Samsung Series 9 review

11 Apr 2011

Samsung takes on Apple at its own game, but the Series 9’s slender physique comes at a serious cost

Price when reviewed 
1,300
4

In the world of high-end ultraportables, few Windows laptops can rival Apple’s MacBook Air. It’s an exclusive club: Sony's VAIO Z Series and Dell’s now defunct Adamo have provided stiff competition in the past, but few have perfected the formula. Now, it’s Samsung’s turn to see if its Series 9 ultraportable (part code: NP-900X3A-A01UK) is worthy of the luxury laptop crown.

If there’s one area where Samsung’s Series 9 really hits the mark, it’s the jaw-dropping first impression. It’s not quite as stunningly thin as the MacBook Air, but at barely 17mm thick it’s as slim and svelte as notebooks come. What’s all the more amazing, then, is that it’s just a smidgen lighter than Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Air. At 1.32kg, this is the very definition of an ultraportable.

Tumble it in the hands, and the attention to detail is impressive. Samsung touts the fact the chassis is hewn from Duralumin – a tough alloy more commonly used in the aeronautic industry – and it certainly feels pretty sturdy given the barely-there weight. It’s not as unyieldingly taut as Apple’s MacBook Air, though; grappling with the Series 9 is enough to see the lid and base flex a little to and fro.

It might struggle to match the Apple for rigidity, but ergonomically it’s right on target. The soft-feeling Scrabble-tile keys feel just as luxurious as those on the MacBook Air, but we preferred the Series 9’s more spacious layout and full-width Enter key. The multitouch touchpad also tries to emulate Apple’s glass offering. The whole surface acts as one giant button; two-fingered taps mimic a right click and four-fingered swipes in different directions swap between applications, show the desktop or activate the Flip 3D feature.

Samsung Series 9 900X3A - front

It’s seriously quick for an ultraportable, too. With a low-voltage Intel Core i5-2537M processor allied with a 128GB SSD, the Series 9 feels far faster than you’d expect. From a cold start, the Windows desktop appears in just 20 seconds, and applications spring into life with nary a delay. With an overall score of 0.43 in our benchmarks, the Samsung’s clearly no slouch.

Details

Price ex VAT £1,083
Price inc VAT £1,300
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 4
Performance 4

Warranty

Warranty 2yr collect and return

Physical specifications

Dimensions 329 x 227 x 17mm (WDH)
Weight 1.320kg
Travelling weight 1.5kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-2537M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM65
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 0
SODIMM sockets total 2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 3000
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 0
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 128GB
Hard disk usable capacity 119GB
Spindle speed N/A
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Samsung MZMPA128HMFU
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive none
Battery capacity 6,300mAh

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 1
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader no
MMC (multimedia card) reader no
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Left and right-hand edges
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 6hr 35min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 29min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 13fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.43
Responsiveness score 0.52
Media score 0.46
Multitasking score 0.32

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition