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Samsung Series 9 review: Samsung Series 9

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The Good Luscious design; excellent performance; great build quality; bright and bold screen; good trackpad.

The Bad Pricey; keyboard makes it a little too easy to make mistakes.

The Bottom Line The new Samsung Series 9 may be on the pricey side, but it draws excellent performance from the latest Intel chip inside the gorgeous, slim body, making it perfect for intense work on the go.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.8 Overall

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When Samsung first released its Series 9 ultra-portable laptop last year, we were blown away by the power it generated from such a slim body. With the rise of the ultrabook though, more and more companies have been able to offer similar products for less money, meaning that when Samsung launched its pricey update earlier this year, I wasn't bowled over.

Not wanting to fade into the shadows, Samsung has ripped out the old processor and replaced it with one of Intel's latest line of Ivy Bridge chips. That's a big wallop of extra power for the same price as the previous model.

At 15 inches, it's bigger than the majority of ultrabooks, but it's still slimmer than most. It might be the ideal travelling companion if you demand a little more oomph from your laptop.

My Series 9 900X4C review model came with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB solid state drive. It can be bought now for £1,200.

Design and build quality

From the outside, you probably wouldn't notice any difference between this generation Series 9 and the previous one. The most important updates are to be found inside the metal shell. That's not necessarily a bad thing though as the Series 9 is an excellent-looking machine.

Samsung Series 9 900X4C lid
The attractive black brushed metal finish of the first-gen Series 9 has been discarded, but the matte blue casing is still a very stylish design.

In my review of the last model, I argued the matte blue finish wasn't as attractive as the brushed black metal of the original Series 9. When I opened the box on this model, I couldn't help but find it monumentally pretty. Sure, it doesn't have the same 'industrial' appeal of the black one, but the blue colour and carved silver edges are equally stylish and mature enough for a table in a posh Mayfair cafe or a meeting room, displaying the quarterly results (just make sure the lines all go up).

Samsung still reckons that the Series 9 isn't an ultrabook -- that title is reserved for its Series 5 laptop. It does tick every box I know to qualify as an ultrabook, so this is probably just because it hasn't been made in collaboration with Intel. Whatever you want to call it, it's extremely slim. It measures only 13mm thick, which is quite a lot slinkier than ultrabooks like HP's Envy 14 Spectre. It weighs around 1.6kg, which is easily light enough to chuck into a bag and haul around town.

Samsung Series 9 900X4C closed front
At just 13mm thick, it's about a third slimmer than the HP Envy 14 Spectre.

Like the previous generation, the new Series 9's whole chassis is carved from aluminium. Pressing down on the lid, you'll find no flex at all, and the same is true of the wrist rest and keyboard tray. This all adds up to a superbly sturdy machine. I'd have no qualms at all about carrying it off on a rough-and-tumble road trip -- although I'd be in constant fear of scuffing that delightful blue colour, so I'd have to invest in some sort of protective sleeve.

Around the edges you'll find three USB 3.0 ports, a micro-HDMI port, an Ethernet socket (with adaptor), an SD card slot (quite awkwardly hidden under a flap), and a combined headphone and microphone jack. Storage wise, you get a 128GB solid state drive, which is faster and more stable than traditional hard drives, resulting in nippy boot times and quicker read and write speeds.

Keyboard and trackpad

Neither the keyboard nor the trackpad have changed much from the previous model. The isolated keys are an inoffensive black, which looks rather neat set into the blue metal tray.

Samsung Series 9 900X4C keyboard
I've used better keyboards than this one -- the keys are a little too responsive and low lying for accurate speed-typing.

They're spaced very evenly across the tray, and this makes for a comfortable typing position. They're still set a little low and are too easy to press for my liking. At the super-speeds I like to type at, my fingers weren't able to differentiate between the keys as accurately as I'd have liked. This resulted in a few more errors than I'd usually make. I have no doubt I'd get used to it, but I've experienced easier keyboards.

The trackpad is much better. Not only is it enormous, it's been given a pleasant matte texture that makes sliding your finger across it extremely easy. There are no separate buttons so all the space is reserved for finger sliding. The whole pad is clickable, which I found to be particularly easy to do, without being so easy as to inadvertently click when swiping.

Few trackpads ever manage to be as pleasant to use as Apple's excellent pads on the MacBook line but this chap on the Series 9 is pretty close. It's also very responsive and, of course, supports those all-important multi-touch gestures.

Samsung Series 9 900X4C trackpad
Almost as good as the gold-standard MacBook trackpad, the large, easy-gliding and clickable pad is a joy to use.

Screen

One of my favourite things about the last generation Series 9 was the screen. It's all too easy for companies to ram the latest components into a sleek-looking shell and pair it with a shoddy display to try to save a few quid, but this isn't what Samsung did. I'm very glad to see it hasn't been tempted to cut corners this time around either.

With a resolution of 1,600x900 pixels, it might not be the highest resolution display around. I'd have liked to have seen a Full HD resolution, especially because its 15 inches is bigger than many ultrabooks. But it's not far off that mark and the display is excellently sharp. If you watched high-definition content side by side with a Full HD display of the same size, I'm not convinced you'd notice much of a difference.

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