Samsung Series 7 Chronos

Joanna Stern, The Verge:

The 15.6-inch, 1600 x 900, 300-nit panel isn’t only very bright, it’s got a matte, anti-glare coating, and a very thin bezel. Those factors make for a really nice viewing experience, at least when looking at the screen dead on. Colors look extremely bright, text looks crisp, it’s easy to position windows next to each other, and the matte coating really is less distracting than overly glossy panels. However, as soon as you tilt this screen vertically off axis, the problems emerge. Not only do colors start to fade, but whites quickly become a urine-colored yellow. Yes, it’s disgusting any way you look at it or describe it. Those issues aside, the display and the resolution are more than adequate for an entry-level unit, though unfortunately Samsung doesn’t offer a higher-resolution option; this is the perfect sort of system for a full-HD 1920 x 1080 display.

Though tempting from a pure hardware specification, with 1:1 mapping of hardware pixel to OS pixel, packing 1920×1080 pixels into a 15.6-inch display will make the fonts and icons too small for most. And using the DPI settings on Windows can make fonts and icons ugly. I think 1440×900 (16:10), 1600×900 (16:9), or 1680×1050 (16:10) are good compromises with enough desktop space and good sized fonts and icons on 15.x-inch displays with 1:1 pixel mapping. I do like the thinner bezels on the Series 7 Chronos, but not the inconsistent thickness from top/bottom to left/right.

I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing: “Colors look extremely bright”. I don’t think extremely bright colors are good, often bright colors tend to be washed out. Brightness matters when you’re outside, but I’d prefer less bright and more accurate colors with a 72% NTSC color gamut (most notebooks range from 40% to 60%).

Crisp text. With a resolution of 117.68 ppi the Samsung Series 7 Chronos is in between the 1440×900 15.4-inch MacBook Pro (110.27 ppi) and the 1680×1050 (128.65 ppi). Something to note: Since the Samsung Series 7 Chronos runs Windows the difference in resolution in terms of ppi is not 100% linear. I’ve gotten used to LCD font smoothing on OS X and I like it, but fonts smoothed with ClearType on Windows seem more crisp to me.

Yet another difference is the matte LCD on the Series 7 Chronos compared to the cover glassed LCD on the MacBook Pro. If the cover glass was optically laminated to the LCD the visual experience would dramatically improve, but unfortunately it is not and there, in between the cover glass and the LCD, lay almost permanently dust. I try not to think about it or I’d be driven mad. The cover glass though visually appealing when the MacBook is turned off, adds thickness and weight. I prefer what Samsung did: rip the cover glass off and use a good old fashioned matte display.

Viewing angles on notebooks are a tricky thing. In the last couple of months I’ve started to take a more nuanced position when it comes to viewing angles on notebook displays. Most, if not all, of the time it’s just you and the notebook so wide viewing angles mean very little. But when you’re around others limited horizontal viewing angles aren’t too big of a problem. Great viewing angles? Great, but just make sure nobody is peeping when you don’t want them to be. Terrible viewing angles? Not great, but you don’t need to worry about peepers. Vertical is different. My posture tends to go from good to terrible over time. I would hate it if over time my screen, with 80% of it white when I’m working, turned urine yellow.

Whether it’s right or wrong we look at viewing angles as an indicator of display quality on notebooks, but in terms of visual experience horizontal viewing angles aren’t all that important unless you find yourself sharing the display with someone else more often than not, but vertical viewing angles are. With all the design aping that went into the Samsung Series 7 Chronos the product designers at Samsung wanted to build something that competes against the MacBook Pro in both form and function. A matte surface, thinner bezels (albeit non-symmetrical), and a decent resolution are all good, but what fails the Series 7 Chronos is the white-to-urine yellow trick.

Update: Michael Gorman, Engadget:

One of the real selling points with the Series 7 Chronos is its 15.6-inch, 300-nit, 1600 x 900 display, which gives multitaskers plenty of screen real estate to play with. The resolution leaves something to be desired, however, when compared to the 1080p panels found in the XPS 15z and VAIO S. Samsung has done consumers a solid by using a matte-finish LCD (hallelujah!), so screen glare is never an issue, and the rail-thin bezel surrounding it is the skinniest thing this side of the Shuriken display in Dell’s XPS 14z. Viewing angles are mediocre, as the LCD washes out considerably when moving the screen towards you, and images turn to negatives and whites turn a sickly yellowish hue when moved away. Side-to-side viewability is quite good, however, and provides near 180-degree viewing.

The top and bottom bezels are still too thick for my taste and I’d rather have bezels that are all around the same thickness. The thicker top and bottom bezels are visually unpleasant. And regarding viewing angles, horizontal viewing angles don’t matter as much as vertical. The notebook to user ratio is almost always 1:1 so what’s more important is the vertical viewing angles, which the Samsung Series 7 Chronos completely fails at.

Notebook LCD product managers: Do exactly the opposite of what Samsung did with the Series 7 Chronos. Don’t worry about horizontal viewing angles. Instead put all your effort into making vertical viewing angles excellent. Unless you’re making a tablet PC, which requires excellent viewing angles all around.