travel companion. Boot times are also very quick and the overall performance is quite snappy. We also love the fact that the RAM is expandable and that the mSATA drive can be replaced if needed.
We do have a few things to criticize, however. First off, a 4th-generation processor would definitely extend the already great battery life and maybe allow for a cooler notebook in the process. The keyboard features a good layout but could provide more feedback and key travel. The touchpad can be quirky at times and causes erratic cursor movement. While European residents can order a version with dedicated graphics card, the US model only comes with the lowly integrated GPU and is thus not really suitable for gaming.
Alternative choices are plentiful: from the non-touch but incredibly thin Acer Aspire S5 to convertibles like the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 Ultrabook and Dell XPS 12 to more standard touchscreen designs like the Lenovo IdeaPad U330p and Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch. Samsung's own, less expensive 14-inch Ativ Book 5 can also fit the bill, but comes with a slower conventional hard drive and the display just doesn't compare.