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.
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|
|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.
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.
Again, the main component specs -- fourth-gen Intel Core i5 processor, integrated Intel Graphics 4400 HD, 8GB of memory, and 128GB SSD -- are average for an ultrabook in its price range. Well, maybe not the storage, as you'll find systems using larger-capacity hybrid hard drives instead of just an SSD. That's not an option with the Book 9 and if you want more internal storage you'll have to add it yourself or there is a Core i7 version with a 256GB SSD that'll cost you $1,900.
While the SSD might not offer a lot of storage space, it definitely speeds up system performance. From off to the desktop takes less 10 seconds and applications launch fast, like the included full version of Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 that opens in less than 4 seconds.
Performance in general is excellent, but keep in mind, this is made for basic office work, entertainment like streaming video and music, and maybe some light photo and video editing, and doing it all on the go. You'll be able to do some casual gaming or 3D gaming at reduced resolutions, but don't consider this as a game system.
Battery life is actually the big deal here. While Samsung says it gets nearly 9 hours while running BapCo's MobileMark 2012 benchmark, we were able to get just past the 9-hour mark with our video playback battery drain test. Of course, doing anything really demanding of the processor and SSD or cranking of display brightness will shorten work time. But just doing day-to-day office work, I had no problem getting through eight hours unplugged.
For anyone tired of working day to day on a small screen but still wants a high-end, thin-and-light with a long, long battery life, the Samsung Ativ Book 9 2014 Edition is one sweet system. It ain't cheap, though, and you'll probably need to come up with some combination of external and cloud storage to compensate for its 128GB SSD.
Samsung Ativ Book 9 (2014 edition)
Windows 8.1 Pro (64.bit); 1.6GHZ Intel Core i5-4200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 1792MB (shared) Intel HD 4400 Graphics; 128GB SSD
Razer Blade 14 RZ09-0116 (2014)
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-4702HQ; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz, 3GB (dedicated) Nvidia GeForce GTX 870; 256GB SSD
Dell XPS 15
Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-4702HQ; 16GB DDR2 SDRAM 1600MHz; 2GB (dedicated) Nvidia GeForce GT 750; 1TB 5400rpm HDD
Apple MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2013)
OSX 10.9 Mavericks; 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-4850HQ; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 2GB (dedicated) Nvidia GeForce GT 750M + Intel Iris Pro Graphics; 512GB SSD
Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro
Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 1.6GHZ Intel Core i5-4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 1792MB (shared) Intel HD 4400 Graphics; 128GB SSD
Toshiba Satellite P50t-BST2N01
Windows 8.1 (64-bit) 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700HQ; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 2048MB (dedicated) AMD R9 M265X; 1TB Hybrid 5400rpm HDD