It’s certainly different.
Samsung isn’t a name that usually comes to mind when one thinks about gaming laptops. That said, the Korean company arguably produces some of the best appliances, smartphones, and TVs money can buy, and when I reviewed the Samsung Chromebook Pro earlier this year I liked it, a lot. However, success is one category never guarantees it’ll be reproduced in another, and the gaming market is a lot more demanding than that of an everyday laptop or a Chrome OS device. While the Odyssey Z (See it on Amazon) isn’t Samsung’s first foray into gaming laptops, it’s perhaps the most promising, at least on paper. Instead of a bland, anemic wannabe like one might expect, this sleek gaming laptop has some real horsepower, with unique styling and a novel cooling apparatus too. At $1,800 it’s competitively priced too, so let’s see how Samsung’s Odyssey Z stacks up.
Here are the specifications of the Samsung Notebook Odyssey Z I am evaluating:
- Model: Samsung Notebook Odyssey Z
- Display: 15.6-inch FHD LED PLS (1920 x 1080)
- Processor: Intel Core i7 Processor 8750H at 2.2 Ghz (9M Cache, up to 4.10 GHz)
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB GDDR5)
- Memory: 16GB DDR4
- OS: Windows 10 Home
- Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD
- Webcam: 720p HD
- Ports: 1 x USB-C, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x HDMI, 1 x 3.5mm audio, 1 x RJ45 Connectivity: 802.11 ac, Bluetooth 4.1
- Dimensions: 14.79 x 10.04 x 0.70-inches (WxDxH)
- Weight: 5.29 pounds
- Price: $1,799
Samsung Odyssey Z – Design and Features
In the US, the Odyssey Z is priced at just under $1,800. There are no customization options, as there’s just one configuration available. It includes an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, 16GB of DDR4 memory, a 256GB SSD, and a GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, and a 15.6-inch FHD PLS display. Plane to Line Switching panels (PLS) are Samsung’s proprietary version of IPS (In-Plane Switching) panels, which the company claims to provide better viewing angles, improved image quality, and a slight bump in overall brightness when compared to an IPS panel. Overall, the Odyssey Z has a relatively thin profile measuring 14.79 x 10.04 x 0.70-inches and it weighs 5.29 pounds.
The finish on the lid of the Notebook Odyssey Z reminds me of a sheet of metal, polished and buffed to be as reflective as possible. After two weeks of looking at the unique finish, I still can’t decide if I like it. I don’t hate it, but I don’t necessarily love it either.
The touchpad is finicky, and its placement is awkward.
The interior of the laptop is gray too but forgoes the polished look for a matte finish. The Notebook Odyssey Z’s keyboard and touchpad are at the very front of the housing, similar to what ASUS did on the ROG Zephyrus Gaming Laptop.The grey keyboard has a red backlight, which makes for an “interesting” look due to its semi-translucent key legends.
Just above the touchpad to the right of the keyboard is a series of shortcut keys, dedicated to gaming. One button records a video clip, another captures a screenshot, the third toggles Silent Mode to quiet the fans if you find yourself gaming in a coffee shop, and the last button enables Beast Mode (more on that below). The touchpad is finicky, and its placement is awkward as is its shape. It will get by for small tasks, like shopping on Amazon, but for more complicated tasks like photo editing, you’ll want a dedicated mouse.
Above the keyboard and touchpad is a series of cooling vents, along with a backlit power button that’s in the shape of the Odyssey logo. The cooling system, which Samsung calls the Z AeroFlow Cooling System, pulls in air from the top of the housing, pushes it over the GPU and CPU, then out the back and right-side of the laptop.
Two speakers are located on the bottom of the laptop’s housing (see above). Unfortunately, you can’t remove the screws on the bottom of the housing and upgrade the memory or storage on your own, so what you buy is what you’re stuck with. As for ports, the Odyssey Z has a collapsable Ethernet port, HDMI, USB 3.0, USB-C, and a headphone jack on the left side. The right side has a lone USB 2.0 port and another USB 3.0 port. The USB-C port can be used to connect an external monitor with up to 4K output, or used with an external hard drive.
Samsung Odyssey Z – Software
In the mobile industry, Samsung is known for having a heavy hand with its customization of Android and overabundance of redundant Samsung apps installed on every Galaxy device. Samsung hasn’t customized the look and feel of Windows 10, but there are a handful of Samsung apps that come installed on the Odyssey Z that you’re either going to use, or never even open.
There are a handful of Samsung apps that come installed on the Odyssey Z that you’re either going to use.
The apps with Samsung’s name include Samsung Gallery, Samsung Message, Samsung Recovery, Samsung Security, Samsung Settings and Samsung Update. Then there’s Wi-Fi Camera, Wi-Fi Transfer, and Link Sharing. Anyone who has used a Samsung phone will recognize most of those apps, and realize that Link Sharing is a service that just isn’t all that useful — especially on a full-fledged computer. Samsung Update and Settings will probably be the two apps you actually use, with each one respectively serving a purpose. Samsung also includes McAfee Live Safe, a staple of bloatware.
For gamers, Odyssey Control is where you go to view system stats, adjust settings for things like enabling the Windows Key or to change the display mode, as well as view any saved gaming screenshots or videos. There’s also an option to enable what Samsung calls Beast Mode in the Odyssey Control app. Odyssey Control is a very basic program and serves more as a system stats viewer than anything else. It doesn’t provide the ability to create custom profiles that activate when a specific program or game is opened, which is something that nearly every other gaming program does.
Samsung Odyssey Z – Performance and Gaming
I’ve had a chance to use half a dozen laptops with Intel’s newest i7 six-core processor, but all of them had a GTX 1070 or better. The Samsung Notebook Odyssey Z is the first I’ve used that has a GTX 1060 paired with an i7-8750H processor. Despite the difference in processor generations, I’m comparing the Odyssey Z to the Razer Blade Stealth and Alienware 13, both of which used the same GTX 1060 GPU. As you can see in the benchmark chart, the offerings from Razer and Alienware edged out the Odyssey Z in nearly every test. PCMark 8 was the only test that the Odyssey Z outperformed either of its competitors, despite having a six-core CPU. In Samsung’s defense though, our benchmarks are all games or gaming-related, and the GPU is much more important than the CPU for these tests.
In the real (gaming) world, using High settings, I consistently saw the frame rate bounce between high 70s and low 80s in Black Ops 4. In PUBG, I was unable to reach that same frame rate. With High settings and Beast Mode enabled, low 70s is as far as I could push the system. Speaking of Beast Mode, it’s a feature that boosts system performance. In my testing, Beast Mode added between 5 and 10 FPS when enabled. It also, of course, caused the fans to spin a bit more, so they were a bit louder. It’s a fair tradeoff if you’re looking to squeeze every last bit of performance from this system, and have a pair of headphones handy.
As far as day-to-day usability goes, the grey keyboard and red backlight was an issue, as it made it difficult to quickly identify keys at a glance.
Specifically, I’m talking about the shortcut keys along the top of the keyboard. Every time I wanted to increase the brightness or adjust the volume, I had to lean over the keyboard to look at the keys and make sure I was about to press the right key. I’m not sure if the red backlight was, say, white, if the problem would be solved, but I can say the current setup doesn’t work.
One possible solution is to ditch the gray keys and make them black, which would contrast better with the backlight and each key’s label. Outside of my inability to quickly identify the keys, I had no issues with gaming on this keyboard. I found the keys to be spaced evenly, and the amount of pressure required to trigger them was in line with what I have come to expect from similarly designed keyboards.
The cooling system does get loud, drowning out the two downward facing speakers during gameplay. Headphones are a requirement when gaming on this machine. That said, the fans do their job. The housing above the keyboard, where the cooling system resides, was only ever warm to the touch.
Also, after installing my typical barrage of benchmarking programs and games, I realized I had easily surpassed the 256GB SSD’s threshold, so the anemic storage is certainly one way Samsung cut costs on this particular model. Since Samsung doesn’t allow users in the US to customize the Odyssey’s internal components, and you can’t upgrade its internals on your own, be prepared to add external storage for non-essential files, which isn’t ideal.
Finally, I expected a lot from the display of a Samsung laptop. After all, the company is known for its display quality, and this is the first time I have used a laptop with a PLS panel. While I don’t feel like it added anything extraordinary to the overall experience, I don’t think it took away from it either. To my eyes, the PLS panel looks and acts like like an IPS panel.
Samsung Odyssey Z – Battery Life
The Samsung Odyssey Z lasted one hour and 41 minutes, or 101 minutes total, in my video rundown test. In other words, you can watch an episode of Better Call Saul, and have some power left over to watch your favorite episode of The Office, so it’s not too shabby. In comparison, the more expensive Alienware 13 and the Razer Blade Stealth powered through 127 minutes and 157 minutes, respectively.
The Samsung Notebook Odyssey Z has an MSRP of $1,799 and is the same price on Amazon.