Samsung Notebook 9 Pro (15-inch) review: A pro-level laptop without the pro-level price

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The Good A great set of features for a reasonable price. The included stylus fits into a handy custom slot on the body, and its basic graphics card can handle light gaming.

The Bad It's heavier than many other 15-inch laptops, the body can get hot and the power button is awkwardly placed. Battery life and audio are both underwhelming.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Notebook 9 Pro has a few design quirks, but is packed with features for a surprisingly modest price.

8.1 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 7

Anyone thinking of getting into the laptop business should consider one piece of advice. Take at least one product in your lineup and call it the Pro model.

It's an idea that's worked well for years. Apple has the MacBook Pro, which helped define the "pro" computer. Microsoft has the Surface Pro, which remains the king of the tablet PCs, and now Samsung has a higher-end version of it's excellent Notebook 9 series, called the Notebook 9 Pro.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

Samsung's Pro version of the Notebook 9 is feature-packed.

Sarah Tew/CNET

We recently reviewed the 15-inch non-Pro version of the Notebook 9, and in truth those two models are very similar. Both cost around the same, within $100 or so, both combine Intel Core i7 processors with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage. Both have decent 1,920x1,080-pixel displays (although one could argue a 15-inch premium laptop deserves a higher screen resolution), and both include low-end discrete graphics. The Notebook 9 has an Nvidia 940MX, while the Notebook 9 Pro has an AMD Radeon 540.

The biggest differences are that the non-Pro model is much lighter (2.6 pounds or 1.1 kilogram vs. 4.8 pounds or 2.1kg), and the Pro version has a touch display, a 360-degree hinge for folding the screen back into tablet mode and a built-in stylus. For $1,299, that's a pretty feature-packed laptop. Samsung doesn't currently offer its Windows laptops in the UK or Australia, but that works out to around £1,075 or AU$1,765.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

The Pro laptop is slightly heavier than its non-Pro sibling.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

Price as reviewed $1,299
Display size/resolution 15-inch 1,920x1,080-pixel touch-display
PC CPU 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-7500U
PC Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics 2048MB AMD Radeon 540 Graphics
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.1
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

A slimmer stylus

The stylus is the same S-Pen model found in Samsung's phones and tablets. It's shorter and slimmer than some of the pen tools used by other PC makers, but it also slips right into a slot on the front lip of the laptop. 

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

The laptop includes the same S-Pen found in some Samsung phones.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When you pull it out, an on-screen memo of Samsung inking tools pops up. Microsoft's Surface products, in contrast, clip the stylus into the side of the display, which is not as secure or as easy to fit into a slim laptop bag. 

The S-Pen is passive, so it's not going to be as full-featured the Apple Pencil or Microsoft Pen, but for note-taking and sketching, I liked it. One big advantage of a passive stylus is that you never have to worry about whether it's charged up or has batteries.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

Pull out the stylus and a menu of pen-friendly options appear.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Of course, the most common user interface tools you'll probably use are the touchpad and keyboard. The keyboard design here skips a separate numberpad (still found on many 15-inch laptops), but leaves extra space for the arrow keys and a separate column for page-up, page-down and other navigation keys. The touchpad is large, but not a big as on the 15-inch MacBook Pro. 

Faster, hotter

Performance in our benchmarks showed a step up from the non-Pro 15-inch Notebook 9, which bodes well for professional use. But it still doesn't keep up with the best-known "Pro" laptop, the MacBook Pro, which turned in faster scores. Keep in mind that  Apple's latest 15-inch Pro model costs at least $1,000 more.