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Samsung Series 9 (NP900X3A) review

David Ludlow
15 Apr 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,299
inc VAT

A great example of how Intel's new processors let manufacturers build powerful and slim laptops, but it's expensive and not quite as well built as the MacBook Air.

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Specifications

13.3 in 1,366x768 display, 1.3kg, 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-2537M, 4.00GB RAM, 128GB disk, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit

Intel’s new Sandy Bridge processors aren’t just faster than the previous generation, they’re also more power efficient. For a laptop the main benefit this gives is less heat, allowing thinner and lighter designs. The Samsung Series 9 laptop is the first laptop we’ve seen to use a low-voltage 2nd Generation Intel Core i processor and the result is a 13.3in laptop that weighs just 1.3kg.

Comparisons with the MacBook Air are inevitable and it’s clearly the laptop that Samsung has its sights on with this model. In terms of power, there’s no competition really. While the MacBook Air uses a Core 2 Duo processor, the Series 9 has a 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-2573M and 4GB of RAM. As we’ve recently changed benchmarks, we don’t have the latest performance results for the 13.3in model, but the similar 11in model is around 50 per cent slower overall.

The Series 9 scored 31 overall in our new benchmarks, which means that it’s a fair bit slower than a desktop processor. However, this is because it has a relatively slow clock speed and a laptop like this is designed for its portability rather than full-on performance. Standard desktop tasks and Windows feel very smooth on it and less intensive tasks, such as photo editing will run quickly, as our image editing score of 57 shows.

Samsung Series 9 front

Part of the reason that the Core i5 can be squeezed into such a slim case is because it has the Intel HD Graphics chip integrated into the processor die. This combination requires less power and cooling. While this chip will decode HD video, games are out of the question on this laptop, with it scoring just 4fps in our CoD4 test; reducing the screen resolution to 800x600 and turning off AA didn’t have much impact and the Series 9 limped through it at just 11fps.

Beyond performance, comparisons to the MacBook Air will certainly be made in terms of looks. Here Apple has the slight edge. Its sleek case made entirely from aluminium and is marginally thinner, although it is ever-so-slightly heavier. While the lid and lower chassis are metal on the Series 9, the screen bezel and keyboard surround are both plastic. All parts of the case are wicked fingerprint magnets, so you’ll want to carry a cloth around to make sure you give it the occasional wipe down.

That’s not to say that the Series 9 isn’t an attractive laptop. It’s sleek and curved, while remaining impressively thin. It will slip easily into any bag and you’ll barely even notice that you’re carrying it around. This really is what an ultra-portable laptop should be like.