Samsung Ativ Book 8 Review

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Samsung Ativ Book 8
When Samsung released its excellent Ultimate award-winning Samsung Series 7 Chronos earlier last year, it showed that 15.6in laptops could combine top-end gaming power with sleek style. The Ativ Book 8 is the successor to the Chronos, but surprisingly little has changed in the intervening months.

It's still an incredibly powerful laptop, but we were mildly disappointed that Samsung hasn't updated the specification at all from the Series 7 Chronos. Instead of upgrading to one of Intel's new Haswell processors, the Ativ Book 8 comes with an Ivy Bridge quad-core 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3635QM processor and 8GB of RAM. This still provides the Ativ Book 8 with plenty of raw speed, as it breezed through multimedia benchmarks with an impressive score of 86 overall.

This is just shy of our reference Core i5-3570K desktop processor, so it should be able to handle even the most demanding media applications with ease. The graphics chip hasn't changed either. This isn't a bad thing, as its 2GB AMD Radeon HD 8870M is a great mid-range chip, but much like the processor we would have preferred to have seen something a little different to make the Ativ Book 8 stand out from its predecessor. That said, 46.4fps in Dirt Showdown test on High quality and a 1,280x720 resolution isn't anything to sniff at, and it even managed 19.2fps in demanding Crysis 2 test on Ultra quality at 1,920x1,080. This isn't fast enough to play at a comfortable speed, but lowering the settings turns the Ativ Book 8 into a very capable gaming laptop, as we managed a smooth 41.8fps on High in Crysis 2 at the same resolution.

The main attraction is the 15.6in display. Image quality was superb, as colour calibrator showed it was displaying 89.3 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut. Most laptop screens only display around 60 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut, but the Ativ Book 8 had excellent coverage across all the main primary colour groups. Blues and yellows were particularly strong and it showed in solid colour image tests. These all looked bright and vivid, and the screen's glossy finish also helped to give them a bit more depth and vibrancy. Whites were bright and clean, too, and its low black level of 0.25cd/m2 showed no hint of grey in our solid blacks either.

High contrast images also looked great, but some of test photos showed less detail than others. This was surprising, as colour calibrator measured a contrast ratio of 1,043:1, which is above average compared to your typical laptop panel. We suspect this is due to the laptop's deep black levels, as it was the darker shadow detail that suffered most. Its ten-point touchscreen was very responsive, but< we were disappointed that the screen hinge was just as flimsy as it was before. This makes it particularly ill-suited to touch-based games and applications, but even more sedate tasks like tapping through files and icons on our desktop made it wobble uncontrollably, so much so that it actually put us off using the touchscreen altogether. This is a shame, but it's no great loss when the large all-in-one touchpad is so easy to use. Pinch-zooming could have been a little smoother, but for most tasks it's just as responsive as the touchscreen. Windows 8 shortcuts worked every time and there's plenty of space to move your cursor round the screen. Unlike other touchpads, the entire surface is clickable, but the lower half gives the best feedback. The keyboard was also a joy to use. Keys were well-spaced and gave lots of tactile feedback, and there's room for a numeric keypad on the side as well.

The Ativ Book 8 has a good range of ports. There's no optical drive, but you'll find two USB3 and two USB ports, HDMI and VGA outputs for connecting the laptop up to an external display, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an SD card reader and a combined headphone and microphone jack. Its JBL speakers were very good, though, so we didn't feel the need to reach for a pair of headphones when listening to music. The most disappointing part of the Ativ Book 8 was its battery life. The Series
7 Chronos managed a huge nine and a half hours in light use test, but the Ativ Book 8 lasted just 6 hours and 36 minutes under the same conditions. This is still good by general laptop standards, but it's not quite as extraordinary as the Series 7 Chronos. The Ativ Book 8 is a great desktop replacement, but when it's more expensive and has a worse battery life than its predecessor, we can't help feeling a little disappointed with it. There are much cheaper and more powerful general purpose laptops you can buy, but at this price, the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is the much better choice.
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