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This week in tech: March 28, 2015
Intel Developer Zone
Intel Windows Developer Zone
Very rarely do we get a laptop that is completely unique and leaves us awe-struck. Quite frankly, we cannot remember when it last happened, till we got my hands on the Samsung Series 9 laptop. Samsung insist on calling this a laptop, but this machine surely matches all the criteria you need for an ultrabook. And then some!
Build & DesignUltrabooks are meant to be slim and sleek, as much as possible, keeping the dimensions in check and the weight down. There are a lot of devices running around that aren’t the slimmest by any means, but do get classified as ultrabooks. The Samsung Series 9 deserves that tag more than anything.
Straight out of its very premium packaging, and you literally have to rub your eyes to be doubly sure of what you are seeing. The Samsung Series 9 is slimmer than even the MacBook Air! The Series 9, at its thickest point is 12.9mm thick, while the MacBook Air tips 17.2mm at its thickest point. That didn’t stop Samsung from fitting in 2 USB ports, mini HDMI out, the 3.5mm jack and a memory card reader. You get adapter options for LAN and VGA out, with the LAN adapter a part of the package. Even the power adapter is a thing of brilliance, with its compact design small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.
The Series 9 has corresponding chunky portions on the sides close to the display hinge side, and that is where the ports are fit in. From there, a flowing design seamlessly slims down the machine without any fuss. The curves carry on where the lid meets the hinge, and is very much appreciated when the Series 9 is placed on a table with the lid closed.
The Samsung Series 9’s 100% aluminum chassis mostly consists of Duralumin. This is used to create what the company calls a “slim and aerodynamic design”, and is usually used in aircrafts. The result is a solidly built laptop that is very light to pick up and move around.
The Series 9’s brilliance doesn’t end there. The mineral ash black colour is rather rare. Materials used are premium, and critically, the display hinge tautness is among the best, if not the very best. The overall design has a dollop of sharpness about it, something that gives the aura that this is an attentive ultrabook. Open it up and you will notice the slim bezel. The keyboard layout has not been compromised in any way, and as if to give out a lesson to other ultrabook manufacturers, Samsung’s keyboard responds with the same brilliance as the one on the MacBook Air. For others who claim that key travel and response is slightly impacted by the slim form factor, this ultrabook rubbishes that theory. It is the best built ultrabook by far, and priced appropriately.
Features & Specifications
No shortage of power on the Series 9. This is powered by an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i7-3517U processor and paired with 4GB of RAM. This processor clocks at 1.9GHz and Turbo Boost takes it up to 2.4GHz.
For your data storage, the Series 9 comes with a 256GB SSD. This drive is one of the fastest ones around, something that we will explain in greater detail in the performance section.
The Series 9’s 13.3-inch display has a resolution of 1600 x 900 pixels, which is much higher than the fairly common 1366 x 768 pixels. This difference shows up clearly, with absolutely amazing clarity of text. Readability on this screen is by far the best among all ultrabooks we have tested, helped immensely by the sharpness and the largely non-reflective nature of the display. Black level depth and white saturation levels are slightly on the lower side, but the display does very well in the pixel stability tests.
People have often claimed that keyboard usage experience on an ultrabook is more of a compromise since the dimensions dictate that the keyboard not spread out too much and the key travel is not adequate. However, with the Series 9, Samsung would beg to differ. The keyboard on the Series 9 is like a tasty dish served up by a five-star chef! The key layout, despite a smallish real estate, is perfect with good key spacing. And the most critical bit, the key travel, is perfect. There is a distinct feel of precision and sharpness to it, very much like the MacBook Air. Shifting from the Air to the keyboard on the Series 9 was a breeze, and didn’t take much acclimatizing. And that cannot be said for a lot of ultrabooks out there.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the Series 9 powered by the Core i7 processor is the fastest among all ultrabooks that we tested. The PC Mark Vantage score of 12972 is the only one breaching the 10000 mark, with the second highest being the 9966 scored by the HP Envy 4. The PC Mark 07 score of 4647 is again the highest, with the Fujitsu Lifebook U772 quite some way behind in second place clocking 4221. If you remember reading a bit earlier about the fast SSD on this machine, the drive test score of 41503 is pipped only by the 128GB SSD on the Lifebook U772, with a score of 42453. All other SSDs are considerably slower.
All the scores are mentioned here to give you an idea of how good the performance of this machine is. In any usage scenario, the Series 9 will not struggle or get bogged down, no matter what you load it with. The overall snappiness of the system is seriously boosted by the excellent drive performance. We used this machine quite a bit, and this one fit almost all usage scenarios perfectly – home and office work, multimedia viewing and the road warrior.
The battery life offered by the Series 9 is a delight. Quite frankly, we were surprised to see this clock 246 minutes in the stressful battery test. But the surprise element was that this is by far the best battery backup time clocked by any ultrabook, including the less powerful Core i3 and Core i5-bearing machines! In a typical day at work, this should give you around 6.5-7 hours of battery backup.
Graphics capabilities are rather toned down on this package, particularly because the idea was to make this the slimmest ultrabook in the market. The integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics will offer the barebones basic, but then again, no one is buying the Series 9 for gaming surely. Admittedly, there will be some who will argue that for so much, you should be able to get an all-rounder laptop, but that would just be nitpicking!
As we said earlier, not many laptops and ultrabooks make us jump out of our seats. But the Series 9 seems to have done that quite successfully, doing everything right. Right out of the box, the exquisite build quality justifies the money you have just spent. Switch it on and the performance is a delight. Battery life ensures you can almost last one full day of usage at work without reaching for the sleek power adapter. All in all, the Series 9 does it all. You can flaunt your bank account’s strength without compromising on functionality and performance. This is the closest a Windows machine has come to a MacBook Air overall, and that is a compliment in itself.