Samsung’s Series 9 laptop isn’t the first Windows-bearing PC to try to steal Apple’s MacBook Air limelight. Remember the troubled Adamo from Dell, set to compete with the first-generation Air? At less than three pounds and 0.7 inch thick, the Series 9 is trying again where Dell slipped up the first time. While the Adamo offered inferior hardware at a dramatically higher price than Apple, Samsung at least gets the hardware part right, and narrows the price gap a little. The Series 9 is costlier than the competing 13-inch MacBook Air with a starting price of $1649 (compared with Apple’s $1299), but it offers mostly superior hardware and is eminently usable.
The biggest advantage that Samsung’s slim wonder has over the Air is in the processor. Apple is still using a two-generations-old Core 2 Duo, while the Series 9 comes equipped with a new “Sandy Bridge” Core i5 2537M. So, while the default clock speed of the Air is 1.86GHz (with a 2.13GHz option available), and the ultralow-voltage CPU in the Series 9 is only 1.4GHz, the Samsung laptop is actually a bit faster. Some of this is due to architectural differences between the old Intel chip and the new one, and some of it is because the Core i5 2537M allows for Turbo Mode speeds up to 2.3GHz. The difference is not astounding, but it’s noticeable: The Series 9 earned a WorldBench score of 103, while the 13-inch MacBook Air scored 90. Also note that while Apple gives you 2GB of RAM, Samsung includes 4GB.
Battery life is quite decent for a laptop this thin. It lasted 5.5 hours in our battery run-down tests, which isn’t quite as long as most netbooks but is on a par with many thicker, heavier ultraportables. That time is also about half an hour longer than the 13-inch MacBook Air. The Series 9 comes standard with a 128GB SSD, just as the Air does, and this really helps the system to feel responsive and quick, to boot up fast, and to resume Windows, when you open the lid, in less than three seconds. The Series 9 falls a bit short when it comes to 3D gaming, relying on Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 to push pixels. There’s a huge improvement over previous Intel integrated graphics, but it’s still not powerful enough to run the latest games without severely compromising visual quality. Older games, and simple casual games, work great. Performance is actually quite similar to the integrated Nvidia GeForce 320M found in the MacBook Air. Intel’s new integrated graphics does a great job with video decoding, so even hi-def material plays smoothly.
- Brilliant antiglare screen
- Superslim rigid metal body
- High starting price
- Touchy clickpad
If you can afford it, Samsung’s high-style superthin laptop will make you the envy of your friends with bulky PCs.