Review

Last minute Christmas review: Samsung Series 9

The Samsung Series 9 is easily one of the most stunning laptops I've ever laid eyes upon, especially in the Windows PC market. Beautifully designed, super thin, and with the performance to back it up. This is the first time a company has built a real ​MacBook Air competitor, but does it stack up? Is it good enough?

Specifications

Specifications Samsung Series 9
Product Codes NP900X3A-A03US
Processor Intel Core i5 2537M
Display 13" SuperBright Plus display (720p)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 3000
Storage 128GB SSD
RAM 4GB (Max 8GB)
Connectivity 802.11 b/g/n WiFi
Bluetooth 3.0
I/O Ports Micro HDMI
2 USB ports
Headphone jack
Mic-in
RJ45 LAN (With adapter only)
MicroSD slot
Other Stereo Speakers (3 Watt)
1.3 MP HD Webcam
2.88 Pounds (Weight)
 
Price $1649.99 USD

 

Design

Usually we wouldn't rant and rave about design, but the Series 9 really deserves us stopping and mentioning how elegant it is. When you pick up this laptop, it does not feel cheap. The "Duralumin" based material that encloses the laptop is super light, and cool to the touch, and just feels right. The laptops curves are in all the right places, and it's so thin it's hard to believe it's running Windows. It's about the same thickness as an iPhone 4S (pictured below).

The thin edges are sharp, which makes it feel fantastic in the hand. There's also more than meets the eye to the Series 9. It's got a backlit keyboard that automatically senses when it's needed and the ports are tidily hidden away on the side of the laptop with flaps, which allows Samsung to pack a few extra (think HDMI) ports in. 

Display

The Series 9 features Samsung's "SuperBright" technology, which makes a huge difference on this machine. While not perfect in direct sunlight, it is still useable. This is also thanks in part to the matte screen.

While the 1366 x 768 display may seem small to some, it's not only HD, but on a 13.3" laptop, there's not much better you could ask for. We know, the MacBook air's display is 1440 x 900, but it doesn't seem like it's that important here. Viewing angles are fantastic, and we weren't let down by our friends not being able to watch cat videos on YouTube over our shoulder.

Keyboard / Trackpad

As someone who doesn't particularly care for laptops, I'm very used to desktop keyboards (such as the Logitech G15) and a decent mouse, so I expected to be disappointed by the Series 9. After using it for some time, I can declare that (in my personal opinion) this is one of the best laptop keyboards (and trackpads) I've ever seen on a laptop, especially of this size.

The keys just feel right and the travel distance is just the right amount; it comfortable to use. They even light up in the dark. Is there much more you could ask for? Sure, some extra space maybe, but on a 13" laptop that weighs only 2 pounds, who's complaining?

Samsung touts their touchpad for the laptop as "glass coated" and featuring an image sensor which stops the cursor disappearing or jumping over the screen, and it does what their marketing people will tell you. There's no issues like on traditional laptops. If you're touching the trackpad, it'll do what you want it to.

Some hardcore "traditional" laptop users might miss the two physical click buttons for right and left that we're so accustomed to, but the Series 9 makes up for it in multitouch. There are gestures for scrolling, zooming, swiping and rotating, though only a handful of applications actually support the gestures outside of the scrolling one. To left click, either tap or click in the touchpad, and to right click you just click in the lower right of the touchpad. Easy.

​Battery

The answer to this is short and sweet. Samsung rates the battery at up to 7 hours. We found we could get 5 hours on average, no matter what the task was, which is very impressive. Under heavy load, it would probably be a lot less, but the Series 9 isn't exactly designed for heavy load.

One note on this. The battery is not ​user serviceable, just like the MacBook. It's sealed, and cannot be user replaced.

Graphics

This could be included under performance, but I'd like to break this down clearly. The Samsung Series 9 is not designed to play games. The Intel Integrated graphics just isn't powerful enough. Is it disappointing? Sure! Did we expect games to run on a laptop this thin? No.

For what it's worth, we tried Minecraft on this machine and it did not play well at all, complete with tearing and frame drops. However, Starcraft 2 appears to work just fine, but only on minimum graphics.

Performance

The i5 chip and the SSD onboard, combined with the form factor of the Series 9 is what makes this laptop shine amongst the crowd. Not only does it look good, it's a speed demon. Performing menial office tasks such as opening complex Excel documents or browsing YouTube are no threat for the Series 9. It feels snappy no matter what's being thrown at it, be it 1080p video (which the Series 9 can handle) or simply using iTunes (arguably one of the hardest things a laptop can experience).

Boot time is around 10-12 seconds, thanks in part to the shiny new UEFI based BIOS. Resuming from sleep is so fast we can't even count.

Software

This is all you really care about, isn't it? Does the notebook come with crapware loaded? Simple answer: No. Everything I saw on the Series 9 had a purpose, and it didn't make the entire system grind to a halt when it was used either. Call this a pass from someone who will usually seek out and uninstall every piece of non-vanilla software on a new branded machine.

Other 

There are some small things that'll annoy power users here. First, you don't get a physical network port without an adapter, which is a pain if you forget to take it with you, meaning you're very limited to wireless connectivity. Second, Mini HDMI is all rosy, but Samsung doesn't include a mini-HDMI to normal HDMI cable, leaving you stuck to find your own. 

Additionally, if you really need to plug in more than two USB devices at a time, you're out of luck (without a USB hub). I don't consider it to be an issue though, considering that the MacBook Air only has one port, so having two is a bonus. It's worth noting you can only charge devices from one of these ports, for some reason. Finally, if you use MicroSD cards a lot you'll love this laptop, but I can't really see the point of Samsung adding this port where they could've added an additional USB port or something similar.

Conclusion

This is what it all comes down to. Should you buy the Samsung Series 9? We've told you it performs well, looks beautiful, has the keyboard and trackpad you've always dreamed of, and can put up a fair fight. But is this enough to convince you to buy it?

If you had unlimited amounts of money at your disposal, then yes. However, in the real world, this is not a cheap laptop. Coming in at $1649.99 USD via Samsung, if you're willing to pony up for the sexy curves and don't think "Windows is poison" you will absolutely love this machine. If cost is not an issue, then you'll probably look towards the Samsung Series 9's rival, the MacBook Air.

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