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Katherine Stevenson May 25, 2011

Samsung Series 9

At A Glance

CATCHING AIR

Apple-esque style on a PC; Sandy Bridge CPU with improved integrated graphics; good battery life.

CATCHING A COLD

Design costs a premium; other ultraportables offer better performance.

A bold move into Apple territory

Samsung has only been selling its laptops in North America for the last few years, and while those machines haven’t been bad, they haven’t been remarkable either. But with the Series 9, the company is putting forth a laptop that demands notice. From its sub–three pound, super-slim, and sexy chassis to its spare, sophisticated style, it looks like nothing so much as a MacBook Air. It’s a bold, high-profile move by a company that’s been firmly rooted in the mainstream.

While the comparison to a MacBook Air is inevitable, the Series 9 features some distinct design touches. The exterior of the 13-inch laptop is black duralumin, a strong but lightweight aluminum alloy with a brushed-metal look. Inside, glossy black plastic surrounds a backlit keyboard and an antiglare screen. A unified click pad, similar to a Mac’s, provides a roomy surface that works well for multitouch and feels smooth and responsive. From the side, the laptop’s 0.64-inch profile is accented by an arching curve. To maintain the slim dimensions, as well as the sleek aesthetic, Samsung hides the laptop’s ports behind pop-out bays on either side. You’re given USB 2.0, USB 3.0, Mini HDMI, a mic/headphone jack, a MicroSD card reader, and Ethernet by way of an included dongle.

The 13-inch Series 9 has a duralumin exterior that makes it sturdy, lightweight, and aesthetically pleasing all at once.

While Apple’s Air, along with most other MacBooks, are living in the past with Core 2 Duos, the Series 9 sports a new Sandy Bridge Core i5-2537M. The low-voltage chip is clocked at a modest 1.4GHz, although it has a maximum Turbo frequency of 2.3GHz. Still, it’s at a disadvantage against our ultraportable zero-point, an HP 2540p that features a last-gen Core i7-640LM, clocked at 2.13GHz. The benchmarks tell the story, with the HP holding substantial leads in the CPU-bound tests, including Quake III. In the more graphics-dependent Quake 4, the Series 9 prevails—a testament to the improvements in Intel’s new integrated graphics, which are integrated graphics nevertheless.

An even better comparison for the Series 9 is the Toshiba R700 that received a Kick Ass award in our December 2010 issue. The R700 also featured a 13.3-inch, 1366x768 screen, weighed less than three pounds, and cost nearly the same as the Series 9 at the time of its release. But the R700 had a 2.66GHz Core i7-620M and consequently even better benchmark results than the HP zero-point. Also, by foregoing an extreme aerodynamic aesthetic, the R700 managed to squeeze in an optical drive and a greater array of ports—while being every bit as portable as the Series 9.

This raises the question of values. If a stylish, stand-out design is of paramount importance, the Series 9 brings it—more so than any other ultraportable PC around—while offering respectable features and performance. But better features and performance can be found in an ultraportable form factor that makes less of a fashion statement.

$1,650, www.samsung.com

Specifications
CPU 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-2537M
RAM
4GB DDR3/1333
Chipset Intel HM65
Display
13.3 inch,1366x768, LED-backlit, antiglare screen
Storage
Samsung 128GB SSD
Connectivity
Mini HDMI, Ethernet, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, headphone/mic, MicroSD reader, Bluetooth, 802.11b/g/n, webcam
Lap/Carry
2 lbs, 14.9 oz / 3 lbs, 5 oz
BENCHMARKS

Zero Point
Samsung Series 9
Premiere Pro CS3 (sec) 1,260 1,686 (-25.3%)
Photoshop CS3 (sec)
183.6 193.6 (-5.2%)
Proshow Producer (sec)
1,533
2,105 (-27.2%)
MainConcept (sec)
2,530 3,660 (-30.9%)
Quake III (fps)
191.7
109.2 (-43%)
Quake 4 (fps) 17 21.6
Battery Life (min)
240 259

Our zero-point ultraportable is an HP EliteBook 2540p with a 2.13GHz Intel Core i7-640LM, 4GB of DDR3/1333 RAM, integrated graphics, a 250GB 5,400rpm hard drive, and Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.

THE VERDICT

Samsung Series 9

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