The Samsung ATIV Book 9, formerly known to many as the Samsung Series 9 NP900X3E, is the epitome of what it means to be an ultrabook. Sexy, sleek and impossibly thin, the notebook feels like its offering a glimpse of the future; but living in tomorrow is not a cheap endeavor.
Users looking to own one of the world’s thinnest 13.3″ notebooks can expect to pay at least $1,900 (price at time the review was written). For that steep price point, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 offers solid performance. The device employs excellent build quality, a responsive Intel i7 processor, and quick data retrieval via the 256GB solid state drive (SSD); but at nearly $2,000 it’s easy to find the lack of a touch-enabled display, 4GB of RAM, and integrated graphics wanting.
However, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 isn’t about raw power, instead it’s about offering impressive performance in as compact a form factor as possible; and in that regard the Samsung Series 9 is nothing short of impressive.
The Samsung Series ATIV Book 9 is impressive; but with so many alternative portable computing means (i.e. smartphones and tablets); do consumers really need incredibly thin notebooks anymore? Read the full review to find out.
Build and Design
It’s hard to talk about the Samsung ATIV Book 9 and not mention its eye-catching design. With a meticulous array of slants and curves the Samsung Series 9 is a thing of beauty. Despite being one of the more attractive notebooks on the market the Samsung Series 9 manages to never feel over the top. Most likely that’s due to the machine’s mineral ash black aluminum chassis. The simplistic color provides a wonderful counterbalance to the machine’s sleek design to create a clean business-friendly aesthetic.
Measuring in at 12.35″ x 8.6″ x 0.51″ and weighing in at 2.56 lbs. the Samsung Series 9 is almost weightless. While transporting the device to and from work in addition to my normal work-notebook, I barely noticed the added weight of the device. Additionally, the notebook feels even lighter than its listed weight thanks to the ergonomic design of the chassis. The inward slants along the bottom chassis form perfectly to your hand, allowing the device to be comfortably held with just one hand. Admittedly the device is not as portable as most tablets, but the Samsung Series 9 is still extremely portable and its performance capabilities far outweigh that of the average tablet.
In spite of its petite form factor the Samsung ATIV Book 9 offers solid durability. The chassis barely flexed at all, even when substantial pressure was applied. The display fared just as well, only giving slightly to pressure with no noticeable rippling occurring on screen. I’d still be hesitant to believe that the Samsung Series 9 could survive serious impact or a fall, but the device can easily hold up to the normal wear and tear of travel.
Its miniscule form factor and durable build quality make the Samsung ATIV Book 9 the ideal portable notebook.
Ports and Features
The Samsung Series 9 is actually extremely clever about its port layout, offering a strong level of connectivity despite its limited surface area. The notebook manages to do this with the use of multiple dongles. Unfortunately doing so adds an additional burden on the consumer, especially since some of the dongles do not come with device. However, it’s better than the alternative, which is no connectivity at all.
The left side of device offers a power jack, chargeable USB 3.0 port, Micro HDMI port, and a LAN Dongle (which comes with the device). The Right side offers a 3-in-1 Multi Card Slot, Int. Mic, VGA Dongle (does not come with the device), a Headphone/Mic Combo jack, and a USB 2.0 port.
The offering is still rather slim compared to some devices; but considering that the Samsung Series 9 is only working with a few inches on both sides of the device, it manages to fit in a considerable amount within that tight space. It’s unfortunate that Samsung didn’t decide to include the VGA dongle given the steep price of the device.
Display and Sound
The Samsung Series 9 offers an excellent 13.3″ LED SuperBright Plus full HD display. Despite its limited size the 1920 x 1080 resolution of the screen provides more than enough surface area to easily accommodate multiple programs. Additionally, the display reads exceptionally well providing a clear image with robust color contrast.
Perhaps even more impressive though are the generous viewing angles that the display offers. On the horizontal axis the display holds up extremely well with noticeable image distortion even at 180 degrees. The same can be said of the vertical axis as well. Regardless of the angle the image on the screen remains just as clear and visible as if you were looking at it from head on.
The only downside to the display is its lack of touch controls. Given the cost of the device, it would seem a given that the Samsung Series 9 would offer a touch-enabled display, especially given how vital touch controls have become to the Windows 8 experience. Likely the company opted to go without in order to keep the Samsung ATIV Book 9 as slim as possible. The touch-enabled display is simply a concession that must be made in order to achieve the thin form factor that this device offers. While it doesn’t make up for the lack of touch-controls the device at least offers an extremely high quality touchpad.
Despite its small size the Samsung Series 9 manages to offer boisterous sound through its two speakers, which are located on the bottom back edge of the chassis connecting to the display. The speakers are able to easily fill a modest sized room with audio comfortably. More importantly the speakers provide clear crisp audio quality, with no noticeable distortions even at 100 percent capacity. Admittedly, the speakers lack the added bass and treble that serious audiophiles will want, but that’s true for the majority of notebooks on the market.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Similar to just about everything else on this device, the Samsung Series 9 offers both a high-quality keyboard and touchpad. The notebook is equipped with a Chiclet style keyboard. The squared keys offer a glossy finish that is smooth to touch and easily grips the finger pads for added traction. Key compression while fairly limited is still far greater than expected for a device with a 0.51″ thickness. Any shortcomings that the compression incurs are easily remedied by the tactile responsive push back each keystroke. The result is a precise typing experience that never feels compromised given the limited key depth.
The generously sized touchpad easily matches the experience put forth by the keyboard. The touchpad is devoid of mouse buttons and instead employs multi-touch controls for various mouse-clicks, with a single finger compression counting as a left-click and two fingers counting as a right-click.
Equipped with ELAN drivers the touchpad performs extremely well reading multi-finger gestures accurately with little to no lag. The touchpad also offers adjustable features allowing users to customize scroll speed, double click speed, and point speed. Users can also disable and enable multi-finger gestures, including a few ingenious additions such as the four finger upward swipe which returns users to desktop. The addition of these simple gestures makes maneuvering in and out of Windows 8 far more palatable, and is a godsend given the device’s lack of a touch-enabled display.
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