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Samsung Series 9 NP900X4B-A02 (15-inch) review:

Samsung Series 9 NP900X4B-A02 (15-inch)

The thin, teardrop-curved sides of the Series 9 NP900X4B-A02 are certainly elegant, but they come at the expense of a compromise: ports are limited on this laptop, especially for its size. Just like the 13-inch Series 9, it has no optical drive. Ports line both sides of the chassis, which curves gracefully like the cross section of an airplane wing. Despite the larger size of the 15-inch model, only one USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports come standard. Ethernet, HDMI, and VGA are offered up via tiny ports that require either dongles or adapter cables; Samsung includes a dongle for Ethernet, but the Micro-HDMI port needs a special cable, as does the proprietary secondary display port. It makes no sense to me, as this laptop could easily have made room for a full-size Ethernet and HDMI port. Thankfully, at least there's an SD card slot. Bluetooth and Intel Wireless Display compatibility also come standard.

The 15-inch Series 9 15-inch comes with similar specs to a 13-inch ultrabook: 1.6GHz Core i5-2467M processor, 128GB SSD, and an impressive 8GB of RAM. Graphics are merely Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics (this isn't an Ivy Bridge laptop with Intel HD 4000 graphics--at least, not yet). The HP Envy 14 Spectre is a close comparison. This is the only configuration for the 15-inch NP900X4B.

That Spectre is also a close match on price: the 15-inch Series 9 will cost $1,499 when it goes on sale in late April ($100 more than the Spectre). Alternatively, you could spend $1,399 on the 13-inch Series 9 coming soon, which has identical specs except for its 4GB of RAM.

In our benchmark tests, this Series 9 fared well, at least for an ultrabook. That's not surprising, since it features the same type of processor. The closest-performing ultrabook was the Toshiba Portege Z835-P370, which features the same second-gen Core i5 processor. All the ultrabooks we compared it with--the Portege Z835-P370, the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3-581TG, and the Asus Zenbook UX31E-DH52--performed slightly better. The 13-inch MacBook Air performed much better, which makes sense given that some of our benchmark tests feature Apple software like iTunes and QuickTime.

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)

The 15-inch Series 9 woke from sleep quickly and booted in an impressive 15 seconds, but it didn't wake instantaneously from sleep when the lid was lifted; it took a good 3 seconds or so, and sometimes didn't wake at all (I had to press the power button instead).

Juice box
Samsung Series 9 NP900X4B-A02 (15-inch) (Avg watts/hour)
Off (60%) 0.32
Sleep (10%) 0.77
Idle (25%) 6.54
Load (05%) 25.73
Raw kWh number 27.95
Annual power consumption cost $3.17

Annual power consumption cost

The integrated battery in the 15-inch Series 9 lasted 5 hours and 33 minutes while playing continuous video. That's upper-middle class for ultrabooks: it's better than the 13-inch Asus Zenbook and Toshiba Portege Z835-P370, but worse than the admittedly far larger Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3-581TG and 13-inch MacBook Air. I judge this laptop's battery life more harshly because of its size: just as the 11-inch and 13-inch MacBook Air differ in battery life significantly, I'd expect a 15-inch version of the Samsung Series 9 to last closer to 7 hours. This battery life is enough to get through a plane flight, but it's hardly stunning.

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

Samsung includes a standard one-year warranty with the Samsung Series 9 NP900X4B-A02. Samsung's Web site has a simple-to-find search function that pulls up all related product information and support downloads in one place, and a toll-free 1-800 service number is also prominently displayed, which isn't always the case on support pages.

The 15-inch Samsung Series 9 is even more impressively built and designed than last year's 13-inch model, but this jaw-droppingly thin laptop isn't all that different from a 13-inch ultrabook; it's just priced higher. If you crave impeccable design and a light luggage load along with a big, bright screen then look no further, provided your bank account can stomach it and you don't mind dongles for Ethernet and HDMI. But when it comes to performance, bigger for the Series 9 equals more of the same.

System configurations:

Samsung Series 9 NP900X4B-A02
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Shared) Intel HD 3000; 128GB Samsung SSD

Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3-581TG
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i7-2637M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB Nvidia's GeForce GT 640M / 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 3000; 256GB Lite-On It SSD

Asus UX31E-DH52 (Zenbook)
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-2557M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 128GB SSD

Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch - Summer 2011
OS X 10.7 Lion; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-2557M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 3000; 128GB Apple SSD

Toshiba Portege Z835-P370
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-2467M; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Shared) Intel HD 3000; 128GB Toshiba SSD

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