Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus review: High-resolution, small-footprint premium laptop

Most importantly, note the leap in benchmark performance between this Book 9 Plus and the Book 9 Lite, Samsung's nearly half-the-price semi-similar-looking plastic laptop running a quad-core AMD processor. The Plus is much faster.

Battery life takes an expected leap, but not a jaw-dropping one: on our video-playback battery test, we were able to get over 8 hours (8 hours 29 minutes, to be exact). But, increasingly, many current-gen Windows ultrabooks are hitting those numbers. It's not industry-leading, but over 8 hours (and probably more, if you adjust settings) is plenty for a full day's work. It comes close to the Sony Vaio Pro 13 .

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

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

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

Multimedia multitasking: Handbrake (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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

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Unsurprising, but still really good
The Ativ Book 9 Plus feels like an obvious connect-the-dots between last year's great design and some awaited overdue features, like touch display and a longer battery life. That's not a bad thing: after all, if you're after a go-to usable laptop, improvements often matter more than innovations. It's not the battery king like the MacBook Air, but it's extremely good, and the higher-than-1080p display keeps it on par with many premium Windows 8 laptops.

But this isn't a tremendous surprise; ultrabooks have been doing this for months (see the Toshiba Kirabook, and upcoming laptops like the Lenovo Yoga 2). Samsung used to be a little more aggressive with its PC designs; lately, it's been on a more conservative path, at least compared with the competition. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Samsung's top-end Windows thin laptop matches the competition and delivers an excellent product. It's not supercheap at $1,399, but it's not ultra-expensive, either. Still, only having 128GB of onboard SSD storage and 4GB of RAM for that price feels like a letdown.

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This isn't a convertible tablet-laptop design. It's just a laptop. But for those who want one of the very best thin Windows 8 laptops out there, the Book 9 Plus is an easy pick. Just be ready to spend a few hundred more for the privilege.

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System configurations:

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1749MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400: 128GB SSD

MacBook Air 13-inch (June 2013)
OSX 10.8.4 Mountain Lion; 1.3GHz Intel Core i5 4240U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1024MB (Shared) Intel HD Graphics 4000; 128GB Apple SSD

Samsung Ativ Book 9 (13-inch, Spring 2013)
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 2GHz Intel Core i7 3527U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4000; 256GB SSD

Sony Vaio Pro 13
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz;1659MB (Shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400; 128GB Samsung SSD

Acer Aspire S7- 392-6411
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4400; 128GB SSD

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite
Windows 8 (64-bit) 1GHz AMD A4 Quad-Core; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 512MB AMD Radeon HD 8250; 128GB Samsung SSD

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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