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As we learned with the Acer Timeline M3 we reviewed last month, Ultrabooks are not only growing in number, but in size. That’s the case with the Samsung Series 9, which comes in both 13.3- and 15-inch flavors. We took the latter for a spin to see how a larger footprint impacts the overall experience.
Whereas the Timeline M3’s 15-inch chassis pushed the boundaries of ultraportability with the inclusion of an optical drive and discrete graphics, the 15-inch Samsung Series 9 offers neither amenity and thus remains exceedingly thin, with a profile that’s just .58 at its thickest. It’s almost a pound lighter than the M3, too, at 3 pounds, 11 ounces.
So what does the larger size get you, if not added features? A larger screen, of course, along with a higher resolution. Folks who object to the 1366x768 res of nearly all of today’s 13-inch Ultrabooks will appreciate that the 15-inch Series 9 ups the ante to 1600x900 (as does the 13-inch Series 9, for that matter), matching just Asus’s UX31E in pixel count. Unlike the UX31E, and all other Ultrabooks we’ve seen so far, the Series 9’s screen has a matte surface, for a pleasantly reflection-free experience. It also gets quite bright, making it usable outdoors. Still, it remains a TN panel like the others, complete with the narrow viewing angles.
The Series 9’s keyboard also benefits from the wider footprint. The keys are nicely sized and spaced apart for comfortable typing, provided you don’t mind the shallow key press of the island keyboard. Backlighting is enabled when ambient lighting is sufficiently dim. The touchpad with integrated right and left buttons is large, smooth, and generally free of glitchiness, although multitouch gestures can be hit or miss.
The Series 9 comes with support for Intel’s Wireless Display, so you can wirelessly stream 1080p content to a larger HDTV or monitor, provided you pony up $100 or so for the necessary adapter.
The Series 9’s extreme thinness takes a slight toll on the ports department. The Ethernet port, for instance, is miniature, requiring use of an included dongle. For external display purposes, you get Micro HDMI and a shrunken VGA port, the dongle for which is sold separately. But those ports along with two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, and a media reader, meet the most common connection needs.
The Series 9 is a decent performer for this class, although we’re curious as to why Samsung went with the Core i5-2467M proc when the Core i5-2557M costs the same but has a 100MHz higher base clock and 300MHz more Turbo headroom. It amounts to the difference in scores between the Series 9 and our Asus UX31E zero-point (save for the latter’s anomalous Photoshop score). The Series 9’s 6Gb/s SSD makes for speedy sequential reads and writes (429- and 262MB/s, respectively), but offers a paltry 128GB of capacity. The notebook boots and resumes from sleep in short order, and the battery lasted a generous five hours and 29 minutes in our video rundown test.
Like many other Ultrabooks, the Series 9 has a unibody aluminum construction, but it eschews the brushed-metal aesthetic in favor of matte black surfaces accented by a polished aluminum edge. It’s a subtly handsome chassis with a strong hinge and sturdy feel. Is it worth its $1,500 asking price, which is on the high-end of the Ultrabook market? It is if you like the idea of a 15-inch ultraportable.
15-inch matte screen with 1600x900 resolution; sturdy, attractive chassis; capable performance.
Miniature Ethernet and VGA ports require adapter dongles; tough sell against the similarly spec’d but less expensive Asus UX31E.
|CPU||1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M|
|RAM ||8GB DDR3/1333, dual-channel|
|Chipset ||Intel HM65|
|Display ||15-inch, 1600x900|
|Storage||Samsung 128GB SSD|
|Connectivity||1 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, Mini VGA, Micro HDMI, Mini Ethernet, headphone/mic, webcam, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 4-in1 media reader|
|Lap / Carry||3 lbs, 11.1 oz / 4 lbs, 5.2 oz|
|Premiere Pro CS3 (sec)||1,080||1,200 (-10.0%)|
|Photoshop CS3 (sec)||168.3||131|
|ProShow Producer (sec)||1,347||1,457 (-7.5%)|
|MainConcept (sec)||2,354||2,551 (-7.7%)|
|Quake III (fps)||217.3||214.2 (-1.4%)|
|Quake 4 (fps)||46.6||47.9|
|Battery life (min)||310||339|
Our zero-point ultraportable is an Asus Zenbook UX31E with a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-2557M, 4GB of DDR3/1333 RAM, integrated graphics, a 128GB SSD, and Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.