Like the tablet market, Apple's dominance of the thin and light notebook segment has been an unassailable fortress. Until now.
Though Apple didn't invent the thin and light market, it did change it from a hugely expensive and slow as treacle ‘executive’ product segment to something that humans would probably like to use.
And then it stagnated.
Since the launch of the Air in 2008, a few companies have had a half-hearted stab at making a vanishingly small, but still pleasant to use, notebook. Some made the thinnest, and some made the lightest, but nobody seems to make one that’s worth buying. The whole industry got sidetracked by netbooks, and everyone even forgot about the Air until the late 2010 models emerged (improved upon themselves a couple of weeks back).
This time, however, Samsung has stepped into the ring with the Series 9. The Series 9 is in the thin and light product segment, but packs in enough power under its 13.1in screen to still get your work done. But where it seems to matter most is in its measurements; the Samsung Series 9 is 16.3mm thick from the back and 1.31kg soaking wet.
We'll get to what's inside in a second, but the exterior is worth talking about. It's built from ‘duralumin’, an aluminium alloy commonly used in the aviation industry. It's stronger than aluminium and still light. The Series 9's screen is a crisp and clear (and matte, which is refreshing) 1,366 x 768 ‘SuperBright’ Samsung screen using LED backlighting. It's a pleasure to look at, but we can't help at being disappointed at the relatively low resolution. Other 13.3in notebooks fit a 1,440 x 900 screen, which would have made this model just a little bit more useful.
The keyboard is a mixed bag, with the keys being lovely – a soft touch with a quiet but satisfying click. It's great to type on. Unfortunately there's a considerable amount of flex in the keyboard surround, with the whole top of the unit seeming to sponge down into the centre with a moderate amount of pressure. We're sure it's catered for; but it does feel a little like you're going to press two important pieces of electrical equipment into a brief but final embrace.
Inside the outside, the Samsung Series 9 sports some of the very latest and greatest in notebook guts. The unit is powered by a 1.4GHz Intel Core i5 2537M processor, which feels a lot snappier than it appears on paper. It's paired with 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 128GB Samsung SSD. The combination is distinctly snappy – and it puts many other notebooks we've tested to shame.
Thin and light models are often defined by what they don’t
have, and the Samsung keeps that list short. There’s one USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 port, a micro HDMI output, audio in and out and a microSD slot (but we're not too sure who would actually use it). There's provision for Ethernet, but it's a dongle with an unfamiliar connector, which is always a great disappointment for when you inevitably lose the dongle and have to replace it. Throwing in a USB Ethernet adaptor and another USB port would have been infinitely preferable. Battery life on this unit is excellent. Considering its tiny size, the unit squeezes in a six-cell battery, which we clocked at around 3.5 hours of actual usage.
Though it sounds like there are more downsides than upsides in this review, we've come at it at a particularly harsh angle. It's definitely not perfect, but it's so much better than many thin and light notebooks out there. What it does have going for it, it does brilliantly. It's supremely fast for its category. Its industrial design would make a tech enthusiast blush, and it is undeniably the thinnest and lightest and most usable thin and light we've seen. It's a premium product and it feels like a premium product. Available from Samsung, retailing for $2,499.APC rating: 8/10 (Highly Recommended)