Samsung ATIV Book 9 2014 Edition review: Rare big-screen ultrabook at a premium price

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The Good The Samsung Ativ Book 9 2014 Edition is an attractive aluminum-clad 15.6-inch laptop made for mobility with a body that's less than 4.5 pounds, barely more than 0.5 inch thick, and all-day battery life. Its backlit keyboard and large touchpad are generally excellent as is its 1080p-resolution LCD.

The Bad Given its $1,500 price, you may be disappointed by its lack of discrete graphics and smallish 128GB solid-state drive for storage.

The Bottom Line A big-screen ultrabook with a long, long battery life, the Samsung Ativ Book 9 2014 Edition delivers a high-end laptop experience for its premium price.

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8.4 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 9
  • Support 7

Samsung's Ativ Book 9 (2014 Edition) certainly looks and feels the part of a premium ultrabook.

Its sturdy aluminum chassis has the same sweeping lines as Samsung's 13.3-inch Book 9 Plus, but instead of that laptop's eye-popping 3,200x1,800-pixel-resolution display, the Book 9 is 1080p. It's also larger at 15.6 inches -- an unusual, though not unheard of size for ultrabooks (Dell's XPS 15, for example, is a notable exception).

And that's really the story here with the Book 9 2014 Edition: It's a perfect laptop if you're after more screen space without entirely giving up the thin-and-light body of smaller ultrabooks.

Though not overpriced, the Book 9 isn't cheap at $1,500, especially if you're used to buying thicker and heavier Windows laptops to get things like ample storage space or discrete graphics. The Book 9 has neither of those things and its specs are fairly average. However, the combination does lead to some extraordinarily long battery life.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

The Ativ Book 9 doesn't blend in with the sea of silver Windows ultrabooks that are available, but the gray-black aluminum doesn't scream, "Look at me!", either. The laptop alone weighs only 4.4 pounds (2 kg) and measures 14.7 inches wide by 9.8 inches deep by 0.6 inch thick (37.3 by 24.9 by 1.5 cm).

The gentle curves at the back have just enough room for its full-size HDMI and three USB ports (one USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0) as well as a headphone/mic jack, security slot, and small inputs for Ethernet and VGA out that require dongles to use (the former is included, the latter will set you back $40). An SD card slot is behind a spring-loaded door on just under the curve on the right side.

For wireless, the Book 9 has Bluetooth 4.0 and 802.11ac Wi-Fi courtesy of an Intel Wireless-AC 7260 chip. There's WiDi, too, for connecting wirelessly to an external display or TV.

Samsung ATIV Book 9 (2014 edition) Dell XPS 15 (2013) Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch (2013) Toshiba Satellite P50t-BST2N01
Price as reviewed $1,499 $1,899 $2,599 $1,799
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 touchscreen 15.6-inch, 3,200 x 1,800 touchscreen 15.4-inch, 2,880 x 1,800 screen 15.6-inch, 3,840 x 2,160 touchscreen
PC CPU 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-4702HQ 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-4850HQ 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700HQ
Graphics 1792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400 2GB (dedicated) Nvidia GeForce GT 750M 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 750M + Intel Iris Pro 2GB (dedicated) AMD Radeon R9 M265X
PC Memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz
Storage 128GB SSD 1TB 5,400rpm HDD, 32GB SSD 512GB SSD 1TB 5,400rpm Hybrid HDD
Optical drive None None None DVD/RW
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 8.1 Pro (64-bit) Windows 8.1 (64-bit) OS X Mavericks 10.9 Windows 8.1 (64-bit)

While the Book 9's larger screen makes it a bit less travel-friendly than a 13.3-inch model, having the extra space to work is really nice, especially if this is going to be your only computer. And the display is a nice one, with wide viewing angles and 300-nit brightness. (Even with the brightness cranked up, though, you'll still be fighting reflections off the glossy touchscreen.)

The backlit keyboard is nice, too. The larger body gave Samsung room for a spacious keyboard with no awkwardly sized keys and each has a curved key cap, which Samsung says cushions finger tips. Typing does feel soft without being mushy and there's a fair amount of travel despite the shallow body.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

The touchpad is large and generally responsive, though occasionally it seemed to pause while scrolling or dragging a finger across it. The surface does have a bit too much drag for my liking, which could have contributed to this. However, I didn't experience any cursor jumping and it ignored dragged palms.

Samsung beefed up the audio on the Book 9, using a Wolfson WM5102 audio hub and digital signal processor capable of lossless audio playback at better-than-CD quality (through headphones at least). It certainly sounded good, though your mileage may vary depending on the quality of your source material and headphones. The built-in stereo speakers are better than most, too. Audio is loud and clear with both music and movies, but there's not much of a low end.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

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