The original Samsung Series 9 was a sleek MacBook Air competitor, but would set you back AU$2499 for the privilege.
Flash forward more than a year, and with SSD prices tumbling and ultrabooks becoming the norm, we have the new Samsung Series 9, starting at AU$1599 for a model with Windows 7 Home Premium, or AU$1699 for one with Windows 7 Professional.
- USB 3.0: 1
- USB 2.0: 1
- Optical: none
- Video: micro HDMI, micro VGA
- Ethernet: none
- Wireless: dual-channel 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
While the first had an attractive brushed metal finish, the new Series 9 is a plain dark blue with metal trims. It comes equipped with a 128GB SanDisk U100 drive and sadly, there's no larger capacity SKU available. A Core i5 3317U beats at the heart, with 4GB RAM, dual band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and under the tapered lip on the right hand side, an SD card reader.
Confusingly, Samsung has only included one USB 3.0 port, supplying a second that is USB 2.0 only. There's also a headset jack, and that does it for full-sized ports — everything else is handled by micro versions.
Just like the USB 3.0 port, Samsung's been a little stingy on providing adapters for these ports — it only includes the Ethernet adapter, the user will have to source their own micro-HDMI connector or buy the VGA adapter separately (which seems to not exist, with Samsung's own accessories page only advertising its micro HDMI to VGA adapter).
The keyboard is backlit in aqua, but is perhaps too faint for our liking. Still, Samsung has gotten the tactile response of the keys just right, with typing a pleasure. The clickpad is equally nice to use, including the simultaneous double finger tap for right click gesture. Frustratingly, the mouse driver is slow to load, meaning gestures like two finger scrolling aren't available for around 30 seconds after Windows has loaded and become responsive.
So there's a few minor concerns — however, they all fade into the distance with the beautiful, matte 1600x900 PLS screen. An IPS alternative, PLS provides richer colours and better viewing angles than the typical TN-based laptop display. Samsung's managed a vibrancy of colour here that's really quite appealing, and we hope will eventually reach all of its offerings. Off-angle, darks tend to become a bit lighter than they should, but this is still leagues ahead of most other laptops.
Add this to the fact that it's 1.16kg and 12.9mm high at its thickest point, and the Samsung becomes something that's worth the extra outlay, compared to other ultrabooks. Although it lacks any form of bassy punch, even the sound manages to be passable, usually an area vendors skip out on. Its down-firing speakers sound best when there's a flat surface beneath the laptop.
Handbrake encoding (in seconds)
Apple MacBook Air 11 Mid 2012 (Core i5 3317U, 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD)
Samsung Series 9 13-inch, 2012 (Core i5 3317U, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
The Samsung throws us no surprises, performing where its hardware says it should.
Battery life (time)
- Heavy battery test
- Light battery test
- 6h 58m
- Dell XPS 14 (Core i7 3517U, 8GB RAM, 500GB HDD, GeForce GT 630M)
- 6h 27m
- HP Folio 13 (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 6h 7m
- HP Envy 14 Spectre (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 5h 42m
- Fujitsu Lifebook U772 (Core i5 3427U, 4GB RAM, 500GB HD + 32GB SSD cache)
- 5h 35m
- Apple MacBook Air 13 Mid 2012 (Core i7 3667U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
- 5h 23m
- Asus ZenBook UX31 (Core i7 2667M, 4GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
- 5h 21m
- Toshiba Satellite U840W (Core i5 3317U, 6GB RAM, 500GB HDD)
- 5h 10m
- HP Envy 6 1010TU (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD)
- 5h 8m
- Toshiba Satellite Z830 (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 4h 52m
- Samsung Series 5 Ultra 13.3-inch (Core i5 2467, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 4h 41m
- Samsung Series 5 Ultra 14-inch (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 500GB HDD, Radeon HD 7550M)
- 4h 30m
- HP Envy Spectre XT (Core i5 3317U, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 4h 27m
- Apple MacBook Air 11 Mid 2012 (Core i5 3317U, 4GB RAM, 64GB SSD)
- 4h 25m
- Sony Vaio T 11.6 (Core i5 3317U, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 4h 21m
- Asus ZenBook Prime UX31A (Core i7 3517U, 4GB RAM, 256GB SSD)
- 4h 18m
- Samsung Series 9 13-inch, 2012 (Core i5 3317U, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 3h 21m
- Asus ZenBook UX21 (Core i7 2667M, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
- 2h 54m
- Acer Aspire S3 (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
And so we discover the Achilles heel. It's not necessarily bad battery life, but you can certainly get better out there. Samsung's fighting against two things here — the thinness of the laptop and its high brightness, gorgeous screen.
There are some small concerns — only one USB 3.0 port is a little odd, the backlit keyboard could be brighter and the battery life could do with a bit more pep. But the new Samsung Series 9 is a pleasure to use, with its screen, in particular, making it simply lovely to work with. We'd have no hesitations in slinging one of these under our arms