…and the desktop struggles on. Undaunted, the traditional desktop refuses to go quietly into the sunset. Everyone who’s kept watch is bored to death with the rollercoaster ride of statistics for PC sales growth and market saturation. PC gaming is up, yet PC sales are down. Windows 8 is more widely used than MAC OS. But statistically everyone hates Win 8 on a desktop. It’s a headache in a half–especially when paired with the channel-turning frequency for which the tech landscape changes. One thing is certain; desktops are here to stay…at least for the foreseeable future. Additionally I think we can all agree, the PC needs to evolve, which it seems to be doing well with MiniPC solutions and all-in-one (AIO) products like Samsung’s ATIV Series 7 AIO touch PC.
At its heart, the The Samsung ATIV 7 AIO is a 23.6in full HD LED touch monitor with all the familiar PC innards sardine-packed into the monitor. Like most AIO systems the point is to maximize casual use performance while maintaining a low profile and still look good enough take home to mother–literally. The ATIV 7 sinks this one with minimal effort. It’s definitely more alluring than the previous AIO systems from HP. It’s only anchor is the tiny metallic arch stand. It holds the monitor/PC in place surprisingly well. Yet it’s ultra thin. The edges of the screen are sandwiched in metal housing sheets, accentuating any living- or dining room. The bottom right of the display shows what your PC is doing via illuminated symbols (mute, disc eject, OSD menu control, input source etc). Spinning the unit around, we find the port and connectivity options housed on the left side of the display, as well as the lower rear. The right side is where the single slot DVD +/-RW SATA drive is embedded. The design is elegant, incredibly minimalist making it easily versatile for home or office. Plus the entire unit weighs less than 19lbs.
Solid design is met with formidable machinery. Our configured Samsung ATIV 7 PC is powered by an Intel i7 3770T Ivy Bridge processor clocked at 2.50ghz yet it can turbo boost to well over 3ghz. The PC is decked out with 8gb of DDR3 dual channel memory (4+4 configuration). The storage capacity tops out at 1TB on the 5400rpm platter hard drive. That’s a nice sweet spot for a single drive. Although the aging platter style is easily the weakest link. If you’ve spent any time with a good solid state flash memory drive then you will be either well-prepared for the difference or horribly disappointed by the long boot and access times. The trade off is a well-retained minimalist profile with still a deep storage pocket that kills any immediate need for an external HDD solution. The sword twists deeper as the speed is further hampered by the older and slower SATA 2 connection. So expect below 100mb/s read and write.
Alternatively, the 1080p HD is one of the PC’s biggest guns. The sharpness, bright whites, rich color saturation and a solid viewing angle are all noticeably gorgeous. This being an Ivy Bridge cpu, we have integrated graphics on the Intel 3770T CPU. But I stuck with the AMD 7850 discreet solution included. It definitely accentuates the display’s merits nicely. Plus this pairing makes 720p gaming in titles like BF3, Warframe and CoD surprisingly enjoyable. The audio onboard is a HD Dolby Home Theater. The 7 watt x2 internal speakers works well for general media consumption such as YouTube or Vimeo videos–impressively really. But a higher performing speaker set is your best bet. I suggest a strong Bluetooth speaker set to compliment the Spartan look and low profile design.
There are a healthy number of ports and connectivity options. We have HDMI out, headphone-out, mic-in, 5-USB ports (1 x USB 3.0 chargeable, 1 x USB 3.0 and 3 x USB 2.0). There is even a 3-in-1 multi card slot for SD, SDHC and SDXC storage solutions. The unit is touch screen capable. But it also ships with a small wireless keyboard (101 keys) and wireless optical mouse. Choice hardware used, without question.
The ecosystem is Windows 8 64bit. We usually wine and grunt about Windows 8 devices bereft of touch-functionality. This one has it–the 10-points of touch and all and I still prefer the antiquated mouse and keyboard. Touch doesn’t seem to register 100% of the time, the point of recognition is often not triangulated properly and just feels inferior to an iPad or even an Android phone or tablet. It does work adequately for clicking back and forth and opening hyperlinks in a given web browser. But trying work in a strictly touch-focused environment is not recommended.
Samsung is really pushing their new Side Sync functionality on their new 5- and 7- series device. Side Sync is made to work seamlessly with your other Samsung mobile devices, like tablets and Samsung smartphones. Using Side Sync and Samsung’s compliment of supported pps, users can move seamlessly and share data between PC and mobile devices. You can use your PC as a cloud storage hub to back up all sorts of things. Pics and music can be quickly transferred and backed up on your PC. These are just a few the more notable features. Sadly we returned all out Samsung Smartphones and/or tablets. Unfortunately, as of this writing, these features are untested.
So of that 1TB platter-flavored storage space, a little over 900gb is usable. That’s not bad and means very little useless space was wasted on unneeded bloatware. What was wasted was the air gesture functionality. The system does a quick test where you place you hand in front of the screen with your fingers outstretched. Once at the right distance the system verifies and calibrates. Yet the end result is tiring and embarrassingly inaccurate with a lot of cursor jerk. The Nitendo Wii feels more accurate. Gesture control and motion sense is not where this unit excels. It’s an admirable attempt. The idea would complement an AIO system in several ways. Luckily the ATIV 7 AIO excels in other areas.
The stoic and numbered performance falls in line with most of the consumer-level casual-use PCs we tested. I feel the need to press the gaming issue as the benchmarks could leave you skeptical. But really good strong gaming can be done on this unit, easily. I played Warframe, BF3, Tribes Ascend, Planetside 2 and a few others very capably at 720p with modest graphic settings. Metro Last Light–a newer and more demanding title–was a harder sell with sub 30fps. Although free-2-play, Warframe is a full on DirectX 11 game with a 64-bit .exe and full PhysX integration for dynamic physics calculations (PhysX not supported on AMD gpus). All tech babble aside, the games look stunning on this monitor with the AMD discreet solution on hand. Still, cutting corners where the HDD is concerned works against the system’s benchmark scores. That HDD is slooow, for sure. The trade off is a larger storage capacity than, say, a more efficient SSD would certainly provide.
Where’s that leave us? The ATIV 7 AIO PC is a fantastic system. I’m not the biggest fan of the smallish 23.6 inch screen. But I can’t officially knock anything off the final score for that preference. Besides this LED HD display looks fan-fricking-tastic. The price overall, however, is pretty darn high for such a PC with that screen size and no SSD. I love the compliment of port options and applaud the casual versatility. This would be a marvelous unit for a dorm room, kitchen or small bedroom. You can easily do work and play with zero problems. Yet keen customers may want to evaluate their configuration options. Samsung offers many and this one was close to top-tier if not THE… That said, capabilities, ease of use, an accommodating form factor and good looks can help blur the lines between work and play. The unit goes unheard–it’s whisper quiet and jumps out of the box ready to go to work.