Samsung Series 9 Review: One Of The Best Ultrabook On Ground

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Samsung Series 9
The original Series 9 ultra-portable was the first laptop we'd reviewed which adhered to Intel's Ultrabook specification, even though Samsung wasn't allowed to officially label it as such. We thought it was an exciting sign of things to come, but afew shortcomings prevented us from giving it an award. One year on, Samsung has completely overhauled the design, with a brand new chassis that weighs a tiny 1.2kg. As well as being incredibly light, the aluminium construction feels incredibly tough – we couldn't find any signs of flex or bend in the main body.

The laptop's plain matt finish looks fantastic, too, and the simple design continues inside; aside from the simple Chiclet-style keyboard and touchpad combination, there are no superfluous multimedia keys or LEDs to distract from the laptop's smart looks. Samsung has sensibly decided to remove the fiddly flaps that covered the ports on the original Series 9, which makes it much easier to connect peripherals. With no room at the front of the chassis, everything has been moved to the far edges – one USB, a multi-format card reader, Mini DisplayPort and a 3.5mm headset jack on the right and one USB3, a Micro HDMI and a proprietary port for the bundled Ethernet adaptor on the left. Inside, an Intel Core i5-2467m provides the processing power. Running at 1.6GHz, it isn't going to break any benchmark records, even when it uses Turbo Boost to increase the clock speed up to 2.3GHz in lightly-threaded applications. It still managed an overall score of 42 in our multimedia benchmarks, which should be fast enough for all your everyday tasks – particularly when paired with 4GB of RAM for multitasking and an SSD for rapid file transfers. The 128GB disk used here does a fantastic job of speeding up boot times, reaching the Windows desktop in 18 seconds and resuming from sleep mode in fewer than two. It's also less demanding on battery life than a mechanical hard disk, which is partly how the Series 9 managed to achieve an excellent eight hours in our light-use test. On a full charge, the laptop should last a full working day on battery.

Graphics performance is provided bythe processor, which saves battery but doesn't provide much 3D power. Whether you watch 720p video on the laptop or 1080p content on an external display, it will have no trouble decoding it, but you'll struggle to find playable frame rates in modern games – the Series 9 struggled through our Dirt 3 benchmark with 16.2fps overall, so you'll have to turn down detail levels or stick to older titles. The Series 9's keyboard is superb. Each full-size key felt springy and responsive, so we were always sure that our key presses had registered. All the punctuation keys are in the right places and the function keys also double as multimedia shortcuts, but only if you hold the Fn key first. We were also surprised by the multi-touch trackpad – although we don't usually like all-in-one touchpads that lack physical buttons, the one on the Series 9 works reasonably well. Left clicks can be activated with a tap and right clicks with a two-finger tap, as well as physically clicking in the right corner of the touchpad. Multi-touch gestures were responsive and easy to perform, with none of the hit-and-miss activations of some multi-touch models. We were hugely impressed by the high resolution screen, which is among the best we've seen from an Ultrabook– the 13.3in display
looks fantastic at its native 1,600x900.

Like Samsung's other new laptops, it has a matt screen finish that helps diffuse light reflections and an incredibly bright 300-nit backlight. There's not a huge amount of contrast, but colours were vibrant we were very impressed with the excellent viewing angles – there's plenty of tilt, but you don't always need to use it to achieve accurate colours. This updated Series 9 feels like the version we should have got last year – it has vastly superior build quality, an improved screen and a more sensible chassis layout that makes it feel every inch the premium product it should be. It's priced accordingly, at around £100 more than a 13-inch Apple MacBook Air and £200 more than Ultrabooks such as the Asus ZenBook UX31 , but it's still the best Windows Ultrabook there is.
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