"Premium" not only describes the build and performance of the Samsung Series 9 (now officially known as the Samsung ATIV Book 9), it also refers to the price. But you get what you pay for, and in an Ultrabook market flooded with bottom-feeding competition, it's nice to see a unit that delivers a quality experience, even if it lacks a few business-grade features.
The range of Series 9 models starts at $999, and our review unit (the NP900X3E-A03US) lists for $1,899. That said, the quality of Ultrabook you get for the price is top-notch. This laptop is lightweight, thin, and well engineered, and it gets amazing battery life despite running a powerful Intel Core i7. Cold boots and suspend/resume are both sensationally fast, on the order of, at most, a few seconds.
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Ultrabooks are as slender as they are in part because their keyboards have such low profiles. The Series 9's keys have a short throw, but they generate a satisfying amount of tactile feedback. The backlighting on the keys also automatically adjusts (as does the display brightness) to ambient lighting. Special function keys give you access to Samsung-specific functions like a system configuration utility and a power-profile switcher. There are no Windows 8-specific keys, though, such as the Charms bar button you'll find on other Ultrabooks.
The Series 9 also manages to pack two full-sized USB connectors (one USB 3.0) into the unit, although the Ethernet port needs either a dock or a dongle. Tucked away in one side of the unit is a full-size SD card slot -- not a microSD -- and it's protected by a spring-hinged door, not a flimsy pop-port cover.
Prebundled software for the system consists of Modern UI apps such as Samsung's S Camera, S Player, and S Gallery applications, along with the Intel AppUp app store and trial versions of Adobe Photoshop Elements, Microsoft Office 2010, and Norton Internet Security. The Samsung-branded system configuration tool lets you quick-toggle things like the keyboard backlighting and the power management settings. Among the options for the latter is a battery-life extension mode, which protects battery life by charging the battery only to 80 percent of its capacity, which is plenty for this battery. My Netflix rundown test provided a satisfying 5 hours, 15 minutes.
The one big shortcoming, especially considering the system ships with Windows 8 Pro by default, is the absence of a touch display. The multitouch-enabled touchpad partly compensates for this omission, but let's face it: Windows 8 without touch is, for now, a sticky wicket. That touchpad is also a little annoying in that, although it's generously sized, it has click zones along the bottom instead of discrete buttons. Also missing: a drive activity light, although at this point that's an endangered feature for Ultrabooks.
Finally, business users may be dismayed to find there's no TPM, fingerprint reader, or smart card slots. But if these features aren't high on your priority list, the Samsung Series 9 has just about everything else a power user could want.
This article, "Review: Samsung Series 9 cuts few corners," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in computer hardware and mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.
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