Many of this year’s top new notebooks are all about one word: ultrabooks. But before there were ultrabooks, the market had the Samsung Series 9 at the best price. Designed with mobility in mind, Samsung’s rock-solid, premium, feather-light Series 9 ultrabooks offered mobile professionals and power users a sophisticated machine equally perfectly suited for work and entertainment, and it seemed to offer users an almost no-compromise experience.
Now the manufacturer is back with its refreshed second-generation model which is even thinner and lighter and, according to Samsung’s claims, delivers a stronger performance and battery life. So, let’s find out what is so special about the Samsung Series 9.
Look and Feel
Featuring a unibody chassis fabricated entirely from high-grade dual-tone aluminum, the new Samsung Series 9 proves to be one of the most stunning buying options available on the market. Its simple and unadorned case leaves a premium impression and feels rock-solid thanks to high-quality materials and top-notch construction.
The whole profile is razor-thin and sports a steely metallic edge that wraps around the sides, making the ultrabook a graceful and stylish piece of art.
Measuring 0.58 inches thick and weighing a mere 3.5 pounds, the series 9 is the skinniest and lightest 15-incherout there, still exhibiting a high level of rigidity for its dimensions. So, the lid shows high degrees of both compressive strength and torsional stiffness that are pleasantly surprising.The display can only be twisted by the most marginal degrees, while the wrist rest does not yield at all.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The reviewed 15-incher features the black chiclet-style keyboard with well-spaced keys exceling with a smooth and pleasant finish. Being slightly lowered, the keys are completely encapsulated by the aluminum unibody and offer an impressive feedback with the pressure point accurate and crisp, and the key drop short making for a pleasant tactile experience. The series 9 is also notable for its large and comfortable wrist rest area. The arrow buttons, too, are pretty large, thus delivering easy experience while touch-typing.
The keyboard features a lovely built-in aquamarine backlight that is really helpful in dimly lit environments. So, in a completely dark room, the user will be able to clearly make out individual keys.While useful, the backlight only has four intensity levels instead of the standard ten levels in other high-performing ultraportables. In addition, due to the use of an illuminated mat instead of individual LEDs, the backlight is milder and only slightly illuminates the keys alone. There is no gap or edge lighting visible with this backlight. Furthermore, the keyboard only glows if the computer’s ambient light sensor determines the user is in a dim enough room.
The keyboard’s top row is home to volume, brightness buttons and other controls (including the ones for lowering and raising the backlighting brightness). It’s worth noting that to make use of those controls, the user will have tohold down the Blue Fn key.
As for the Series 9’s touchpad, it represents a rather spacious area (4.3 x 2.9inches), features no physical mouse buttonsand is placed off center and to the left (it is typical for Samsung machines). It supports the whole variety of multi-touch gestures (pinch-to-zoom, three-fingers wipe etc.) and delivers smooth and accurate navigating experience. Last but not least, mention should be given to the aesthetics surrounding the touchpad. The rounded corners and thin, silvery rim allow the touchpad to merge seamlessly into the overall design of the notebook and add a rather stylish touch.
Display and Sound
The reviewed model of the Samsung Series 9 family comes with a 15-inch 1,600×900-resolution matte 400-nit SuperBright Plus panel (there are also 13-inch versions available for retail) and is nearly as bright as the previous version of the ultrabook (last year’s Series 9), registering 368 lux on the light meter. For the sake of comparison, the XPS 15’s screen with the resolution of 1,920×1,080 pixels shows 323 lux, while the Sleekbook 6z’s 1,366×768 screen registers 149 lux. The average ultraportable categoryscores a level of 232 lux. So, for indoor use, that brightness level is more than enough, and it will come in perfectly handy if the user has to work outside (e.g. on the patio, or in some nearby park).
For its refreshed Series 9, Samsung chose a screen with a matte finish, which helps avoid that nasty glare from overhead lights.
In terms of viewing angle stability, the images on the Series 9’s laptops remain stable even at narrow horizontal angles and deviations are hardly noticeable. By contrast, vertical viewing angles aren’t that great -the slightest deviation from head-on causes the picture to fade or invert.
The Samsung Series 9 comes configured with two built-instereo speakerswith a rated output of 1.5 Watts each. Unfortunately, while the high ranges are rendered clearly with sufficient volume, the speakerslack both the mid-rangepitches anddeep bassrequired for enjoying music and movies. Still, the Series 9 ultrabook manages to maintain accuracy even at full volume.
Samsung ships its Series 9 with the SoundAlive software which allows users to adjust equalizer settings manually or using presets (e.g. “3D Depth” gives the impression of surround sound).
Ports and Connectivity; Webcam
The Samsung Series 9 lineup comes bearing a good selection of ports, having all of them located in the rear third of each side: two USB 3.0 ports for fast peripherals (the latest development in USB data transfer technology), a single USB 2.0 port featuring sleep-and-charge, a 4-in-1 card reader, micro-HDMI socket and miniature VGA/LAN ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port with an adapter included, and a combo headphone /mic jack.
In terms of connectivity, the 15-incher under discussion sports almost all known communication standards – 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi for ultra-fast connectivity to home and business networks (requires Wireless-N router to optimize speed and range; it will work with dual-band routers (2.4GHz and 5GHz)), gigabit LAN adapter, and Bluetooth 3.0+HS. Unfortunately, the system comes with the faster and more energy efficient Bluetooth 4.0 omitted.
Powered by the CyberLink YouCam software, the 1.3-megapixel webcam captures stills and video at a maximum resolution of 1,280×1,024 pixels, and is capable of rendering accurate and crispy colors.
The Samsung Series 9 family’s overall specifications look as follows:
|GPU||Entry-level’s Intel HD Graphics 3000 (supports Microsoft DirectX 10)
Intel HD Graphics 4000 for upgraded models (for Microsoft DirectX 11 games)
|Operating System||Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
Genuine Windows 7 Professional 64 bit
|Main Memory||8 GB of installed DDR3 RAM (maximum capacity)|
|Screen||15-inch SuperBright Plus display (non-glare panel)|
|Backlight/ Resolution||340 nits FHD (1,600 x 900)|
|I/O port||2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, Micro HDMI port, VGA video output, multi-format memory card slot (compatible with SD, SDHC, SDXC, and MMC media), mic and headphone jacks|
|Storage Capacity||128GB/256GB SSD|
|Bluetooth||Bluetooth 3.0 (in an entry-level configuration), bluetooth 4.0 (in upgraded configurations)|
|Battery||8-cell battery; 8400 mAh (up to 10 hours)|
|Dimesions and weight||14 x 9.3 x 0.58 inches (WxDxH); 3.51 pounds|
Now let’s look at the key features in greater detail.
With the 15-inch model of Samsung Series 9 family, one will find a dual-core i5-2467M processor on board, clocked at 1.6GHz, integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics and Windows 7 Home Premium run on a 128GB solid-state drive along with 8GB of RAM. Similar specs can be found on many ultraportable machines, available today on the market. However, the Series 9 device shapes up to be the fastest ultrabook ever seen (since the Zenbook UX31). Let’s look at its five-digit PCMark Vantage score – 10,580 points, which is really amazing!
On PCMark07, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall processing power, the laptop notches a score of 3,749, beating the previous Series 9’s generation by 100 points and the ultraportable average by nearly 1,000. In terms of real-world performance, the Series 9’s results are none the worth. The manufacturer claims that the machine should boot in less than 20 seconds thanks to its Fast Start technology (it saves the user’s data and system configurations to their hard drive and PC memory, so in an instant they can power back on right where they left off); in reality the laptops is up and running in 14 seconds. By comparison, the Dell XPS 15z, even with a Core i7 CPU and switchable NVIDIA graphics, takes 25 seconds longer to boot up. Resume times are near instantaneous – about two seconds.
With the Series 9’s Intel HD 3000 GPU, the user will not be able to play much in the way of recent PC games without a discrete GPU. However, our 15-inch still manages to notch a higher score in 3DMark06 benchmark than other Ultrabooks.
In terms of other configurations, the users are currently offered to opt for upgraded models with the following specs: latest-generation Ivy Bridge 1.7-GHz Core i5-3317U chips combined with 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, and Intel HD Graphics 4000 along with next-generation Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. The next-level-configured model can boast features like Intel Core i7-3517U CPU clocked at 1.9GHz (with updated Toorbo Boost Technology), 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, Intel HD Graphics 4000, and Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. So, Samsung has something to offer for digital media management, content creation, 3D gaming and many other computing needs.
The Series 9’s models configured with Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU (e.g. Ivy Bridge 1.7-GHz Core i5-3317U CPU+ 8GB RAM + 128GB SSD) show much better graphics performance (e.g. when playing the World of Warcraft) – well-done 43 frames per second, compared with just 30 fps on the previous Series 9 laptops.
When it comes to longevity, the Samsung Series 9 ultrabook boggles the imagination and offers great mobility and freedom with its power efficient performance and extensive battery life of up to 10 hours (according to the manufacturer’s claims). In a standard battery rundown test consisting of streaming a movie with Wi-Fi on and the brightness fixed at 65 percent, the laptop manages about seven and a half hours (that is, for example, almost two hours more than the Toshiba Portege Z835’s runtime; that is 30 minutes longer than the previous Series 9’s 15-incher and about 39 minutes longer than the ultraportable category average).
So, the Series9’s advanced lithium-polymer battery teamed up with the Samsung’s innovation PowerPlus charging technology make the battery lifespan last much longer than the typical notebook battery, thus allowing teh user to keep going, without worrying how much battery life is left.
The renewed Samsung Series 9 ultrabook comes preloaded with a standard package of bloatware and utilities: CyberLink’s YouCam software (a common webcam console), Skype 4.2, Windows Live Essentials 2011 (all-in-one bundle of mail client, instant messenger, movie editor, blog editor etc.), Microsoft Office Starter Edition (with limited functionality versions of Word and Excel), Norton Internet Security 2012 (60-day trial) and Norton Online Backup.
Easy Display Manager allows instant viewing computer status with perfect visibility; Samsung Recovery Solution backs up the user’s laptop easily; Samsung Support Center keeps the laptop running smoothly with the latest drivers; Samsung Easy Settings allows users to adjust battery settings, display and audio properties, keyboard backlighting and other settings.
In terms of money and cost, consumers will find the Samsung Series 9’s best price at the level of $1,300 (that price will offer you the following specs: Intel 1.7 GHz Core i5-3317U CPU, 8GB DDR3 RAM, 128GB SSD); with an upgrade to 1.7GHz Intel Core i5_3317U chip paired with the mentioned 8GB DDR3 RAM and 128GB SSD, the Samsung Series 9 will go for sale at the price of $1.488. The top-level configuration powered by 1.9 GHz Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB RAM, 256GB Solid State Drive plus Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) can be bought in USA for about $1,800.