All images: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo
I sat down on the train, two laptops, a tablet, and an e-reader crammed in my purse. There was a moment of relief — I'd managed to snag a seat on a rush hour train — and then, I felt a moment of sheer terror. My purse felt unusually light despite being full of gadgets. Certainly too light for a purse containing a 38cm laptop. Those are giant unwieldy monsters that never let you forget they have been packed away in your bags. But when I yanked my purse open and peered inside the relief returned. The newest 38cm Samsung Notebook 9 was tucked away safely, so light I forgot I had it.
The Notebook 9 (and I'm referring to the 38cm version unless noted otherwise) is what the future of big laptops needs to be. It comes in two versions: The $US1250 ($1,658) one with 8GB of RAM I reviewed, and a $US1400 ($1,857) one with 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia 940MX video card. Both have Kaby Lake i7 processors, 256GB SSDs, and wide range of sweet ports (including HDMI, Ethernet, USB 3.0 and USB-C). They have the goods one would expect from a 38cm laptop without feeling as cumbersome as a 38cm laptop. Tossed in a purse or lost in a stack of books being carried across the apartment, the Notebook 9 feels light like a much smaller device.
People who seek out a 38cm laptop are an increasingly rare breed. In the past they were the de facto choice for anyone who needed a balance of power and portability, but 33cm laptops have improved so much that the 38cm laptop hasn't quite felt like a necessity for almost anyone these days. It's become the laptop you pick up because you want (or need) a big screen.
The Notebook 9 doesn't change that. Though the 38cm shares the same 1080p resolution as the 33cm. The display is just a couple inches larger — the same size as the 1080p display found in the Dell XPS 15, or the MacBook Pro's 2880 x 1800 display. Colours are vibrant, even when you engage the gimmicky HDR preset that increases the contrast for more striking visuals while watching movies or gaming.
As good, and big, as the display is, the laptop is still hamstrung by the greatest foible of 38cm laptops: the size of the damn thing. Yet for people who want a larger display, a less cramped keyboard, or all those extra ports, the Notebook 9 feels like a great blend of what makes the 33cm and 38cm laptops so appealing individually.
As I've noted, chief among the qualities the 15-incher borrows from 33cm laptops: It's light. While my friends and coworkers were rightfully put off by its big, bulky looking exterior their eyes bulged with wonder when I actually put this laptop in their hands. It only weighs, depending on configuration, 2.6-2.73 pounds! Both the Dell XPS 15 and the 38cm MacBook Pro weigh 2kg. According to Laptop Mag, the average 33cm laptop clocks in at 1kg. That means this thing isn't just light for its size, it's one of the lighter laptops you can buy right now, regardless of size.
It's also cheap — for a laptop of its quality. The 38cm MacBook Pro starts at $US2400 ($3,183) and, the most comparable Dell XPS 15 build starts at $US1700 ($2,254), but the Notebook 9 is only $US1250 ($1,658). That's a price usually found on smaller devices, like the Dell XPS 13, Razer Blade Stealth, or the 33cm Notebook 9 (that one gives you 16GB of RAM for your extra dollars).
Unfortunately, the 38cm Notebook 9 also borrowed its fit and finish from its smaller sibling. While the 33cm Notebook 9 feels sleek and almost refreshingly affordable with its plasticy finish, it just feels cheap on a larger, thicker machine.
As with other 38cm laptops, the battery life is only ok. The battery on the 38cm is just 1200mAh larger than the one on the 33cm, and only ekes out about five or six hours of battery life with regular use.
If you really need a 38cm laptop — if 33cm just feels too cramped and tiny, then the Notebook 9 excels. It ain't pretty, but it gets the job done without bogging you down.
- It's light.
- Seriously, this is the lightest 38cm laptop you might get your hands on.
- It's pretty cheap.
- If you really need a 38cm laptop than this should probably be on your shortlist.