The Samsung Series 9 laptop turned heads at CES back in January. Here was an ultra portable that for the first time might match the second generation MacBook Air for looks, and even beat it in power. Has it lived up to those claims? Find out here in our full Samsung Series 9 laptop review.
Design and build
Aesthetically, the 13.3-inch Samsung Series 9 900X3A laptop is one of the finest Windows machines we’ve tested. Its beautiful tapering curves and smooth metal Duralumin material keep it looking slick and weighing nothing – a mere 1.31kg. Crucially, the top half feels as sturdy as the bottom: this is typically where PC makers cut corners, but there’s no flex to be had here.
That said, it’s not as beautiful as the second generation unibody MacBook Air. It doesn’t taper down to nothing in the same way, and the rubber feet give it extra girth as well. The Duralumin finish also attracts fingerprints like moths to a flame, so if it’s looks you’re after, Apple is still king.
Samsung has managed to squeeze in a few more ports however, via two clever pop down trays on the sides, which house HDMI and Ethernet connections via included adapters (better than nothing), two USB 3.0 ports and microSD. For most people, this will be a lot more handy than a MiniDisplay port which Apple prefers.
The keyboard and touchpad too are first in class. The Samsung Series 9 backlit QWERTY island keyboard keys bounce down with satisfaction, and there’s no give in the centre as sometimes happens. The right shift key also stretches across to the edge, which will please touch typists. The apparently seamless touchpad too is impressive for a Windows laptop, registering left and right clicks and touches correctly – until Microsoft catches up with Apple on the multi-touch front, this is the best you’ll get on this side of the fence.
As for the display, the 1366×768 display is bright enough, with viewing angles that are just wide enough to accommodate two people viewing a video – and even when they’re off, the colour jumbling isn’t as extreme as it is on cheap laptops so it’s not a concern.
The Samsung Series 9′s big advantage over the MacBook Air is its raw power: it’s packing a second generation Intel Core i5-2537M chip clocked at 1.4GHz, which is capable of ramping up to 2.3GHz. Paired with 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and 64-bit Windows 7, you’ve got a monster of an ultra-portable that encodes video at blinding speed and tearing through even recent games.
Of course, more of a problem there is that you don’t have a DVD drive with which to load said games and videos. You’ll have to use an external one – they’re not expensive, but it’s the hassle of carrying one that you’ll need to consider. For general work, Office, PowerPoints, reports and the like, it’s not something you’ll miss that often.
Battery life meanwhile is nothing spectacular – but that’s probably all you can expect from something thin, with a non removable battery. The Samsung Series 9 lasted for around four and a half hours of real world constant use with the brightness at max and internet on. Just playing video with the internet off and brightness down will get you to much closer to the quoted seven hour figure.
The Samsung Series 9 is packing more power than any other Windows ultra portable, and it does so in an attractive looking shell. That said, the £1299 pricetag is something you need to give a long hard think about.
If size and reasonable (rather than maximum) power is your primary concern, the 11-inch MacBook Air will save you plenty of money at £867 – but won’t render video as quickly. If a modicum of power and connectivity is what you’re after, last year’s superb Toshiba Portege R700 will provide you with what you need for quite a bit less – with a DVD drive thrown in.
But if it’s sheer power you can sling in your backpack and not even notice it’s there, the Samsung Series 9 can’t be beat.