Samsung Series 9 2012 Review: Who Said Samsung Can't Do Cool?

The Samsung Series 9 was one of the best Windows ultraportable laptops last year. Even though it didn't quite keep up on specs or benchmarks with some of the top-end machines, it was the most usable of the bunch. This year, as ultrabooks have made massive improvements over the past generation, the Series 9 remains one of the best.

What Is It?

One of the top MacBook Air competitors, and a reminder that beautiful, well-built machines aren't exclusive to Apple.

Who's It For?

Windows users who care about design as much as performance.

Design

A slim profile, brushed aluminium body, and extremely strong build quality make it look and feel like a 15-inch, black MacBook Air. That would be totally fine, actually. But it's also got functional little flourishes, like a really thin bezel and a matte screen. Why don't all of Samsung's products look like this? (Minus the awful chrome ring around the trackpad.)

Best Part

The trackpad. Scrolling, clicking, zooming — it smoothly does what it's supposed to do. That's rare on a Windows machine, and especially on an ultrabook.

Tragic Flaw

The keyboard. The keys don't feel as cheap as the ones on last year's model, but they also don't have a very deep throw and travel — a strength of last year's model — so keystrokes can sometimes feel unsure. Typing on it feels like using last year's Zenbook or a Vaio Z, and that's not a good thing.

This is Weird...

For whatever reason, the brushed metal finish is waaaaay more smudgable than it is on a MacBook, or even products by Lenovo or Dell.

Test Notes

  • The 1600x900 display is impressively bright — more so than the MacBook Air and its 1440x900 display. And it's matte! (Swoon.) But like most Windows 7 displays, the colour palette is washed out compared to Mac OS X.
  • As a whole, the screen is pretty great with a lot more real estate that you're used to on a laptop this portable.
  • The standard 128GB SSD is unusually cramped with upwards of 30GB worth of recovery and hibernation partitions out of the box.
  • The Series 9 never felt hot to the touch, and no heat escaped through the keyboard, which is how some ultrabooks have been (uncomfortably) dispersing heat to avoid MacBook-like temperatures.
  • In terms of build quality, the Series 9 is shockingly solid. Everyone who touches the thing comments about how light and sturdy it feels.
  • Graphics performance (Diablo III) was on par with other Ivy Bridge ultrabooks, with no slowdown after prolonged use.
  • The keyboard backlight is so dim that it takes a while to even realise the keyboard is backlit.
  • Samsung insists on loading stock junk onto this beautiful machine — "Software Launcher" is the most half-arsed, bootleg version of the Mac OS X dock you could imagine.

Should You Buy It?

Yes. The Series 9 starts at $1599 (RRP) in Australia, which places it right in the middle of MacBook Air and other premium ultrabook pricing. Performance and design are solid enough to make it a strong alternative to the MacBook Air.

And that was a serious question about why all your stuff doesn't look like this, Samsung. This machine is beautiful. It does nearly everything right and improves on some of Apple's features. All things equal, the MacBook Air and the new Asus Zenbook still edge ahead, but for Windows users this is a damn good fallback.

Samsung Series 9 (specs as reviewed)

• Processor: 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 17w dual-core Ivy Bridge • RAM: 8GB • Storage: 128GB SSD • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4000 • Display: 15-inch 1600x900 • Ports: microHDMI, 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, Mini VGA, SD card • Dimensions: 14 x 9.3 x .58 inches • Weight: 1.64kg • Price (Australian RRP): 13.3-inch $1599; 15-inch $1899

Samsung Series 9 Gallery


Comments

    A judge said the Samsung is not cool and so it is now the law :-)

    What's with the complaining about low profile keys. I love low profile keys :p

      Touch typists who grew up with the standard keys.

        I touch type, grew up with standard keys and love the low profile ones...I have the 15" Series 9 and I find it pretty great to type on actually...it certainly doesn't feel 'unsure' to me, whatever that means.

    Make it 1920x1080 or higher and I'm sold. So sick of low resolution laptops!

    My wife has the older 13 inch 2nd gen core i5 version and we both think it's a fantastic little notebook. She point blank refuses to even touch my iMac so an air was out of the question for her. Sounds like they have only improved this version which can only be a good thing imo

    The Macbook Air was mentioned 8 times in this article.
    The word 'Samsung' popped up 5 times.

    What exactly are you trying to prove?

      err, I don't think this article would sound good if it read "This Samsung ultrabook has this, This Samsung ultrabook has that"

        Hahahahahahah, I dont know why, but that made me laugh way more than it should have..

          this website has officially lost the plot.

    Hey Kyle, Samsung have a history of awesome design. Pretty much everyone copied their iconic flatscreen TV design and they used to make some really cool looking phones, too.

    Samsung just a follower.

      Following what? The Series 9 predates ultrabooks and was a viable computer months before the MacBook Air was. Samsung leads the charge with AMOLED screens, which for my money are superior to any other screen technology and, as I said, their iconic flatscreen TV design has been copied by almost everyone. In this particular instance, Samsung have beaten Apple to market with a super-thin, super-light 15" laptop that makes the new MacBook Pros looks a little porky, so I'd say they are well ahead of the curve yet again.

    I don't mind low-profile keys on keyboards since I don't think any of them (bar ThinkPads) are good. I use a mechanical at home on my desktop but willing to put up with chiclets for portability.

    I think this is a very nice looking laptop that should have come out a bit sooner and several hundred cheaper. It starts at $1600, $300 more than the identical base-specced MBA, and that's despite the supremely tight build of the Air and the little Apple flourishes (very sweet trackpad, MagSafe) plus that resolution is too low for a 15" machine, especially since the MBP with Retina exists on the market. 1600×900 is only acceptable for 13" and lower these days.

    I'd knock another star off for not having full HD screen. 1600 x 900 maybe better than the 100% crapulent 1366 x 768, but it still sucks as in fact does 1920 x 1080. Intel should have insisted you can't use the term ultra unless it means FHD screen at a minimum.

    I would buy this in a heartbeat if a 256GB version was available in Australia.

      Agreed. Oh, and backlit keyboard.

    can someone pleaase tell me where is the i7 13" retailed in WA? thanks.

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