The Samsung Series 9 laptop is one of the most interesting products on the computer market right now, being hailed by many for its looks, ultra portability and pretty high performance level, but being also criticized by some for its less than affordable price tag.
The Series 9, while being released before the ultrabook craze, meets most of the criteria of this fresh and new computer market niche. It is very slim, highly portable and offers a high performance level. On the other hand, it is far from what you could call cheap and it doesn’t come with a very strong and durable battery.
In the following lines we will review and analyze the Samsung Series 9 notebook, trying to figure out all its strong and weak points and trying to ultimately find out if this piece of computer equipment is good enough to justify its price.
You can also read about the best Samsung alternatives in this other post.
Update: The unit reviewed is the 2011 version of Samsung’s Series 9. A review of the new 2012 Series 9 Ultra will follow in the next couple of months.
Exterior and design
The Series 9 is made mostly from duraluminum, a stronger metal than aluminum, used in the past in aircraft build. As you can imagine, this gives the laptop a very strong posture, but amazingly Samsung’s notebook manages to also be elegant, classy and to feel nice and light in the user’s hands.
The Samsung Series 9 looks extremely strong and powerful.
The overall design may look pretty simplistic, almost minimalistic at a first look, but the little things make it sophisticated and almost sexy. The dark chassis gives the laptop a touch of mystery, while the chrome borders and the wave-shaped hinges blend in very nicely to offer one of the most striking laptops on the market today.
It has to be noticed also that for a laptop targeted to compete against the very original and good-looking Macbook Air, the Samsung Series 9 comes itself with an original design and build. In terms of dimensions and weight, the Series 9 is a winner, even though it couldn’t compare with the upcoming ultrabooks from Toshiba, Asus or Acer.
Samsung’s 13.3-inch notebook measures 12.9 x 8.9 x 0.62-0.64 inches and weighs in at 2.9 pounds, which is two whole ounces lighter than Apple’s similar Macbook Air.
Keyboard and touchpad
If you will be attracted by the Series 9’s exterior and design, you will probably be mesmerized by its keyboard and touchpad. The full-chiclet keyboard is very well-sized, easy and comfortable to use and the keys are well-spaced and feel very nice and smooth. It is also backlit, which is a very nice touch, and we enjoy the fact that you can control the brightness or turn the whole backlighting off if you like.
Anyway you look at it, the Series 9 is very thin and portable.
The touchpad is at least as good as the keyboard, being smooth, responsive, but also very good-looking. Its matte surface is very functional and elegant and the overall feel is great. On the other hand, it is not perfect at recognizing gestures and is a bit smaller than the Macbook Air’s touchpad.
The 13.3-inch display on the Series 9 comes with a decent enough resolution of 1366×768 pixels and provides good overall image quality. The screen is matte, which is a big plus, and Samsung’s SuperBright Plus Technology provides very crisp colors and automatically adjusted brightness. The viewing angles are themselves pretty great, but you can’t help feel that Samsung could have come up with a higher resolution display. After all, the MacBook Air comes with a 1440×900 pix resolution panel, while the upcoming Asus UX31 promises a 1600×900 pixels resolution.
Hardware and performance
The Samsung Series 9 is available on the computer market right now with a couple of different technical configurations. The high-end Series 9 model comes equipped with a 1.4 GHz low voltage Intel Core i5-2537M Sandy Bridge dual-core processor and 4 GB of RAM. This should provide a far higher performance level than the original MacBook Air, which comes with only 2 GB of RAM, but lower performance than the newest 13.3-inch Apple laptop, equipped with a 1.7 GHz dual core Intel i5 processor and 4 GB of memory.
The Samsung ultrabook is very snappy, but the display is not great.
The Series 9 also features Intel’s integrated HD graphics card, which should be above the average ultraportable, but which is again below what the Macbook Air has to offer. In terms of internal memory, Samsung’s laptop features a very speedy 128 GB SSD, a great choice if we thing about the booting speed of the Series 9.
Battery life, connectivity and others
When Intel has started talking about ‘’ultrabooks’’ and what these devices should offer, one of the most important features desired was a strong battery. The Series 9, though, while being portable, light and fast performance wise, can’t keep up with the Macbook Air or the upcoming ultrabooks in terms of battery life.
The Lithium-Polymer battery, while being dubbed by the producers to last up to seven hours between charges, lasted only five hours and 11 minutes in Laptopmag’s Battery Test and four hours and 20 minutes in Engagdet’s test. Even though these are not bad results for a strong and fast laptop, the autonomy is well below what the Macbook Air can offer. As for the upcoming ultrabooks, these all promise six or seven hours of real battery life.
In terms of connectivity and ports, the Series 9 features USB 3.0, as well as 2.0, micro HDMI, microphone and headphone jacks, a micro SD memory card reader, Ethernet, Bluetooth 3.0 and wireless capabilities. Other features of the Samsung’s 13.3-inch laptop include a 1.3-megapixel HD webcam and built-in stereo speakers with HD audio.
The Series 9 and MacBook Air are the only ultrabooks already available on the market.
Pricing and availability
When it first entered the computer market, the Series 9 came with a major flaw. Its price was enormous and even surpassed the Macbook Air’s. Recently though, things have changed and you can get the 13.3-inch notebook from Samsung for 1149 dollars on Amazon. This is still not very affordable, indeed, but it is a whole 300 bucks below the Macbook Air’s high-end price.
Giving that we expect a bunch of ultrabooks releases this fall and the competition will probably grow stronger and stronger, we might expect further price cuts for the Series 9. Also, there has to be said that the ultraportable computer from Samsung is available in an 11.6-inch version, as well.
There is however a newer 2012 generation of the Samsung Series 9, and you should check that one out in this other article on the site.
The Series 9 is available in 11.6 and 13.3-inch models.
The 11.6 model is, of course, not as well equipped as its bigger sibling, and only comes with an Intel Core i3-380UM dual-core processor, 2 GB of RAM and a 64 GB Solid State Drive.
As all pioneering devices, the Samsung Series 9 has its advantages and disadvantages, its strong points, but also its flaws. On one hand, you have a pretty original, good-looking, classy and sturdy design, good performance level and great keyboard and touchpad.
On the other hand, the display is not all it could have been, the weight and dimensions will be very easily beaten by the upcoming Toshiba Portege Z830 or Asus UX31, as it is the case of the not so impressive battery. Furthermore, even though the Series 9 is strong and snappy, it’s a little below the Macbook Air in terms of performance and will again be exceeded by the upcoming ultrabooks.
All in all, though, at least before all the ultrabooks releases this fall, the Samsung Series 9 is more than your regular notebook and will most definitely satisfy your needs of portability and performance if you decide to buy it.