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Samsung Notebook 9 (15-inch) review: A slim laptop that plays it safe

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The Good The Samsung Notebook 9 packs a big 15-inch screen into a slim, light body, plus a Core i7 CPU, all at a very attractive price.

The Bad The design is bland, the keyboard is on the shallow side, and the base model has only a lower-res, non-touch display.

The Bottom Line Despite not decisively beating the competition in any one area, the Samsung Notebook 9 comes close across the board, making it a safe, if not exactly exciting choice for a slim 15-inch laptop.

7.9 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 8

One computer design trend I've been enjoying lately is the growing number of laptops that fit big 15-inch screens into relatively thin, light bodies. For many years, a 13-inch laptop, such as the MacBook Air or Dell XPS 13, was as big as you dared go in screen size for a system intended for regular travel. Any bigger than that, and the laptop would inevitably be a 5-pound-plus monster that would weigh down your shoulder bag. We've all seen on-the-go office warriors dragging themselves, slump-shouldered, across the street -- no one wants to be that guy.

The 15-inch Samsung Notebook 9 is a key new example of a bigger screen in a smaller body. For $1,199 in the US, it includes a current-gen Intel Core i7 processor, a big 256GB solid-state hard drive, and 8GB of RAM -- that's a very reasonable price for this semi-premium configuration. (Samsung isn't currently offering this model in the UK or Australia, but that translates to roughly £817 or AU$1,566) At the time of this review, Samsung is offering a $100 discount, bringing this model down to $1,099. The display is a non-touch full HD (1,920x1,080) one, but an extra $300 gets a 4K-resolution touch version.

samsung-notebook-9-15-inch-06.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

This isn't the only slim, powerful 15-inch laptop we've seen lately. Dell has a very upscale-feeling version of the XPS 15, which impresses with its barely there screen bezel. Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro has been around for a few years, and still feels very modern. The lightest in this class is the LG Gram, and the 14-inch version of it we reviewed weighs just 2.16 pounds, while LG says the 15-inch version is 2.2 pounds. The Samsung Notebook 9 weighs more, at 2.8 pounds, a hair less than a 13-inch MacBook Air.

Samsung Notebook 9

Price as reviewed $1,199
Display size/resolution 15.6-inch 1,920 x 1,080 screen
PC CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-6500U
PC memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz
Graphics 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

So, the Samsung Notebook 9 isn't as light at the LG Gram, and it doesn't have the nearly bezel-free edge-to-edge screen of the XPS 15, nor does it have the multitouch trackpad chops of the MacBook (an institutional advantage Apple has held over Windows PCs for years). But, it does have excellent battery life for a 15-inch laptop, second only to the MacBook. It feels sturdy and well-built, and the lower-res 1080p resolution version tested here looks clear, bright and sharp, even from extreme side angles.

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