15-inch Samsung Series 9 review (2012)

| April 23, 2012

Samsung Series 9 (NP900X3A) laptop re-examine

Samsung unveils redesigned Series 9 laptops through 13- and 15-inch displays, starting at $1,399

Spotted: the evasive. 15-inch Samsung Series 9

Before in that place were Ultrabooks, there was the Samsung Series 9. When it arrived forward the scene last year, measuring .64 inches confused, weighing 2.8 pounds and packing a blazing SSD, it seemed to tender Windows users the closest thing to a not at all-compromise experience — provided, of course, they were disposed to pony up the requisite $1,649. As it turns out, the Series 9 was difficult — memorable, even — but not without flaws. It lacked some SD slot, the trackpad was jumpy and the make manifest resolution topped out at a dronish 1366 x 768.

A year later, Samsung is back with a second-generation laptop that promises to not faulty all of these shortcomings, and ushers in each even thinner, even lighter design. Make that two laptops: Sammy’s selling a 15-inch Ultrabook, too. And truly, there’s cipher quite like it: nothing quite this slim, with this large a screen. (Consider since a moment that it measures pure .08 inches thicker than the modern 13-inch Series 9, which is already thinner than most other Ultrabooks on the market.) As always, though, luxuriousness doesn’t come cheap. The 15-twelfth part of a foot Series 9 will cost $1,500 when it ships at the end of this month (the 13-inch version is available for an moreover-pricey $1,400, though we place of safety’t gotten to take that design for a spin yet.) Ultimately, hereafter, are the Series 9′s elegant aluminum design and 1600 x 900 matte extend enough to justify the premium you’ll pay above other Ultrabooks? And does the 15-inch version offer long enough battery life to suit its larger size? Let’s fall upon out.

15-inch Samsung Series 9 critique (2012)

Look and feel

Engadget comments was person of the places Samsung turned at the time that it set out to retool the Series 9.

As hirsute as it is being an Engadget conductor , watching hot-headed readers run amok in the comments division, it must be that much besides agonizing to be a product comptroller, the guy whose baby gets eviscerated by anonymous people on the internet who certainly can’t stand 1366 x 768 inflexibility, man. If not for the purpose of politeness, you fine folks in the peanut balcony might want to choose your wrangling carefully: Samsung’s product team draws some of its user feedback from the comments left in the present state and on other tech sites.

In real existence, says Samsung’s design team, Engadget’s annotate section was one of the places it turned whenever it set out to retool the Series 9. Based on what it found there, a unite things became clear: consumers weren’t vain of the shiny plastic bits, and there wasn’t much love lost despite those launch buttons and port covers both. That explains what we have in the present life: a clean, minimalist machine fashioned out of unibody aluminum (despicable, no aircraft-grade duraluminum this time). The trackpad at present blends in with the rest of the impose rest. Save for a small, heedful power button above the keyboard, you won’t get any hardware keys. Even the LED lungs (all two of them) are small.

All told, it’s a refreshing strategy: instead of obvious tropes like brushed metal (or easily moulded painted to look like brushed metal), Samsung is relying for the most part entirely on build quality to persuade shoppers this is a luxury article. This laptop’s thin shape, refuge-solid build, bright display and clean design speak for themselves, and the arise is not only sexy, but eminently savory, too.

What really makes this notebook particular, though, is how absurdly thin it is. We discern, we know: there’s been a freshet of svelte Ultrabooks announced over the farther than six months, and dozens more are without ceasing the way. (And yes, for the remembrance, Samsung is calling this generation of the Series 9 Ultrabooks, true not in its marketing materials.) But equitable the jaded among you can’t affirm you’ve seen anything quite like this: a 15-inch laptop weighing just 3.3 pounds and measuring .58 inches inarticulate. This is far and away the skinniest 15-inch laptop we can remember seeing. To bring that it context, it’s within a little as skinny as the 13-twelfth part of a foot Series 9, which measures a wispy half an inch thick. It should rollicking time without saying, then, that it handily trumps aggregate mainstream laptops, even the Dell XPS 15z, that at 5.54-pounds / .97 inches cloudy is otherwise thin for its rank.

The problem with being this rely, though, is that without any regard with affection handles there isn’t room with a view to all the ports you’d await to find on a 15-inch laptop. You won’t find one Ethernet jack, and there’s not at all full-sized HDMI port. You testament find a micro-HDMI socket and small portrait VGA /LAN ports, along with an included Ethernet adapter, though that’s not completely as convenient, is it? (Samsung sells each optional VGA adapter as well.) On the plus side, it comes bearing two USB 3.0 ports, lengthwise with one of the 2.0 class. There’s also a combined headphone /mic jack and a 4-in-1 monumental record card reader, located underneath a house hidden on the laptop’s equitable side. Looks like Samsung’s engineers furthermore heard your complaints about the ultimate-gen model’s absent SD slot.


The spirit brick that ships with the Series 9 is notably unsubstantial, though it’s not modular the advance the HP Envy 14 Spectre’s is. You in addition won’t find as many delicacy goodies in the box: while it comes through that Ethernet adapter, there’s none case — something you’ll get by the $1,400 Spectre and even the $1,100 ASUS Zenbook UX31.

Keyboard and trackpad

No one ever said a machine this feeble would come without compromises. One such trade-off seems to be the keyboard, whose backlit keys are to a great extent shallow, even for an Ultrabook. We think most of you will be good to do without that extra mouth-piece of tactile feedback, especially since the keys are well-spaced by a smooth, pleasant finish. The shaft buttons, too, are a bit larger than that which you’ll find on smaller-screened Ultrabooks, and should be easy to tap without looking away from the screen. (Ditto for the Tab and Caps Lock keys, what one. are inexplicably tiny, given the engine’s 14-inch-wide footprint.)

The certain problem, though, isn’t that the keys aren’t cushy plenty, but that they’re sticky, and sometimes fail to register key presses. Ultimately, we lull managed to type the brunt of this go over again on the Series 9, albeit through copious taps to the Backspace solution. To put things in perspective since all the comparison shoppers reading this, we’d hushed rather use this keyboard than the dead one on the ASUS Zenbook UX31, otherwise than that by no means is it our darling.

As you’d expect, the outgo row is home to all the controls you’d calculate upon to find there (volume, brightness, etc.), allowing in this case you’ll exigency to hold down the Blue Fn solution to make use of them. Among these buttons, in the same proportion that it happens, is a pair of controls during the term of lowering and raising the brightness of that lovely aquamarine backlighting. But, the keyboard solely glows if the computer’s enfolding light sensor determines you’re parked in a faint enough room. And to address that follow-up question you tinkerers are surrounding to ask, the answer is “nay”: you cannot force the backlighting to phase on in bright surroundings.

Once afresh, Samsung went with a sprawling clickpad despite the Series 9, leaving plenty of range for multi-touch gestures. While we didn’t procreate off to the smoothest of starts, Samsung released a driver update mid-way through our testing that noticeably improved the tracking accuracy and made pinch to zoom and two-finger scrolls easier to pull off. Still, you be able to expect a learning curve here. The easy-paced horse (powered by Elan, this time, not Synaptics) often mistakes left clicks for right ones and badness versa — a complaint we have with regard to many touchpads with built-in buttons. Fortunately, at minutest, it has smarter palm rejection than most: you most likely won’t struggle through the cursor flying to random parts of the page as you imagine emails. In any case, this is the sort set of trackpad drivers used adhering the 13-inch Series 9, in like manner if and when we give that dowdy a whirl, we’ll be peering to see how Sammy refines the navigation experience.

Display and sound

A non-sheeny display isn’t necessarily a shortcut to spacious viewing angles.

With the exception of a major jump in resolution (1600 x 900, up from 1366 x 768), this is the same 400-nit SuperBright Plus body of jurors crowning last year’s Series 9 laptop. (And aye, that pixel count applies to both the 13- and 15-inch models.) Which is to assert it’s bright — brighter than affectedly nice much everything else on the market. For indoor use, we think you can get by with a dimmer show (after all, most people do), however a screen this brilliant will reach in handy if you get the press upon attentionnt manner to work on the patio, or in some nearby park.

Like last year’s model, too, this screen has a matte elaboration, which means you can say goodbye to aggravating glare from overhead lights. As we institute with the Series 5 Ultrabook, granting, a non-glossy display isn’t unavoidably a shortcut to wide viewing angles. If you dip the conceal forward, you’ll notice it starts to stain out, and colors lose some of their force — a shortcoming Samsung might have averted had it chosen the manner of IPS panel used on the Spectre 14. Still, yours honestly had no problem watching hours of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report from each awkward side angle (you can’t continually have the choice seat in the habitation, right?). So it’s not perceptibility that’s the issue; it’s that the colors and overall image quality aren’t verily at their best unless you’re looking at the guard head-on.

It’s a homogeneous story with the speakers. As it happens, we’d offer reasons the sound quality is even tinnier than average, but it fares particularly poorly compared to the Zenbook UX31, that for $400 less offers stellar Bang & Olufsen audio. And yet the Spectre 14′s Beats setup isn’t entirely as impressive, it’s still some improvement over the metallic, buzzy spread abroad you’ll get on the Series 9.

Two years subsequent to Intel Wireless Display debuted, it’s at last become a table-stakes feature in spite of new, reasonably high-end laptops. Like lots of other notebooks we’ve tried recently, the Series 9 incorporates the supporter generation of this technology, which allows users to wirelessly extend 1080p video to an HDTV or admonisher. In addition to that, you could even-handed mirror your entire desktop if which you’re really after is a bigger canvas. As we’ve related before, the whole thing is affluent to set up (even if you be sufficient need to drop an extra hundred bucks or so for an adapter) and the streaming is liquid — so long as you’ve got a stout WiFi connection at the ready.


PCMark Vantage


15-twelfth part of a foot Samsung Series 9 (1.6GHz Core i5-2467M, Intel HD Graphics 3000)



14-twelfth part of a foot Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook (1.6GHz Core i5-2467M, Intel HD Graphics 3000)



HP Envy 14 Spectre (1.6GHz Core i5-2467M, Intel HD Graphics 3000)



Dell XPS 14z (2.8GHz Core i7-2640M, Intel HD Graphics 3000 / NVIDIA GeForce GT520M 1GB)



Dell XPS 15z (2.7GHz Core i7-2620M, NVIDIA GeForce GT525M 2GB)



Dell Inspiron 14z (2.3 Core i5-2410M, Intel HD Graphics 3000)



Dell XPS 13 (1.6GHz Core i5-2467M, Intel HD Graphics 3000)



HP Folio 13 (1.6GHz Core i5-2467M, Intel HD Graphics 3000)



Toshiba Portege Z835 (1.4GHz Core i3-2367M, Intel HD Graphics 3000)



Lenovo IdeaPad U300s (1.8GHz Core i7-2677M, Intel HD Graphics 3000)



ASUS Zenbook UX31 (1.7GHz Core i5-2557M, Intel HD Graphics 3000)



Acer Aspire S3 (1.6GHz Core i5-2467M, Intel HD Graphics 3000)



13-inch, 2011 MacBook Air (1.7GHz Core i5-2557M, Intel HD Graphics 3000)



2011 Samsung Series 9 (1.7GHz Core i5-2537M, Intel HD Graphics 3000)



Note: the higher the charge the better.

Whatever the special component is, this shapes up to have existence the fastest Ultrabook we’ve seen as the ASUS Zenbook UX31.

The 15-twelfth part of a foot Series 9 comes in a separate configuration, with a 1.6GHz Core i5-2467M processor (the identical you’ll find in many other Ultrabooks), integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics and a 128GB strong-state drive. Similar specs as other Ultras we’ve tried, only this guy has twice the RAM: eight gigs. We’re not positived if it’s the extra recollection or that Samsung-made SSD, yet whatever the special ingredient is, this shapes up to have existence the fastest Ultrabook we’ve seen from that time the Zenbook UX31. We’re referring, in part, to its five-digit PCMark Vantage enter, but its real-world performance dazzles, in addition. Samsung claims that with its FastStart technology it should benefit in less than 20 seconds; we were up and running in 14. Resume epochs feel near-instantaneous — less than two seconds, according to our stopwatch. Meanwhile, in the discus benchmark ATTO we saw peak unravel speeds of 521 MB/s and max writes of 266 MB/s. That doesn’t outdo the 550 MB /s reads and 500 MB/s writes we got by the UX31, but it’s the closest any Ultrabook has come to matching it.

All told, that’s each improvement not just over other Ultrabooks, except other 15-inch laptops as well. Even through a Core i7 processor and switchable NVIDIA graphics, the Dell XPS 15z scores 2,500 points not so much than the Series 9, and takes 25 seconds longer to gain up.

The Series 9′s Intel HD 3000 graphics dint a higher score in 3DMark06 than other Ultrabooks, yet that’s not saying much. In The Sims, we sententious precept frame rates hover between 62 and 65 fps — about what you’d get from similarly specced laptops. Likewise, Call of Duty 4 crawled longitudinally at 16 to 17 fps, to the degree that opposed to 15 fps in take down-scoring machines. If you really cared, of conduct, you wouldn’t even be shopping on the side of an Ultrabook (except, perhaps, this one).

It would be inaccurate to saw the Series 9 stays cool — following a good hour or two of streaming video, a confidant resting the laptop on his legs could be conscious of being the heat through the legs of his pants. That uttered, the notebook always felt more lukewarm than hot, and wasn’t miserable to touch.

Battery life


Battery Life

15-inch Samsung Series 9 (2012)


Dell Inspiron 14z


HP Folio 13


Toshiba Portege Z835


ASUS Zenbook UX31


13-inch, 2011 MacBook Air

5:32 (Mac OS X) / 4:12 (Windows)

HP Envy 14 Spectre


Lenovo IdeaPad U300s


14-inch Samsung Series 5 Ultrabook


Dell XPS 13


Dell XPS 14z


Samsung Series 9 (2011)


Acer Aspire S3


Dell XPS 15z

3:41 / 4:26 (NVIDIA Optimus attached / off)

Now that’s more like it. After reviewing two larger-screened Ultrabooks whose additional weight didn’t translate to longer battery life, we get the Series 9: a 15-twelfth part of a foot laptop that weighs as much similar to a 13-inch Ultrabook, and lasts hours longer. In our colors battery rundown test, which involves looping a movie on the farther side the disk with WiFi on and the radiance fixed at 65 percent, it managed seven hours and 29 minutes. That’s towards two hours more than the Toshiba Portege Z835, what one. is itself the most longevous 13-twelfth part of a foot Ultrabook we’ve tested. Not to cursory reference, it’s a more impressive showing than what you’ll get from a mainstream laptop like the XPS 15z. Even with its Optimus graphics turned off, that machine lasted just four and a moiety hours in the same test. It’s guiltless that the Series 9 makes up in quest of its larger size with longer runtime, and the best part is that its extra “helve” isn’t much of an unseasonableness anyway.


All things considered, Samsung poorly saddled the Series 9 with somewhat bloatware. On board, you’ll observe CyberLink’s YouCam software, a public webcam console, along with Skype 4.2, Windows Live Essentials 2011 and, of line of progress, Microsoft Office Starter Edition. Norton Internet Security 2012 and Norton Online Backup in a circle out the list. (No free Adobe Photoshop Elements / Premiere Elements, sadly. It looks like the Spectre’s freebies may be seized of spoiled us a bit.)

We usually put on’t have much to say through pre-installed security trials (you be able to keep them or choose your acknowledge, we say), but it is character noting that every time we’ve assayed a computer running Internet Security 2012 we’ve continued course afoul of the download-scanning trait, which consistently forbids us from installing a (unhurt) .exe file that older versions of Norton would acquire approved.

Configuration options and warranty

As mentioned, the 15-inch Series 9 only comes in some configuration, but this seems as benefit a time as any to purify what you’ll get if you opt with regard to the $1,400 13-inch translation instead. This, too, has a 128GB SSD and Core i5-2467M processor, notwithstanding that it packs 4GB of RAM, not eight, and has single USB 3.0 port, not two. The battery life is rated in the place of a max of seven hours, granting we haven’t yet had a turn up to test this claim on a final, production-grade machine.

Whatever you pick out, the Series 9 comes with a person-year warranty, though Samsung’s sacrifice a three-year option as well. This is fairly measure for the industry, though it’s character noting the Envy 14 Spectre costs a hundred dollars less and comes with a two-year project.

The competition

None. As we’ve reported, there’s nothing directly comparable to the 15-twelfth part of a foot Series 9: nothing this thin, this elucidation, this fast with this big a sieve. You could spend almost a many dollars less on a mainstream 15-twelfth part of a foot laptop, but it would bring shorter battery life, slower achievement and a clunkier, blander design, total of which defeats the purpose of owning one Ultrabook, if that’s what you’re allowing for buying. If you can live through a smaller display (and shorter runtime), you’ll derive pleasure from similar performance with a 13-inch Ultrabook. There are lots to single out from, of course, but we be seized of a soft spot for the $900 HP Folio 13, that offers a great balance of get on, longevity, portability, ports, a comfortable keyboard and delicious design. (Of course, at this excellence you’ll be sacrificing the erect quality and high-quality display that give permission to the Series 9 to command that higher compensation.) There are other promising choices, in addition, though you might end up structure more trade-offs, whether it’s a puerile keyboard, jumpy trackpad, skimpy port pick, short battery life or some association thereof.


More than anything, the 15-twelfth part of a foot Series 9 makes us giddy around what laptops will look like a year from at once. After all, if the original Series 9 foretold a mart full of skinny Ultrabooks, might this instrument be a harbinger for other larger-screened Ultrabooks with fast performance and extra long battery life? As the and nothing else such laptop around right now, the Series 9 is stirring in its own right, though not considerably the magic bullet we thought it would have existence. On the one hand, it’s courtly and well-made with exceptional horsepower and sound battery life. On the other, its in the same state-so keyboard and trackpad don’t pit the premium experience Samsung is afflicting to sell, and it’s wanting other top-shelf features like higher-extremity speakers and an IPS display with wider viewing angles. For $1,500, we’d look forward to all these things, though if eventually Samsung cuts the cost (as it did with the original Series 9), these shortcomings might sting inferior. These imperfections aside, though, it’s a wealthy laptop that keeps most of it promises to the degree that a luxury machine. If you stand in want of a new laptop now and have power to’t bear to step down to a smaller, decrease-res display, carpe diem! Just protect in mind that there’s swing for other Ultrabook-makers to achieve even better.


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