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Samsung Series 9 review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 11 Apr 2011

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £1,083 (£1,300 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

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.

Samsung Series 9

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.

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User comments

Is it really that costly?

Specifying an equivalent MacBook Air (but without Sandbybridge processor) would set you back about £70 less than the Samsung.

When you originally reviewed the Air, it cost £1395 and you gave it 5/6. So why does the Samsung, which you don't have a word against, get 4/6?

In the case of the Apple price it was stated "Yes, it's dear, but it really is an experience worth paying for." Why does that not apply to this?

By artiss on 12 Apr 2011

no HD, really?

I'm sorry, but manufacturers of laptops have got to start offering full HD at least on their displays.

I would go for this if it had it, but as it stands, I'm out.

By Steve_Adey on 12 Apr 2011

@artiss

The Apple has the edge in build quality, battery life (hugely so in OS X) and a higher resolution display.

It may be based around a Core 2 CPU, but it's perfectly fast enough by ultraportable standards. And, as a bonus, you can run both OS X and Windows.

If I had £1299 burning a hole in my pocket, I'd buy the Apple.

If I had even more to spend - and didn't care a jot for OS X - I'd buy a Sony VAIO Z Series.

At £999, or maybe £1099, the Samsung would have been a contender; at £1299, it's just too expensive.

By SashaMuller on 12 Apr 2011

No unwarranted Apple adulation here then Sasha. ;o)

By barrada on 12 Apr 2011

Normally ...

I'd be for functionality over form, but that is one good looking machine.

Too wanton???

By CraigieDD on 12 Apr 2011

How hot does it get?

As you are comparing this to the MacBook Air I'm just curious as to whether it suffers from the same heat management issues (extremely hot underside) with such a constricted chassis design.

By mr_chips on 12 Apr 2011

Why don't the PC Pro reviewers just marry the MacBook Pro?

By Lacrobat on 13 Apr 2011

@mr_chips

After ten minutes or so of running our multi-tasking benchmark, it begins to get pretty warm.

The left-hand side of the keyboard measured 45c around the 'A' key, rising to 50c around the numeric keys.

The underside is cool at the front, but towards the back it varies between 39c at the edges and 49c in the middle.

By SashaMuller on 13 Apr 2011

US$

No surprises to see that this is 'only' US$1649 (GBP£1020) delivered at amazon.com.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004NF3Z82/ref=asc_df_B00
4NF3Z821503618

By driver8 on 13 Apr 2011

OSX

I presume the MB Air battery life is far better in OSX due simply to tweaked OS fan controls?

Of course, you could run OSX on this too with a bit of fiddling.

I agree the screen resolution is poor for a 'refined' product like this, it should be a lot better.

Personally I'd prefer this to an Air, anyday.

By Wilbert3 on 14 Apr 2011

@driver8

So, 1020 to 1086, not that much difference really...

Don't forget the US price doesn't include sales tax, so you need to compare to non-VAT price in the UK.

By big_D on 15 Apr 2011

@SashaMuller

thanks for the reply. appreciate the additional detailed information.

By mr_chips on 18 Apr 2011

Samsung Series 9 vs. Sony Z Series

Hi Sasha, for someone who definitely just wants Windows (and thus not a Macbook Air). Can you list out the main differences between the two?
Based on your review of the Z13, the graphics was the main improvement on the Sony plus higher res screen? Also apparently it is more than double the weight of the Samsung? (weight matters to me)

By TheBigM on 25 Apr 2011

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