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Samsung Notebook 9 Pro (13-inch, 2019) review: A fine premium 2-in-1 in need of some personality

The redesigned premium 13.3-inch two-in-one is a bit uninspired, but its battery life and performance don't disappoint.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

Senior Editor / Reviews

Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering laptops and the occasional action cam or drone and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.

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4 min read

The 2019 Samsung Notebook 9 Pro is perfectly fine. 

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Samsung Notebook 9 Pro (13-inch, 2019)

The Good

The 2019 Samsung Notebook 9 Pro is a slim, lightweight two-in-one with extra-long battery life and strong performance for its size. Samsung includes a good active pen as well as a few software extras that add to the overall package.

The Bad

The updated design doesn't improve use. There's no place to store its pen and it requires an AAAA-size battery. The fingerprint reader placement makes it slightly awkward to use.

The Bottom Line

Samsung's redesigned Notebook 9 Pro hits all the things you'd expect from a premium ultraportable two-in-one in 2019. Just don't buy into the design hype.

At 2.8 pounds (1.3 kg), the 13.3-inch ultraportable two-in-one is one of the lightest in the category and it's thin at just 0.5 inch (14 mm) thick. Its battery lasted more than 12 hours, performance is right where it should be and its metal chassis gives it a premium look and feel. And, with a $1,100 price, you're not overpaying for what you're getting, either. 

Still, there's something missing. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET

When Samsung first told us about the Notebook 9 Pro redesign at CES 2019, it kept hammering on how much work it put into the design. It had conducted a US-specific design study that influenced its choices on things like bezel design, profile taper and corner radii. That's exactly how it feels, too: A laptop designed by questionnaire and lacking any sort of personality. 

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro (2019)

Price as reviewed $1,099
Display size/resolution 13.3-inch 1,920 x 1,080 touch display
CPU 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U
PC Memory 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics 128MB Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless; Bluetooth 5.0
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Form pulls ahead of function

Falling short of marketing hype happens, of course. (Just ask Apple how things are going these days.) The Notebook 9 Pro doesn't have any major issues caused by the design, but the design doesn't noticeably improve use, either.  

For instance, Samsung used a full-size active pen instead of its compact and debatably more useful S Pen. The S Pen stores in the body of Samsung's other laptops including the new Notebook 9 Pen and never needs to be charged. The Pro's pen has no garage or holder and requires the unusual AAAA-size battery. The Pro's pen also lacks all of the S Pen's Air Command features that give it an edge over other pen-enabled two-in-ones. 

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The Notebook 9 Pro's diamond-cut edges are its main distinctive design touch. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Also sacrificed to the design gods are ports. The Pro has three USB-C ports (two are Thunderbolt 3), a microSD card slot and a headphone/mic combo jack. That's certainly not unusual for premium ultraportables these days, but it does mean you'll be carrying around adapters. The Pro can charge through all of the USB-C ports, however. Not that you'd know it was charging with the lid closed, though, since there are no indicator lights on the outside at all.  

With the keyboard, Samsung enlarged the key caps and reduced spacing between them to improve the typing experience and appearance. There is not much travel to the keys, however, which doesn't help the experience at all. 

The slim power button on the laptop's right side is also a fingerprint reader. Nearly flush with the body, it's tricky to use with the laptop sitting on a desk and I frequently had to swipe it a few times to get it to register. Maybe slender fingers work better, but it might have been best to place it up on the keyboard deck. 

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The Pro's power button doubles as a fingerprint reader. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The full-HD touchscreen is bright at 350 nits, though you'll still be fighting reflections outdoors or under office lights. Color performance is good and Samsung said its gamut is 72 percent NTSC, which is roughly 100 percent sRGB. The display bezels are thin on the top and sides, but it does have a chin if that's something that bothers you. 

Although I'm disappointed to not have an S Pen, the active pen worked well. You might see a little jitter, but drawing with Autodesk's SketchBook app was generally good as was writing in the preinstalled Nebo handwriting recognition software (a 90-day trial is included). 

Samsung also includes a voice recorder that lets you add handwritten bookmarks along the way as well as non-pen apps for video editing and security. You can even set it up to take a photo with the webcam and email it to you if someone tries to log in with the wrong password. 

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro gets edgy for 2019

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Hard worker

Samsung is looking to attract creatives and creators with the Notebook 9 Pro. Depending on what you're creating, though, this may not have the power you need. Like others in its class, the components are geared for average home and office uses like word processing, web browsing and email, but with enough muscle to push through more demanding work assuming it's not too graphics intensive. 

It won't get bogged down if you have a dozen tabs open in Google Chrome with some other applications running in the background. Streaming video and music are no problem either. And it'll handle casual photo and video editing without choking, though for large, high-resolution images and video, you'll want something with discrete graphics

Unlike LG's unrealistic 21-hour battery life for its Gram two-in-one, Samsung's 14.7-hour claim is actually fairly close to what we got in our tests. The Notebook 9 Pro ran for 12 hours, 30 minutes on CNET's streaming video test. That's only 5 minutes shy of the LG's runtime and 4 minutes more than Lenovo's Yoga C930

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Sarah Tew/CNET

More sterile than stunning

Like I said from the start, the 2019 Samsung Notebook 9 Pro is perfectly fine. There are a bunch of little things about the design that distract from the overall package instead of improving it. And because Samsung spent so much time talking up the redesign, it makes those little things stand out more. 

Fortunately, performance and battery life are both excellent. Also, while the design isn't perfect, the Pro is light and small making it a good pick for a daily commuter or student. If you don't care about any of the other stuff I mentioned with the design, the Pro is worth checking out. 

Geekbench 4 (multicore)

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15,050LG Gram 14 2-in-1 14,392Lenovo Yoga C930 13,978Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 7,870
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

Lenovo Yoga C930 635Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 520LG Gram 14 2-in-1 509Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 253
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (streaming minutes)

LG Gram 14 2-in-1 755Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 750Lenovo Yoga C930 746Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) 646
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
LG Gram 14 2-in-1 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,400MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga C930 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U; 12GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 256GB SSD
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2018) Apple MacOS Mojave 10.14; 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8210Y; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 1,536MB Intel UHD Graphics 617; 256GB SSD
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Samsung Notebook 9 Pro (13-inch, 2019)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8Battery 9