Review: Samsung Series 9 super slim notebook
An ideal Win 7 machine, get it while you can
Samsung has taken an expensive legal hit from Apple over copying design elements in the iPhone. Yet with the Series 9, Samsung has created something a bit special. The entire Ultrabook concept took its inspiration from the Apple MacBook Air, of course. But Samsung's Series 9 has developed a confident design language of its own.
A process of refinement: Samsung's Series 9
The Series 9 Core i5 model I used – NP900X4C, to be precise – doesn't leave you much change from 900 quid if you shop around, but it is greatly improved over the model I tried almost a year ago. Indeed, it lays to rest any qualms that 'Ultrabook' inevitably means underpowered and overpriced, as you do get considerable oomph for your money.
Blessed with a higher resolution display
The display has been upgraded too, notching up a 1600 x 900 resolution which is a welcome sight after years of 1366 x 768 screens. The specific model inspected here uses an Intel 1.7GHz Core i5-3317U, running Windows 7 Home Premium. Since you'll want to retain your sanity, this is obviously the one to go for, as the Charge of the Metro Brigade is now upon us.
It's no Unibody, but it looks the business
This 900X model, like its predecessor, also uses the sandblasted aluminium material with a wave-style design that resembles, but isn't, an Apple unibody enclosure. In fact, there are actually ten screws holding a bottom plate in place. Gone are the unforgivingly sharp edges I found made the previous incarnation, the 900X3A, somewhat uncomfortable to use. These are no sharper than an Apple machine.
A process of refinement
There are other changes. The most important peripheral ports are no longer hidden by a door - the USB, mini-Ethernet, HDMI, USB and audio ports are always accessible, on the left of the machine. A nice touch is the mini to regular Ethernet adapter included in the box. A bay-style housing is still present, used to cover the SD card slot when it's not in use.
Port covers are out...
Software includes a backup program, a configuration manager, and Samsung's Fast Boot. Which does what it says on the tin: bringing you to the login screen in around 10 seconds. The only nagware is Norton's anti-virus software.
...easy access is in
Battery life was terrific in real life, giving over 5:30, and typically well over 6 hours in real-life usage, with WiFi on. The display is, as you would expect from Samsung, quite splendid, and as close to matte as you can get these days without actually buying a ThinkPad.
One of the thinnest 15in ultraportables you can buy
The only let down is the keyboard. This is fine by any other standards - but it has a rather tinselly feel, and in such an otherwise well-made machine, was a little incongruous. I should stress, I've used many worse keyboards. And I did like the illuminated indicator light inside the keys for CapsLock and Wi-Fi. Why has it taken laptop manufacturers 30 years to include this on laptops, when regular keyboards have had this for so long?
If Windows 8 worries you, this Windows 7 model is worth seeking out
All in all, the Series 9 is a very well made laptop, with many small but significant improvements made over a year. The question remains – do you want to throw approaching a grand at a 15in laptop when you can get one cheaper? When I posed that question a year ago, those willing to make the investment appeared to be professionals who need to make a statement: a salesman or business owner pitching for some big contract. But it's a question that's much easier to answer this year: the matte-ish expansive screen, slimness and excellent construction make it a very good piece of kit with a broader appeal. Even more so with Windows 8 coming in, so it's worth shopping around for a bargain. ®