Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite review
Stunning battery life and an extremely attractive design, but its slow processing power and lacklustre screen disappoint
Review Date: 11 Sep 2013
Price when reviewed: £489
Reviewed By: Katharine Byrne
The super-slim chassis of the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite is exceptionally pretty, and given our enthusiasm for the hugely impressive and award-winning Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus, we were keen to see whether this cut-price version could set a new standard for £500 laptops.
The Lite’s slightly thicker and heavier than the Ativ Book 9 Plus, but even its slender height of 17mm and featherweight 1.4kg are still very competitive by ultraportable laptop standards. It even has the same exceptional build quality from its more expensive counterpart, although its entire chassis is made of plastic rather than brushed aluminium. We found hardly any flex in the main body and its tapered sides made it look anything but budget.
With such a thin chassis, there’s little space for connection ports, but the Lite makes good use of the available space. There are two USB ports, one of which is USB3, a micro HDMI output, an SD card reader, a combined headphone and microphone jack and two ports for its mini VGA and Gigabit Ethernet adaptors. Its speakers are surpsingly good for its size, and output more bass than we expected.
ONLY SKIN DEEP
In terms of components, the Ativ Book 9 Lite bears little resemblance to the Ativ Book 9 Plus. This is to be expected with a cut-price laptop, but it’s a shame the Lite has lost so much of what made the Plus so special. Its standard 1,366x768 resolution is a far cry from the Plus’s gorgeous 3,200x1,800 touchscreen display.
The Lite’s image quality was also disappointing. Our solid reds, greens and blues all looked a little washed out and they lacked the depth and vibrancy we’d normally expect to see from a glossy screen. Whites were also a little grey and our blacks revealed that the bottom half of the screen was much lighter than the top. We were able to get a uniform colour depending on how we angled the screen, but it was disappointing nonetheless.
Luckily, its contrast levels were a little better. Colours still lacked warmth, but we were able to see a good level of detail in all our high contrast test photos. This was highly dependent on where we angled the screen, though, and its narrow viewing angles meant there was only a very small sweet spot where images looked satisfactory.
LITE ON POWER
The Lite’s underlying hardware also left a lot to be desired, even for a budget laptop. Samsung’s been vague on the exact type of processor the Ativ Book 9 Lite uses, but we suspect it’s an AMD A6-1450. However, it scored just 20 in our multimedia benchmarks despite having four cores and a clock speed that can dynamically rise to 1.4GHz. This is roughly 10 points behind a dual-core Intel Core i3-based ultraportable such as the Asus Vivobook S200E. This is fine for web browsing and writing MS Word documents, but it’ll struggle with anything more demanding like encoding images or video files.
Unsurprisingly, 3D games are another weak point, as the A6-1450’s built-in AMD Radeon HD 8250 graphics processor failed to produce 15fps in our Dirt Showdown test with High quality graphics at a resolution of 1,280x720. It managed a slightly steadier 19.4fps when we set the quality to Low and disabled anti-aliasing at a resolution of 1,280x720, but this frame rate still isn’t fast enough to play modern 3D titles. You should be fine with 2D Flash games from the Windows 8 Store, though, as we could play games such as Jetpack Joyride without issue.
This is a shame, as we found the Lite to be an absolute joy during everyday use. Its springy keyboard gave plenty of tactile feedback while we were typing and its keys had a lot more travel than other ultraportable laptops we’ve tested. The all-in-one touchpad was also very accurate and responsive, and we could execute multitouch gestures and use Windows 8 shortcuts easily.
Its battery life was outstanding. With the screen set to half brightness, we managed a huge 7 hours and 20 minutes in our light use test, so you should just be able to get a full day’s work out of it if you’re on the move. This would be a great score for any ultraportable, but it’s easily the best battery life we’ve seen on a laptop of this price.
The Ativ Book 9 Lite also supports Samsung’s SideSync and HomeSync Lite applications. You’ll need a compatible Samsung smartphone or tablet to make use of them, but HomeSync Lite lets you share media with a Samsung mobile device as long as you’re connected to the internet and have the Samsung Link app, while SideSync lets you use your keyboard and mouse to control your phone or mirror your phone’s display on your laptop screen.
The Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite is certainly one of the best-looking ultraportables around regardless of price, but even its brilliant battery life can’t offset its sluggish processing power and average display. If all you need is a cheap touchscreen laptop, the faster award-winning Asus VivoBook S200 is a much better buy.
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