The Samsung Series 9 notebook is one of the thinnest and lightest 13.3-inch notebooks on the Australian market to feature a Second Generation Intel Core i5 CPU. It's beautifully designed and crafted and it feels very comfortable to use, whether you're typing at a desk or on your lap. With a price tag of $2499, it's not cheap, but it's definitely worth it if you want superb mobility and build quality as well as very decent performance for office and multimedia tasks.
The Series 9 is constructed out of Duralium (a type of light and strong aluminium alloy that's also used to construct aircraft frames). It weighs around 1.3kg and it feels solidly built. The screen's lid has a little bit of flexibility, but only minimal puddling can be seen on the screen when you stress it. While the Series 9 has a sealed design (which makes it very hard for an end user to service it), its base consists of two parts that are held together by screws. This means that movement isn't completely absent and sometimes when you pick up the notebook it will make a little clicking noise as the two parts come together slightly — this was particularly noticeable on the left side of the unit. That nitpick aside, it's still a very strong chassis design.
The balance of the notebook is excellent. You can lift the lid using one finger while the notebook is resting on a hard, flat surface. The hinges are very smooth and they hold the lid in place even when the notebook is subjected to a lot of up and down motion (while commuting, for example). We did notice a very small amount a play in the hinges though — they felt a little loose when moving the screen upward — but it wasn't problematic.
A cooling fan is present in the chassis and its vent is underneath the base. It's not an optimal location for vent holes; if you use the Series 9 on your lap or on any other surface that blocks these vents for a long period of time, the base has the potential to get uncomfortably warm — not as uncomfortable as the Toshiba Portege R700 though, which runs a full-blown Core i5 CPU rather than a low voltage model. For the most part though, the Series 9 runs very cool. If all you'll be doing is typing a document or browsing a Web page while resting it on your lap, then you probably won't be bothered by much warmth from the chassis.
The 1366x768-resolution screen is one of the better ones we've seen on a laptop to date. It has a matte finish, so it's not susceptible to reflections, and its contrast and brightness are excellent, making it perfect for viewing photographs. It's so bright, you can relatively easily use the Series 9 to type out a document or read a Web page when sitting outside on a sunny day, but by the same token it can be uncomfortable to use in a dark environment.
To keep the screen brightness comfortable, an ambient light sensor sits just above the keyboard and it can automatically adjust the brightness depending on the lighting conditions in your environment. However, it didn't always work perfectly: we sometimes had to disable and re-enable the Adaptive Brightness setting in the Samsung Control Centre software in order for it to detect the proper brightness level. It was also very sensitive: switching on a corner light in an otherwise dark room made the screen a lot brighter than it should have.
Keyboard and touchpad
We love the Series 9's keyboard, which has sturdy, full-sized keys that give almost perfect responsiveness. There is a white backlight under the keyboard, and it has eight levels of adjustment. The first three levels are very subtle and only just illuminate the keys; it's nice to have so much control over this feature.
The touchpad that resides on the Series 9's 90mm deep palmrest is one of the best we have ever used. It is large (98x68mm) and highly responsive to basic movements and multi-finger gestures, and its texture is soft and smooth. In our tests, we could easily scroll long Web pages using a two-finger gesture — it wasn't frustrating like it can be on laptops with smaller touchpads. The page didn't move too fast or too slow and we didn't ever have trouble with the gesture not being recognised. Likewise, using a three-finger gesture to flick back and forth between Web pages was a simple task.
The buttons for left- and right-click operations are located underneath the touchpad itself, which is what allows the touchpad to be so big and comfortable. It's similar to the touchpad found on some HP notebooks (such as the AMD Fusion-based Pavilion dm1), but much easier to use — you can easily left-click and drag using only one hand. The only fault that we found with the touchpad was that sometimes we had to press the right button twice in order for it to work, and this was usually because we pressed slightly too high on the initial click.