Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite review: Budget AMD-powered plastic letdown

Stereo speakers tucked under the sides pump out loud audio, but sound quality on the Book 9 Lite doesn't feel like a standout any more than picture quality.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Configurations, features, performance
Just like on the old Series 9, you get a weirdly compressed bunch of ports: full-size USB 3.0 and 2.0, but Micro-HDMI and Mini-VGA, and no Ethernet port. It doesn't make much sense not to have full-size ports on a laptop this big.

The 4GB of RAM and 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) that this $799 configuration comes with match the standard of any basic ultrabook. The change here comes in processor: a quad-core AMD processor takes the place of the Intel Core i3/i5/i7 you'd normally expect. What type of processor? That's a good question: all Samsung's review documentation, and even the internal Windows Experience Index descriptor, says is, "Quad Core Processor, 1.0GHz (up to 1.4GHz)." What does that mean, and how does this processor perform?

From an everyday-use "Folger's taste test" type of challenge, you could use this laptop and enjoy its features without realizing it lacks a Core i5 processor...unless you were playing games or monitoring battery life. Our benchmark tests show a significant speed drop from a standard ultrabook. If you're multitasking, pushing heavy graphics-based tasks, or editing video, this laptop will disappoint. I find it hard to accept the performance drop at this price.

There is one compelling, but relatively minor, incentive for Samsung phone/tablet owners to upgrade: SideSync allows a Galaxy phone or tablet to connect to the Ativ Book 9 Lite wirelessly or via USB cable, and can either mirror the phone's functions on the laptop screen, or allow you to use your laptop's keyboard and touch pad to control your phone or tablet. It's clever, especially as a way of monitoring your phone when working at a cafe, and recent Samsung Windows laptops include it.

The Book 9 Lite's battery lasted 5 hours and 7 minutes in our video-loop playback test. Samsung claims 5.5 hours of battery life for the laptop, which isn't far off the mark. The last Book 9 I reviewed had very similar battery life (5 hours, 5 minutes), but was a smaller laptop.

In 2011, that would have been a great battery score. In 2013, it isn't. Many ultrabooks with Intel's latest fourth-gen processors are averaging 8 hours or more on the same tests. Five hours can get you through a day, but it means keeping an eye on the battery level, tweaking settings, and keeping a power outlet nearby.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Conclusion: Would have been good for around $600
It isn't such a great thing to sacrifice battery life and performance for a few hundred dollars in savings. You may not even have to spend that much more: laptops like certain configurations of the Toshiba Portege cost about the same. Yes, some of our favorite ultrabooks cost closer to $1,000. Honestly, you'd be better off spending a little extra.

For an everyday, solid computing experience in a stylish, thin body, the Ativ Book 9 Lite will do well enough. I just wouldn't want to buy one, especially with so many new laptops coming out and so many discounted models floating around online. It's nothing special in the world of Windows 8 touch laptops...which is a shame, because so many recent Samsung ultrabooks are.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

HandBrake multitasking
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite (marble white)

Part Number: CNET-AtivBook9Lite

MSRP: $799.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Color marble white
  • Weight 1.44 kg
  • Graphics Processor AMD Radeon HD 8250
  • CPU AMD A series 1.4 GHz
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