After the MacBook Air, came the Intel Ultrabook, and now Samsung have let us have their vision on high end portables in the new refreshed series 9.

The first Samsung Series 9 laptops were released in mid-2011 and their follow-up, the new Series 9 have just hit the market. The new Series 9 (It actually says so on the case of the laptop, just in case you were wondering how you would know), is available in a 13” and 15” form factor and both are super slim, super light, and are made from high end materials, complete with really good fit and finish.

All the specs of the 15”  that we got to play with are right up to date. A latest generation Intel Core i5 low power processor, integrated Intel 4000 graphics, 4GB of Ram, and a 128BG Solid state disk, keep the Series 9 competitive will all the current Ultrabook and high end laptops currently on the market. USB 3 and a fair amount of connectors are standard, though adaptors for VGA and Ethernet will be needed. An Ethernet adaptor is included but a VGA adaptor to utilise external displays is an optional extra.

Samsung have also included a bright and sharp display with a very useful 1600 X 900 resolution. One element of this display that I loved, was that it was matt and anti-reflective, in other words not shiny and bright, a must in brightly lit offices. There is also a backlit keyboard which adjusts to ambient lighting conditions. The overall weight and dimensions are also cutting edge, with the Series 9 15” weighing in at an easily portable 1.58 Kg and its slim dimensions of  356.9 x237 x14.9 mm will slip into most standard 13” cases and carry bags.

The specs alone make this series 9 the slimmest 15” notebook I have played with, but what differentiates the Samsung from other notebooks on the market, is the slick smooth and unusual styling. Samsung may have decided, for whatever reason, not to use the Ultrabook name, but this series 9 ticks all the Ultrabook boxes, and does so in a stylish and good looking way. There is no evidence of shiny plastic bits. The Series 9 feels hewn from top notch materials, and this extends to the screen, keyboard, and overall fit and finish, all of which are top notch. The result of this attention to detail is a sexy and understated product that oozes tasteful quality. The look and feel of the Samsung Series 9 is right up there with the current market leader in this regard, the Apple MacBook Air.

The Series 9 comes preinstalled with Windows 7, which is to be replaced by Windows 8 in October, more on this later, boots really quickly and once logged in presents a clean and usefully Samsung enhanced experience. Samsung have resisted the bloat ware and unnecessary enhancements many have foisted on Windows, and the result is a clean almost vanilla Windows 7 experience.

The first, and in my opinion most important part of any laptop is the touchpad and the keyboard. The keyboard is backlit and is of the now fairly standard chicklet style. This is where the first compromise was felt. Overall the keyboard felt dead and lacked a clean tactile feel. This is most probably due to the super thin profile, but it did make touch typing and fast input a little difficult. The keys were well spaced and nicely contoured but often failed to register input, and as a result I had to keep using the backspace key to correct my typing. It’s not a huge issue and is better than some other Ultrabooks but it is a factor if writing is a big part of your day.

The track pad or touchpad is a huge one with lots of room for moving about and includes full multi touch once all the latest Samsung drivers were installed. The precision of the touchpad improved with the software updates, and overall it was a good and easy to use interface. The one issue I did find is that depending on where you were on the touchpad it often mistook a left click for a right one and the other way round, annoying, but I did get used to it. Perhaps this is a driver issue and will improve with time. The track pad is good but not nearly in the league of those included with Apple’s laptops.

The display was another matter altogether, large, bright, matt and sharp, there was very little to not like. The resolution was well suited to the 15” form factor, and overall was an excellent choice. One small issue I detected is that it is quite directional, tilting the screen backwards and forwards resulted in big changes to the perceived brightness and colour.

The other stand out feature of this Series 9 was the battery life, I managed a full day’s work without recharging and in occasional use almost forgot that I needed to charge. Samsung claim around 7 hours of battery life and I can confirm that that was easily achievable depending of course on what you are up to. Let’s just say that this is one laptop you won’t have to worry about running out of juice on with a normal days use.

I did install Windows 8 release version on the Series 9 as many will want to do so when it releases. All the basic functionality was there but the lack of Samsung specific drivers was a real challenge. Most of the Windows 7 drivers worked, but the Series 9 lost overall polish. The track pad become every difficult to use and the Wireless performance dropped enormously. Boot speed and overall snappiness was far better though. My advice is to wait for Samsung to release Windows 8 for your Series 9 before you upgrade.

Overall, The Samsung Series 9 was a great device. What held it back from becoming my reference laptop was the keyboard and to a lesser extent the touchpad. The keyboard appears to be a physical compromise and the touch pad could possibly be smoothed out via software updates. The challenge is that these two are the main ways in which you interact with the Samsung Series 9 and they are not up the standard of the best of the competition or the rest of the quality of Series 9 device.

The Samsung Series 9 is in many ways an outstanding device, even taking its high price into account. The overall build quality, along with the latest technology, and with a design that is cutting edge and pleasing, make the Samsung Series 9 a great laptop. The compromises on the keyboard and track pad may reduce your overall satisfaction, but none the less, this is a contender for one of the best super slim 15” laptops currently on the market. My suggestion is to try one and see if it suites your needs.

Steven Ambrose

For more info and all the specs see http://goo.gl/D3tvo

Steven Ambrose – Executive Editor, CEO of the technology and strategy consulting firm Strategy Worx and a major gadget geek. A chartered accountant by training Steven sports a history spanning from heading statups to divisions of major multinational corporations, he ran and wrote for Gadget.co.za from 2006 to 2010, and now consults on technology and its impact on business as the brainchild and CEO of Strategy Worx. For more immediate comment, views and discussion follow him on Twitter
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