Samsung raises design bar with Series 9 laptop (just don't call it an 'ultrabook')

What a difference a year makes. Ultrabooks are lurking around every corner, and the Series 9 is back to reclaim the mantle of the hottest-looking superslim laptop.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
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Dan Ackerman
2 min read
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One of last year's most head-turning laptops, the Samsung Series 9, is back, with an even slimmer, sleeker look.

Just one year ago, at CES 2011, the term "ultrabook" was never uttered. Instead, we saw a handful of very thin Windows laptops looking to duplicate the aesthetic and commercial appeal of Apple's MacBook Air, but without the help of a new category name (or R&D fund) from Intel. Of those, the most eye-catching was the Samsung Series 9, a 13-inch thin laptop that had a lightweight duralumin case. At the time, we said it was as close to a MacBook Air as Windows users were likely to get.

Samsung's second generation Series 9 (photos)

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What a difference a year makes. Now, ultrabooks are lurking around every corner, and the Series 9 is back to reclaim the mantle of the hottest-looking superslim laptop. The original Series 9 fell a bit short on a few fronts--its trackpad wasn't as good as a MacBook, it didn't boot or resume as quickly as we had hoped, and the original price, around $1,650, was way out of line with what consumers were looking to spend.

This new second-generation Series 9 is even smaller. Samsung says it's 37 percent thinner and 0.4 pound lighter, and after playing around with a preproduction unit, the new body feels more like Apple's unibody style. The curved design of the original has been toned down a bit, so it doesn't look quite as exotic. Note that Samsung calls the system ultraslim, but never uses Intel's official ultrabook terminology.

More important, is the new 1,600x900-pixel resolution display, which will be available in both 13.3- and 15.6-inch models (the original Series 9 came in 13-inch and 11-inch variants). Samsung says the 15-inch version is squeezed into the equivalent of a 14-inch laptop chassis, making it the "world's thinnest and most compact 15-inch premium notebook."

Unlike some ultrabooks that have been announced but are waiting on some combination of next-gen Intel CPUs and Windows 8, the new Series 9 systems will be available starting February 27, using the current line of Intel Core i-series processors. The 13-inch Series 9 NP900X3B-A01US will be $1,399, while the 15-inch NP900X4B-A02US will be $1,499. These are still premium prices for non-Apple laptops, and with increased competition from $799 ultrabooks, the new Series 9 may still be deemed too expensive by the laptop-buying public.