LAS VEGAS--The specs in Samsung's Series 9 demo unit were far from final, but the chassis itself is refreshingly unique.
Yes, almost everyone seems to have a 27-inch all-in-one at CES, but HP's Omni 27 played it safe by using its existing exterior, and the Lenovo, Vizio, and Asus units all took obvious cues from Apple in their design language.
The Series 9 all-in-one, on the other hand, is the only one that seems to have its own visual identity. The asymmetrical screen has a graceful curved hinge that's pleasing to look at. And although the brushed-aluminum base segment certainly shares some similarities with the iMac in its choice of material, the design of the base, and the distribution and minimized appearance of ports and slots around its edges feel unique to this desktop.
The 27-inch screen, like the other Windows units, is only 1,920x1,080 pixels, which means its meant for consumers more than it is for the design and professional crowd who might prefer the 27-inch iMac's 2,560x1,440-pixel display. It's also not a touch screen, joining HP and the early version of the Asus ET2700 in going touch-free.
Unique to the Series 9 is 3D display capability. The demo unit, powered by a current-generation Core i5 CPU and an undisclosed AMD graphics chip was giving the Samsung rep on the show floor a hard time staying in 3D mode. When it worked, the image didn't exactly pop through the active, rechargeable 3D glasses, but then the brightly lit Samsung booth and glossy white countertop don't provide the best viewing environment.
Perhaps more exciting than the 3D itself is the dedicated touch-sensitive hot key on the front of the system for turning 3D on and off. I've seen too many 3D all-in-ones that required a mystifying series of steps to enable or disable 3D. Samsung has made it easy here.
I also noticed the usual assortment of ports and features around the sides of the system, with USB 3.0, HDMI input, and a Blu-ray player among them. Given the demo unit's current-generation Intel chipset, Thunderbolt was not present. The specs for the future model don't mention it, either.
Samsung provided no specifics on price for the Series 9, and its release Windows was only "later this year." When it does ship, Samsung promises the "latest Intel Core i7 processor" (read "Ivy Bridge"), as well as an AMD Radeon HD 6730M graphics chip.