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

Performance and battery life
The Book 9 Plus amounts to a standard fourth-gen Intel Core i5 ultrabook under its skin, and, to no surprise, it performs like one. "Haswell" Intel processors in thin laptops add up to better onboard graphics and big leaps in battery life more than overall system speed. As you can see on the benchmark charts, the new Book 9 Plus with a fourth-gen 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 4200U processor had performance pretty close to the Book 9 running a last-gen 2GHz Intel Core i7 3527U.

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)

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Find out more about how we test laptops.

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

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Resolution 3200 x 1800 ( QHD+ )
  • Operating System Windows 8 64-bit Edition
  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Color mineral ash black
  • Weight 3.06 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 4400
  • CPU Intel Core i5 (4th Gen) 4200U / 1.6 GHz
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