If you like the idea of MacBook Air-style portability but you refuse to use a machine smaller than 15 inches, Samsung has a solution.
Last year, Samsung’s Series 9 laptop was one of the only Windows notebooks that really gave the MacBook Air a run for its money. In 2012, Apple’s dogged Korean rival is back for round two, launching a second-generation Series 9 with a faster processor, bigger screens (13-inch and 15-inch) and skinnier profiles.
We went hands-on with the Series 9 at Samsung’s Regional Forum 2012, and the first thing that struck us was how light the 15-inch model is. We’re used to seeing thin-and-light notebooks with 13-inch or smaller displays, but 15-inch is uncharted territory. Samsung claims it was able to squeeze a 15-inch display into the chassis of a 14-inch notebook using its new “MaxScreen” technology.
At 1.65kg, the Series 9 is the world’s lightest 15-inch laptop; it’s so light that we’d easily mistake it for one of those fake display notebooks in Ikea. It’s also extremely slim, measuring only 14.9mm with the lid closed. By comparison, the 13-inch MacBook Air is 17mm. Even the screen looks fake due to the deep colours and wide viewing angles; it has a 1,600 x 1,200-pixel resolution, with 400 nits of brightness and 170 degrees of visibility from either side.
But let’s set aside for a minute the game of world records that laptop manufacturers love to play when launching new products -- as none of it really means anything in a practical sense. Yes, the Samsung Series 9 is the world’s lightest 15-inch laptop, but this is only significant once you take into account its powerful Core i7 processor and camel-like 10-hour battery life.
What you have, then, is the world’s first real no-compromise ultra-portable desktop replacement. The only other laptop that comes close is the recently-released HP Envy 14 Spectre, but even this otherwise-impressive machine doesn’t measure up, as it has a smaller 14-inch display, is slightly thicker and heavier, and has an hour less of advertised battery life.
It’s no wonder that Samsung has really toned down the bling of the Series 9 compared to the first-gen models - a move that convinces users to take it seriously as a “proper” computer. The glossy coating that covered the lid, keyboard, palm rest and display has been replaced with an all-over matte finish that Samsung says uses a “sand-blasted surface” to prevent fingerprint residue.
You could go so far as to call the Series 9 a plain machine, but we actually prefer the understated design to its predecessor’s flashy, in-your-face aesthetic. There’s just a hint of ‘fun’ to its appearance with the chrome edging all the way around. Other than that, its simplicity actually reminded us of Apple’s original black MacBook (albeit as a much skinnier version) – a comparison that’s echoed in the Series 9’s oversized trackpad.
Really, the only complaint we have with the Series 9 is that it’s so super-skinny that there’s literally no room to fit many ports and slots in. Obviously an optical drive is out of the question (a rarity in the 15-inch form factor), and there are just the two USB ports (one USB 2.0, the other USB 3.0) and a micro-HDMI port, along with a proprietary port that you use for connecting an Ethernet dongle. At least Samsung has upgraded the microSD card slot from the first-gen Series 9 to a proper, full-sized SD card slot – the previous design meant you couldn’t slot in a memory card directly from a digital camera.
Samsung is yet to announce local pricing for the 15-inch Series 9, however it’s listed on the Samsung US web site for US$1,499, and is expected to go on sale in Australia in Q2. Jenneth Orantia travelled to the Samsung Regional Forum 2012 as a guest of Samsung Electronics Australia.