Samsung Ativ Book 9 review: Samsung Series 9 with a name change

Ports, configurations, performance
The Ativ Book 9 sticks its ports on the rear end of both side edges, fitting in two full USB 3.0 ports but relying on mini ports for the rest like HDMI and VGA. An SD card slot is tucked under one curve inside a flip-in door. There's no Ethernet port. The overreliance on micro ports is a shame: it feels like, at the least, there could have been room for full-sized HDMI.

The base configuration of the Ativ Book 9 comes with a dual-core Core i7 processor, but it's a third-gen Core i7, not one of the latest fourth-gen chips. It also has 4GB of RAM and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) for $1,399. That's more than you'd pay for a laptop like the MacBook Air. You get a better-resolution display here, but an older processor.

The funny thing is, unless you're counting on graphics performance, last year's Ivy Bridge Core i5 and i7 ultrabook processors are very similar to this year's. Our benchmark tests show our review unit being as speedy, or even speedier, than some recent ultrabooks. The 2GHz Core i7-3537U CPU in this laptop is still a very good option, and at least it's a step above the often-standard Core i5.

Integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics get the job done, but newer HD 5000-level graphics on new fourth-gen Core i-series CPUs (they don't all have 5000-level) do a distinctly better job for gaming or graphics-intensive work.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Ah, then there's battery life. This is where Ivy Bridge fails the most. The Ativ Book 9 lasted 5 hours and 5 minutes in a video playback test. That would have passable but disappointing a year ago, but compared with recent ultrabooks' times it's a vast gap. We've seen Windows machines top 8 hours easily, and of course the Air blasted up to 14 hours on the same test.

You might find a way to live with 5 hours of battery life, but at this price and at this point in 2013, you shouldn't have to.

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)

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

Samsung has newer Book 9 variants (the Plus and Lite) coming at some point. I'd wait for those. At the very least, hold out for a next-gen processor upgrade so the battery life will be better. And, I'd consider waiting for a version with a touch screen.

As it is, the Ativ Book 9 is still a very good laptop; but it's also one that's slightly out-of-date. That form needs to be matched by something better under the hood.

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.

System configurations:

Samsung Ativ Book 9 (13-inch, 2013)
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 2GHz Intel Core i7-3527U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4000; 256GB SSD

Samsung Series 9 NP900X3C (13-inch, 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB SanDisk SSD

MacBook Air (13-inch June 2013)
OSX 10.8.4 Mountain Lion; 1.3GHz Intel Core i5-4240U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,024MB (Shared) Intel HD Graphics 4000; 128GB Apple SSD

Sony Vaio Pro 13
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 1,659MB (Shared) Intel HD Graphics 4400; 128GB Samsung SSD

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

Samsung Series 9 NP900X3A
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-2537M; 4,096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB(Dedicated) Intel GMA HD; 128GB Samsung SSD