May 2, 2012
- Thin, lightweight design
- High-quality display
- USB 3.0 & Bluetooth
- Very good performance
- Keyboard & touchpad issues
Ultrabooks are definitely not anything new. However, Samsung hopes to do better than the rest with their updated 2012 model of the Series 9 laptop, which comes in either 13.3- or 15-inch models. We reviewed the 15-inch one and were amazed by its thinness as well as its internal specs and performance.
In April 2011, we reviewed the Samsung Series 9 as it stood then. We were impressed by the slim and strong design, the high-quality LED display and the all-new (at the time) "Sandy Bridge" Intel CPU. We did not like the touchpad, which still persists today as you'll read. However we believe that Samsung made enough overall improvements to the Series 9 to make it a good contender for the category.
This year's model is extremely lightweight and thin as it measures 3.5 x 9.3 x 0.6-inches (wdh) and weighs only 3.7-pounds. When you first get your hands on the notebook, the first thing most people comment on is the thinness, which is perfect for always on-the-go travelers or workers. The body is a solid black aluminum chassis with a matte black lid. It feels very sturdy and able to withstand a day's worth of minor bumps and bruises.
As we mentioned at the beginning, last year we disliked the touchpad for its oversensitive. This year we found quite the opposite: it wasn't sensitive enough. This was especially evident while performing multitouch gestures, like pinching to zoom and the choppiness of the action. The touchpad's surface is very smooth and button less, just like the Apple MacBook touchpads, which is a good thing. The keyboard was decent, but the shallow key depth provided little feedback and it was slightly "mushy". The keyboard is backlit, which is always a nice feature to have.
The Samsung Series 9 comes with a 15-inch display (there is a 13.3-inch variant available) that has a native resolution of 1600 x 900-pixels. That is a bump from last year's 1366 x 768-pixels, which is pleasing. We found the display to have the same bright, vibrant output as last year's model, so nothing to complain about here. The display also has a matte finish that helps to reduce glare from ambient light or sunlight.
For port selection, you get one USB 2.0 port (Sleep-and-Charge enabled), two USB 3.0 ports, a micro-USB port, mini-HDMI out, Ethernet (via a dongle connector), a combination headphone/microphone jack and an SD card slot. We applaud Samsung for including two USB 3.0 ports on this laptop to ensure future expansibility. Wireless connectivity includes 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 3.0 +HS.
The internal specifications of the Samsung Series 9 include an Intel Core i5-2467M (1.6GHz) CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB solid-state hard drive and integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics. Compared to last year's model, only the CPU and RAM (it doubled) changed while the hard drive and graphics remain the same.
When compared to other ultraportable laptops, the Samsung Series 9 scores almost (or at) the top-of-the-category. It's very comparable to the Dell XPS 13, which we reviewed in March 2012. Most users should find no performance glitches with this laptop, particularly for watching streaming HD video or multitasking. Graphics performance, on the other hand, is definitely lacking due to the integrated graphics, but this isn't meant to be a gaming laptop.
Battery life is also much improved compared to last year at about 7.5-hours, which is nearly an hour longer than the category average. The 13-inch that we reviewed last year only got between 5-6 hours of life.