Samsung Series 9 900X3D review
13.3 in 1,600x900 display, 1.1kg, 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-2537M, 4.00GB RAM, 128GB disk, Windows 8
The Samsung Series 9 has always been Samsung’s flagship ultra-portable. Its stunning build quality and super slim dimensions were hugely impressive when we last looked at it last year, but at £1,200, it was also one of the most expensive Ultrabooks around. Now, Samsung has refined the Series 9 once again, but this time it’s slashed the price down to just £830.
On the outside, very little has changed. The 9003X3D has a beautifully thin chassis that’s now even lighter than before, weighing a measly 1.13kg. It’s one of the lightest ultraportables we’ve seen, but its tough aluminium chassis still manages to make it feel robust. The plain silver chassis looks fantastic, too, and it’s easily one of the smartest ultra-portables around.
We wouldn’t expect to see many connections on a laptop this small, but it does better than most ultra-thin laptops with its two USB ports, one of which is USB3, a micro HDMI port, a multi-format card reader and separate headphone and microphone jacks. It also comes with a Gigabit Ethernet adapter.
Cutting nearly £400 off the price has come with some compromises and chief among these is the decision to downgrade its processor to a second generation 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-2537M processor. It can Turbo Boost up to 2.3GHz, but the 900X3D still feels a bit sluggish compared to contemporary ultra-portables, and it showed in our multimedia benchmarks. It scored just 35 overall, which is an average of seven points behind other Core i5 Ultrabooks. Its multi-tasking score in particular was quite slow, and overall it was only marginally faster than a modern Core i3 Ultrabook processor. It’s fine for everyday tasks like word processing and web-browsing, especially with 4GB of RAM, but there are much faster Ultrabooks out there for the same price.
Graphics performance is provided by its integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 chip, but you’ll have to stick to older games or titles off the Windows 8 Store to satisfy your gaming fix as it failed our Dirt Showdown test. We were only able to get a playable 30fps if we set it to Ultra Low Quality settings and disabled anti-aliasing at a 1,280x720 resolution. Such a thin chassis isn’t particularly suited to long periods of gaming, though, as we noticed the whole keyboard becoming quite hot after just fivemof running our benchmarks.
The Series 9 900X3D has shaved off a portion of its battery life, too. Whereas the last Series 9 laptop we tested lasted eight hours in our light use test, the 900X3D only managed 6h 9m under the same conditions with the screen set to half brightness. This is still a respectable length of time to be away from the mains, but this is fast becoming the norm for ultra-portables and it consequently drags the 900X3D further away from its award-winning status.
Thankfully, its keyboard is still superb. Its full-sized keys were bouncy and gave lots of tactile feedback, and we’d happily type on it all day. Its large, smooth all-in-one touchpad was also very responsive. Windows 8 shortcuts worked perfectly and multi-touch gestures like pinch-zooming were incredibly smooth. It doesn’t have any dedicated buttons, but we found it was very accurate while we were navigating through the desktop as well.
The 900X3D’s 13.3in screen was even more impressive. It may not have a Full HD display like the Dell XPS 13, but its 1,600x900 resolution looks stunning on its small display and we were surprised by how rich colours appeared onscreen despite its matt finish. Whites were a little grey, but its blacks were very deep and reds, greens and blues were bright and vibrant. It’s certainly one of the best matt screens we’ve seen, and our high contrast images looked great as well. We saw a high level of detail in all of our test photos and colours retained their vibrancy throughout.
Its integrated speakers were another highlight. There was plenty of bass present in all our test tracks and we would happily listen to music on the 900X3D without connecting any dedicated speakers.
The Samsung Series 9 900X3D is no longer available to buy, so we've updated this review with some alternative laptops you should buy instead.
We've yet to find the definitive Ultrabook - most have too many flaws to make them true Best Buy winners, whether it's the price or screen's image quality - but if you truly want the best ultraportable money can buy, then the newest model of the Samsung Series 9, now known as the Ativ Book 9 Plus, is the laptop to buy.
It's considerably more expensive than the Series 9 9003XD, as it's currently available for £1,419 from eBuyer, but it remains Samsung's best and most beautiful ultraportable.
You can read our full Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus review here, but this laptop is a huge improvement on the 900X3D. The laptop's 3,200x1,800 resolution screen is immensely detailed and its ultra thin chassis measures just 14mm thick when closed. This is even thinner than an Apple MacBook Air, so it's by far one of the slimmest and lightest Ultrabooks currently available.
Samsung's unique scaling settings also overcomes many of the problems we've had with other ultra high resolution laptop screens, as it gives you much more control over the size of text than Windows 8.1's current settings in the Control Panel. Our favourite feature is the ability to render the entire desktop with the same amount of space as a 1,920x1,080 display, which gives you much more room to work in while retaining its beautiful pixel density.
The laptop uses one of Intel's "Haswell" Core i5 processors as well, and its stunning battery life of 11 hours and 17 minutes should ensure you'll through the day on a single charge.
If your budget doesn't stretch that far, though, we'd recommend the superb Apple MacBook Air, currently available for £849 from Apple.