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Updated Samsung laptops coming, Apple in sights

Samsung's refreshed 11.6-inch ultraportable offers up some stiff competition for Apple's similarly configured MacBook Air.

Samsung's 11.6-inch ultraportable has been refreshed with more competitive pricing and Intel Sandy Bridge processors. The refresh presages a similar update from Apple for its MacBook Air, though it remains to be seen if Apple can match Samsung's more aggressive pricing.

Like Apple, Samsung offers 13.3-inch and 11.6-inch ultraslim, ultralight, aluminum-clad laptops. But Samsung is trying to distinguish itself by keeping ahead of Apple on the performance curve.

Samsung's first 11.6-inch Series 9 model (NP900X1A-A01US) used Intel power-efficient "Nehalem" class Core i series processors and graphics silicon. The newest 11.6-inch offering bumps up to Intel's latest Sandy Bridge power-efficient chips.

That puts Samsung two generations ahead of Apple--at the moment, at least. Apple's current MacBook Air models house Intel's older Core 2 Duo chip and Nvidia graphics.

Samsung 11.6-inch Series 9 now comes with Sandy Bridge processors and a 128GB solid-state drive option.
Samsung 11.6-inch Series 9 now comes with Sandy Bridge processors and a 128GB solid-state drive option. CNET Reviews

Samsung has also upped the size of the largest solid-state drive offering to 128GB, matching the 11.6-inch MacBook Air.

And it trumps the Air in price, to boot. An 11.6-inch Air with a 128GB solid-state drive, 4GB of memory, and a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo processor is priced at $1,399. Samsung's Sandy Bridge-based model with a similar configuration (see chart below) is priced at $1,249.

Samsung has also refreshed the 13.3-inch Series 9 models with faster Sandy Bridge processors and a larger 256GB solid-state drive. For example, a model (NP900X3A-A05US) with a 256GB solid-state drive, an Intel Core i7 Processor 2617M processor, and 6GB of memory is $2,049. A model (NP900X3A-B02US) with a 256GB SSD, a Core i5 2467M processor, and 4GB of memory is $1,649.

How does Apple stack up? A 13-inch MBA with a 256GB SSD, a 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, and 2GB of memory, is $1,599.

The refreshed 11.6-inch models will be available in August; the updated 13.3-inch Series 9 is available now.

Updated Samsung Series 9 11.6-inch highlights:

  • Weight/height: 2.3 pounds, 0.65 inches
  • Materials: "Arching duralumin" enclosure
  • Processor: Intel Core i3-2357M Sandy Bridge, ultra-power-efficient chip
  • Graphics: Sandy Bridge HD 3000 grahics
  • Storage: Solid-state drive up to 128GB
  • Memory: Up to 4GB
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0; available with WiMax 4G
  • Ports: USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, MicroSD
  • Battery life: Specified at seven hours
  • Keyboard: Backlit
  • Software: Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
  • Price: $1,049 for 64GB SSD model; $1,249 for 128GB SSD model
  • Availability: August