Thirteen-inch lightweight laptop shootout

We've seen an influx of eye-catching, highly portable 13-inch laptops of late, so it's a perfect time to stack the Samsung Series 9 up against the 13-inch MacBook Air and the Toshiba Portege R835.

CNET/Matt Fitzgerald

[Update: It's worth noting that, is it did with last year's Portege R705 model, retailer Best Buy is selling one of the Portege R835 models at a steep discount. The Portege R835-P50X, with an Intel Core i3 CPU, Wireless Display, and WiMax, is available for $749, while its original list price is $899.]

If you're looking for a thin, stylish 13-inch laptop, this is your lucky month. We've seen an influx of eye-catching, highly portable notebooks making their way through the CNET offices, including the Toshiba Portege R835 and the Samsung Series 9. Add in the current second-gen 13-inch MacBook Air, and you've got a trio of worthy choices at this screen size (we're still waiting to get Sony's new 13-inch Vaio S, which also looks promising).

While the MacBook Air has been the gold standard of ultrathin 13-inchers, the new Samsung Series 9 NP900X3A has done its best to emulate the style on a Windows laptop. It certainly surpasses the MacBook Air in one important category: price. The real question is, do you actually need a superslim laptop if there's a nearly equally lightweight, slightly less-thin option that's much more affordable?

The Toshiba Portege R705 was an Editors' Choice laptop in 2010, and its successor, the Portege R835-P56X, ups the ante in 2011; it earned Editors' Choice honors, too. Its $900-range price is more palatable, and it even has an optical drive in its thinner-than-a-MacBook-Pro chassis.

Related links
• Toshiba Portege R835-P56X review
• Samsung Series 9 NP900X3A review
• Apple MacBook Air review

Each of these three systems has its strengths and weaknesses, as well as fans and detractors. We gathered them in one place for a friendly head-to-head-to-head comparison. Check out our cheat sheet of specs below, then click through the rest of our feature to take a tour through our commentary on several key categories: size/weight, battery life, design, price, screen, keyboard, and touch pad. We're not sure there's a clear winner, but if you are, make your case in the comments section below.

System CPU RAM HDD Weight Price
MacBook Air 13-inch 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 2GB 128GB SSD 2.9 lbs. $1,299
Samsung Series 9 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-2537M 4GB 128GB SSD 2.9 lbs. $1,650
Toshiba Portege R835 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-2410M 4GB 640GB 5,400rpm 3.2 lbs. $929
About the author

Scott Stein is a senior editor covering iOS and laptop reviews, mobile computing, video games, and tech culture. He has previously written for both mainstream and technology enthusiast publications including Wired,, Men's Journal, and Maxim, and regularly appears on TV and radio talking tech trends.

Dan Ackerman

Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of laptops, desktops, and Windows tablets, while also writing about games, gadgets, and other topics. A former radio DJ and member of Mensa, he's written about music and technology for more than 15 years, appearing in publications including Spin, Blender, and Men's Journal. See full bio


Discuss Thirteen-inch lightweight laptop shootout

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Show Comments Hide Comments
Latest Articles from CNET
Insane flying semi-trailer sets jump record, nearly takes out building