First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
Samsung Notebook Series 9 (NP900X3A-A01AU) ultraportable laptop
Samsung Notebook Series 9 review: A 13.3in ultraportable that you'll fall in love with
- Excellent built quality and design
- Fast SSD
- Excellent screen
- Wi-Fi adapter is not dual-band
- Ambient light sensor is sometimes erratic
- HDMI adapter isn't supplied
The Samsung Series 9 has strong build quality, a sleek design and many great features that make it comfortable to use. It's high price tag definitely makes it a luxury item, but if you want excellent mobility and usability in the same package, it's hard to beat.
Price$ 2,499.00 (AUD)
The Series 9, much like the MacBook Air, has a sealed design, which means that the battery is housed inside the chassis and is not accessible externally. It has a 6-cell battery with a 5900mAh rating and it lasted 3hr 16min in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video. It's not a spectacular time and part of this can be attributed to the screen, which is the brightest we've seen in recent times. When we used the laptop for basic Web browsing and word processing, and with a medium brightness setting, we got just over five hours of battery life out of it.
Samsung supplies a shortcut (Fn-F6) to quickly change the power profile from Performance, to either Balanced or Long Battery Life. You also get the Battery Life Extender utility, which, if enabled, will only charge the battery up to 80 per cent of its capacity. Samsung claims that by not charging the battery to its full capacity, it can undergo more charging cycles without depleting; it can therefore last longer than a battery that would otherwise always be charged to its fullest capacity. The drawback is that you lose a little battery life.
Specifications and performance
Inside the slim confines of the Series 9 chassis resides an Intel Core i5-2537M Sandy Bridge-based CPU. It's an ultra-low voltage CPU that has a frequency of 1.4GHz, two cores and Hyper-Threading. It's not terribly fast, but it doesn't need to be unless you want the Series 9 to be your main computer for everything (and it's not designed for that). Along with 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, a 128GB solid state drive and integrated Intel HD graphics, the Series 9 produced decent results in our tests.
It recorded 1min 19sec in the Blender 3D rendering test and 1min 29sec in the iTunes MP3 encoding test. These results are only a little slower than what a laptop with a full-voltage Intel Core i3 CPU can achieve and what they tell us is that the Series 9 is perfect for most office work and simple media creation tasks. If you want to perform tougher tasks on it, such as video transcoding or editing, then it will be slow — this was shown in the AutoGordianKnot test, which took 1hr 55min to complete. That's about 40min longer than a typical Core i3-based notebook and 65min longer than a high-end Core i7-based notebook.
In 3DMark06, a score of 2394 was reached, which means the notebook is fine for processing photos and videos, but not good when it comes to crunching real-time 3D graphics.
Its solid state drive was very fast in our tests, recording a file transfer speed of 106MB per second (when copying data from one location on the drive to another). The solid state drive's 128MB capacity isn't as high as what Apple offers for its MacBook Air (256MB), but unless you want to carry a library of movies with you at all times, it should be adequate. Apart from its speed, the solid state drive doesn't take up as much space as a mechanical hard drive, and it also allows the Series 9 to run cooler and more quietly. Furthermore, your data isn't as much at risk if you drop or bump the laptop.
Ports and slots
The Series 9 has two concealed port clusters on each side that can be opened and closed. There is a USB port on each side, with the port on the left side also capable of running at USB 3.0 speed. The USB 2.0 port on the right side also supports Chargeable USB, which allows USB devices to be charged even when the laptop is switched off.
Other features include a combination headphone/microphone port, a MicroSD slot, a Micro-HDMI port and a port for a breakout Gigabit Ethernet port. It's a very neat port layout and the biggest components are the USB ports. Photographers might be annoyed that there isn't a full-sized SD card slot, as it means a USB adapter will have to be used. What's also annoying is that a Micro-HDMI to full-sized-HDMI adapter is not supplied in the package.
You also get a 1.3-megapixel webcam, Bluetooth and 802.11n Wi-Fi. We would have liked a better wireless card though; the Broadcom adapter that is used does not support dual-band operation and will only work with 2.4GHz wireless networks.
Overall, the Samsung Series 9 is a superb notebook. If you ever get the chance to use it, you'll probably fall in love with it, and that's because it's so thin and light, yet strong and extremely comfortable to use. It has an excellent screen, a fast solid state drive and its ultra-low voltage Core i5 CPU gives it good performance. We also like the small wall-wart adapter that ships with it, which helps keep the overall weight of the package under 1.5kg when travelling. As far as ultraportable laptops are concerned, it's hard to beat.
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