A fast and sleek notebook with power to match.
Screen, keyboard & audio
Despite being 13”, the screen packs in a nice 1600×900 resolution, which is a welcome change. Samsung have used a matte screen as well, so the laptop won’t reflect light that much when used indoors or outdoors. Colors however can appear a bit washed out at times, and though there’s little reflection the viewing angles aren’t that great, with colors appearing dull if you’re not directly facing the screen. Given the price tag for this laptop, you would hope that there might have been a little more effort on the screen, but sadly it isn’t so.
The keyboard on the Series 9 gets a mixed score. On the good side the keys are properly spaced and quite comfortable to type on, and there’s also a backlight that comes on automatically when required. On the other hand, the keys don’t seem to offer the right amount of feedback, which for me is important when speed-typing. I’ve been typing out this review on the Series 9, and I’ve found that the keyboard did slow me down at times because I wasn’t sure if I had hit the correct key or not. The Function keys at the top toggle various settings such as screen brightness, audio and activating Wi-fi or the notebook’s ‘Silent Mode’. Thankfully there’s a Function Lock key so you don’t have to hold down the Fn key to activate any of them.
The trackpad on the Series 9 is fairly spacious and effortless to use. In addition to two-finger scrolling and zoom, you can also swipe with three fingers to navigate between open applications, or four fingers to minimize windows or bring up the Aero interface. There are a few hiccups if you use two hands on the trackpad as the cursor did tend to jump a little bit, but overall the touchpad experience was satisfactory.
Audio on the Series 9 was probably some of the worst I’ve heard, and this is purely down to the absurd location of the speakers. Firstly, they’re under the sides of the laptop, and secondly they’re pointing downwards. So any sound that comes from them is screechy and bass is almost nonexistent. Yes the speakers are loud, but why would you want to turn up the volume when the sound quality is so poor?
Battery life & heat levels
Samsung says that their 13” model squeezes out 7.3 hours of usage, and in my tests I was able to get about 7.1 hours of usage before the laptop completely died. That’s not half bad at all, considering that in a real-world scenario I would have at least one opportunity to plug in my notebook for a short charge at some point in the day. Core temperatures remained at the 44-49C mark for basic tasks, but when I fired up Diablo III on a mix of medium and low settings, the notebook got incredibly hot at the base as well as on the keys itself, with the internal temperature registering around 82C with the once quiet fans kicking into high gear almost continuously. Clearly anything remotely taxing on this machine is going to cause you problems, so be aware of this.
The Samsung Series 9 is a bold move by the company, and the range certainly turns heads with its slim design and mostly quiet operation. But underneath all of that finesse lies a few gaping omissions, such as the absurd use of dongles, average screen, dismal speakers, and a keyboard that will take a while to get used to. While it does provide better than average performance and delivers on its promised battery life, it seems that the Series 9 still has a little bit further to go before it can really make a lasting impression.