The original Series 9 that launched back in 2011 was expensive, but it was one of the first Ultrabooks created for Intel and its strikingly slim and stylish design really stood out from the crowd; all Ultrabooks owe their existence and their style to the Apple MacBook Air, and here Samsung got as closer to the template than almost any other Windows brand with its Samsung Series 9. The correct name for this model is actually Samsung NP-900X3D.
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But, of course, slimline Ultrabooks are now commonplace and increasingly affordable, and the Series 9 doesn’t seem to have kept up with the competition. Its design is essentially unchanged and still very attractive.
It’s also surprising that these models are still being sold with second-generation Sandy Bridge processors when fourth-generation Haswell processors are now available, the perfect fit for such models.
The NP-900X3D measures 13.2 mm thick when closed, and weighs a mere 1.2 kg. That makes it one of the lightest 13.3-inch laptops we’ve seen, and you can easily pick it up with one hand and carry it around like an ordinary paper notepad. It’s a shame, though, that the smart, ebony finish of the original version has now been replaced with the more generic silver-grey casing.
The 13.3-inch screen is bright and attractive, with a good viewing angle and – thankfully – a non-reflective matt finish. It’s not full-HD, but the 1600 x 900-pixel resolution works well on a screen of this size. The speakers are quite good too – a little harsh on higher frequencies, but fine for listening to music videos on YouTube.
The keyboard and trackpad are both large and comfortable to use, but the super-slimline design of the Series 9 has led Samsung to use ‘micro’ ports for HDMI and VGA connectivity.
There’s also a proprietary ethernet LAN port with a bundled RJ45 adaptor included in the box. But if you want to connect to an HDMI or VGA display you’ll need to pay about £25 for a suitable adaptor.
What really surprised us was the discovery that – for this entry-level model – Samsung is still using a second-generation Sandy Bridge Intel Core i5-2537M processor.
To be fair, the price has come down by about £200, more if you shop around rather than buy from Samsung’s website, and that processor and accompanying 4 GB of memory is more than enough for web browsing and running Microsoft Office apps. In our tests this notebook managed a respectable score of 3341 points in the PCMark 7 benchmark test.
It feels smooth and responsive at all times and, thanks to its 128 GB SSD drive, it recovers from Windows 8 hibernation in five seconds.
The modest processor doesn’t put too much strain on the battery either, giving us 4.5 hours of streaming video from BBC iPlayer. Bear in mind that the latest generation of laptops can get double that runtime though.
Graphics performance is poor. The second-generation HD 3000 graphics processor doesn’t support DirectX 11, and nor was it able to manage better than 20 fps when running Batman: Arkham City, even at lower 1280 x 720 resolution on the lowest possible quality settings.
Unfortunately, the list price of £999 or even discounted to £800 doesn’t strike us as a very competitive price for a machine with relatively short battery life and two generation-old processor.