Review: Samsung's Series 9 Is THE Notebook To Beat
By Tony Ibrahim | Wednesday | 11/07/2012
Samsung's has managed to cram a lot of computer into the world's thinnest notebook: their Series 9 (900X3C).
There's something undeniably beautiful about Samsung's Series 9 (900X). It's not that it's just thin; I've reviewed many ultrabooks where the adjective has merited use, but whereas ultrabooks remain wide and tall, the 900X doesn't.
Samsung has tried to make it small on all fronts and the effect is profound for two reasons. The obvious one is it is petite, donning the same width of an A4 page, albeit marginally taller.
The second reasonâ€”and this is fundamental in making the user experience all the more magicalâ€”is its design is incredibly functional.
It's built from sturdy aluminium that effectively eliminates chassis flex when picking it up from one of the base's corners. Although the screen isn't as rigid, exhibiting little signs of flex, it by no means dampens the experience.
The ash black top is only interrupted by the Samsung logo. It exudes charm, so much so that you inextricably gravitate towards it, wanting to use it for anything, even if the sole purpose is to just hold it. Whereas Apple computers mould aluminium to a clean, conservative design, Samsung has been a little more daring, masking the hinge and connectivity ports with swooning curves. Best of all, they have no intention of hiding these design traits, choosing instead to accentuate them through shaved-steel edges that punctuate its statuesque physique.
With a notebook so slender you'd expect several compromises, and yet the 900X is so perfectly balanced, with the base not only weighing more than the screen, but also distributing it evenly. This allows a user to open its lid with a single finger without any fuss and is the first sign the Series 9 has been thoroughly engineered.
Bordering the shaved aluminium edges are a few ports. On its left (facing the screen) are a USB 3.0 port, microHDMI (adaptor excluded), Gigabit Ethernet (a micro option which comes with the adaptor) and the DC power port. Boarding its right are a USB 2.0 port, microphone/headphone 3.5mm input and a micro VGA port (adaptor excluded). Beneath the edge lurks the most intriguing SD card slot, complete with its own trap-door cover.
Keyboard & Mouse
Once open, you're greeted by a black Chiclet keyboard that is subtly broken up with the ash black interior tone. The keyboard is attractive, practical and easy to type on, cultivating a pleasurable experience over prolonged use. An evenly spread blue backlight simply adds to the charm and although automated, it can be adjusted according to four levels or turned off entirely through keyboard shortcuts.
The track pad is a little confronting at a first glance because it doesn't sit in the middle of the notebook, clearly marked by the adjacent lip used to open it. Its position has been dictated by the keyboards elongated enter, shift and navigational keys, shoving across the customary QWERTY arrangement, and choosing its skewed residence in the interest of ergonomics.
The off centre placement aside, the track pad is one of the best Windows iterations yet. It's characterised by a smooth texture that encourages sweeping strokes and multi-finger gestures, making it easier for Windows users to interactively alternate between open programmes. Even our pet hateâ€”two finger scrollingâ€”has been diligently handled here, and is certainly superior to the current ultrabook range.
These days, coming across a new product without Corning's Gorilla glass is a rarity, but the series 9 is such an occurrence. Its 13.3 inch LED screen has a matt finish, a high 1600x900 resolution and can produce 400 nits worth of brightness. Samsung's proficient TV technology shines through the 900X's screen, producing punchy colours right along the ultraviolet range, rendering images with precise clarity and barely compromising its integrity, even at difficult angles.
If anything the 900X's screen is better than average, which makes its skinny profile all the more impressive.
Most notebook/ultrabook manufacturers cram speakers beneath its hinge, and often the result is a little mixed. Samsung has opted to place two small 1.5 watt speakers on either side of the notebook at the very front and the move has paid off. Sound has more body than you'd expect, remains clear at higher volumes and tends to the sound plane evenly. Although bass is scarce, it's ideal for watching a simple YouTube clip as it clearly communicates dialogue.
Inside the Series 9 is an Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor clocked at 1.7GHz. It's a dual core arrangement that cooperates with the 4GB of RAM and the 128GB solid state drive to execute instructions promptly. Although it doesn't feature a quad-core processor, the setup is more than capable of handling everyday tasks.
Instead of a dedicated graphics card, the 900X has taken the ultrabook route by using integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 to handleâ€”as the name suggestsâ€”graphics, and it proves a competent addition for handling movies and everything else under the mediocrity umbrella. However, this isn't the kind of notebook you'd buy to play console-grade games on.
To provide an insight into what 'everyday' entails, we opened ten tabs on Internet Explorer (two of which were streaming video simultaneously), Skype, MSN messenger, Windows Media Player, Microsoft Word, Windows Media Centre and the file manager without enduring much strain.
The 900X impressed is when we performed a Windows Experience Index assessment. The Index rates computers on a scale of 1.0 to 7.9, and as illustrated, the processor was awarded 6.9 for its calculations per second, while the SSD scored an expected 7.5 for its rapid hard disk data transfer. The lowest score (which is the score the Windows Experience Index awards computers) was 5.9 and owed to RAM performance.
Putting the 900X through a Cinebench test produced results less encouraging. The CPU scored 0.77, which is fairly average, while the Open GL test awarded it 8.12 frames per second. Numbers aside, the 900X isn't ideal for intensive applications, such as Adobe InDesign, as is foremost a mobile solution.
Built into the unibody enclosure is a 4 cell battery that will manage six hours with average use, but will drop down to under five when the ante is upped. When conducting a typical video test, which involves playing YouTube movies back to back at half of the screen's brightness, the Series 9 fought off sleep for 4 hours and 43 minutes, which is simply on par.
Our review unit donned a $1,600 price tagâ€”which even for the world's thinnest notebook (12.9mm) is expensiveâ€”and the price will continue to climb if an Intel Core i7 processor or 8GB of RAM is nominated.
Rather than condemning the 900X to the dark quarters of your bag, you'll gladly brace it under your arm with the Samsung logo pointing outwards. It's not a powerhouse computerâ€”nor was it meant to beâ€”but it will browse the web, handle multimedia and create office documents effortlessly. You might pay a little more for it than an Ultrabook, but between its functionality and unparalleled styling, the value is there.
Apr/May 2011 issue
reviews the hot new iPhone attach device, the Zeppelin Air. And we look at what's going on in the tablet space...