A fantastic Ultrabook that boasts superb build quality and a balanced specification at an appealing price
When Samsung’s Series 9 arrived on the scene, it was a revelation. Combining outstanding build quality with a svelte, millimeter-perfect figure, it had only one weakness: its price.
Samsung Series 9 900X3D
Visually, Samsung hasn’t changed a thing, and with good reason: the Series 9 remains one of the swankiest laptops money can buy. The main alteration is the color: the previous model we reviewed came in a dark, lustrous blue; the Series 9 900X3D is finished in sparkly, matte silver.
Squint and you could mistake it for an Apple MacBook Air, but the Series 9 has a look of its own. Unlike the Dell XPS 13, which grabs attention via flashy carbon fiber and shiny chamfered edges, its smooth curves and simple lines create a more understated figure.
It’s beautifully constructed, too. Despite weighing only 1.11kg, it feels rock-solid throughout. The lid is only 4mm thick, yet barely moves when you try to yank it to and fro, and we almost hurt our wrists trying to find any give in the base. No other Ultrabook, the MacBook Air included, can match the standard of its build.
The Series 9 oozes quality. The keyboard backlight smoothly comes to life when the lights go down, and, while we’d like more feedback from the short-travel keys, the spacious, Scrabble-tile layout and grippy, matte keycaps make amends. The glass touchpad is top class: Windows 8’s edge-swipe gestures feel slick and activate reliably; zooming, pinching and two-fingered clicks all work with zero effort.
Pushing such refined design below the $1,600 mark clearly hasn’t been easy, and the main compromise is performance
Pushing such refined design below the $1,600 mark clearly hasn’t been easy, and the main compromise is performance. Samsung has, in fact, downgraded the CPU from the last model to a 1.4GHz Core i5-2537M, and, with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, the 900X3D is anything but top of the range. Its overall score of 0.52 in our Real World Benchmarks is a long way behind the XPS 13’s 0.73. Also, due to the 32nm Sandy Bridge CPU, the Series 9’s metal case heats up considerably when you start to push it with games or strenuous applications.
Battery life isn’t up with the best. The 7hrs 22mins in light use is a slight improvement on the last model, but it’s a shame Samsung couldn’t find the budget for a more power-efficient Ivy Bridge CPU.
While the 1,600 x 900 display on the previous Series 9 was the cream of the Ultrabook crop, the competition has caught up. With a maximum brightness of 420cd/m2, a contrast ratio of 736:1 and an anti-reflective, matte screen finish, it remains crisp and legible, even outdoors, but it’s no longer the best on the market.
Images have plenty of punch, but highlights are blown out and the 7,206K color temperature lends colors a cold, unnatural tone. Color accuracy isn’t a strong point, either: the average Delta E of 6 is far behind the 3 scored by the XPS 13.
Connectivity remains minimal. The tapered edges look great, but there’s room for only one USB 2 port and one USB 3 port. A tiny proprietary port provides Gigabit Ethernet connectivity via the supplied adapter, but the micro-HDMI and mini-VGA outputs mean you’ll probably need to shell out for new cables if you want to connect to a monitor. Still, the presence of dual-band 802.1 In Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4 is welcome.
Much has changed since the Series 9 emerged a year ago. The competition is much stiffer, and the 1,600 x 900 display now looks average compared to the Full HD display of the Dell XPS 13
Much has changed since the Series 9 emerged a year ago. The competition is much stiffer, and the 1,600 x 900 display now looks average compared to the Full HD display of the Dell XPS 13. But, for only $1134, the Series 9 900X3D gets the essentials spot on. With gorgeous looks, great build and superb ergonomics, it’s more than worthy of a Recommended award.
· 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-2537M
· 4GBDDR3 RAM
· 128GB SSD
· 13.3n 1,600×900 display
· dual-band 802.11 abgn Wi-Fi
· 1 x USB 3
· 1 x USB 2
· 10/100 Ethernet (via supplied adapter)
· Windows 8 64-bit
· 314 x 219 x 13mm (WDH)
· 111kg (1.43kg with charger)