UPDATE | Samsung has released several new models of this gorgeous, ultra-slim Windows notebook. A new 11.6" model, built around an Intel Core i3 processor with 64GB of flash-based storage is $1,499.
Meanwhile, the original model we wrote about below has been discontinued and replaced with a new one that's $200 cheaper but has twice the storage of the original -- 256GB. It does have a very slightly slower Intel Core i5 CPU though (1.3GHz instead of 1.4GHz). The new model's price is $2,299, compared to the original price of $2,499.
A third, $2,799 model is for people who want the world-leading slim form-factor, but also want maximum computing power. It packs an Intel Core i7 CPU, running at 1.5GHz. It also has twice the memory of the other two models, at 8GB, and the upgraded 256GB storage that the middle-of-the-range model has.
The model numbers of the new models are:
- 11.6" Core i3 model ($1,499) - NP900X1B-A01AU
- New 13" Core i5 model ($2,299) - NP900X3A-B02AU
- New 13" Core i7 model ($2,799) - NP900X3A-A03AU
Samsung's Notebook Series 9 a featherweight champ among Windows laptops
This week Australian Business Traveller is scoping out the best Windows notebooks for frequent business travellers. These high-flying laptops deliver just the right mix of maximum computing power and long battery life in a slim, light yet robust package.
If you're after for a laptop that will add the least heft to your cabin bag, there are few notebooks more desirable at the moment than Samsung's Notebook Series 9 -- it definitely punches above its weight.
The Korean electronics collossus may be better known for home theatre, but it has used its engineering prowess in making TVs ultra-thin to create one of the most impressive Windows laptops we've seen.
Samsung makes the bold claim that it is the best in terms of weight and size among notebooks that use the very latest "Sandy Bridge" class of Intel Core chips, and we haven't yet seen a laptop to disprove it.
It also has gorgeous looks -- brushed gunmetal grey, made of real metal, not plastic faux-metal.
Size and weight
The Series 9 tips the scales at 1.31KG and is only 1.63cm at its thickest point.
That makes it -- as far as we are aware -- the thinnest and lightest notebook on the planet, just scraping in under the 13" MacBook Air.
Its casing is built from Duralumin, a lightweight material used in making aircraft, which Samsung says is twice as strong as aluminium but just as light.
What you get
The main chip powering the notebook is the "Sandy Bridge" Intel Core i5 -- the second-generation of Intel Core technology with considerably faster performance than the first release Core i5.
However, it is one of the ultra-low voltage versions, running at 1.4GHz, which means it will not be as fast as 'full-power' Intel Core i5s used in larger notebooks. One tech comparison site ranks its speed as similar to a high-end Intel Core 2 Duo from two years ago -- so the speed of the notebook will be like full size notebooks of a 2009 vintage.
Samsung hasn't let its experience in manufacturing LCD TVs go to waste -- the 13.3" display on the Series 9 notebook is a vibrant ‘SuperBright Plus’ LED-edgelit display. Like LED-lit TVs, the ultra-thin screen is able to come on instantly rather than having a few seconds warm-up time.
It has a 1366x768 pixel resolution, so it's not 'full HD' like Sony's high-end models of Vaio Z, but then, it's not $4,000, either.
Slow, mechanical hard drives have been abandoned altogether for this new breed of laptop. Samsung is instead offering it with a 128GB solid state disk (SSD) which uses very high speed flash memory with no moving parts. This means initial startup and program loading is lightning fast compared to laptops using hard drives.
Samsung says the battery-life on the Series 9 is 'three times longer' than the previous model. To its credit, Samsung doesn't claim a theoretical maximum battery-life; it uses real-life examples: 7.7 hours running the BatteryMark standard battery testing software, and 4.7 hours playing a movie.
What you don't get in such a slim package is a DVD drive -- and we think that's probably not a bad thing. With the wide availability of downloadable movies and TV shows, and super-cheap USB memory keys, the only real reason to have a DVD drive these days is for software installation, and an external USB DVD drive will do the job for these occasions.
The webcam is a 1.3 megapixel model, which will give higher image quality than laptops packing only a VGA webcam.
It only comes in one configuration, with 4GB memory installed, so if you think you'll need more than that (and most people won't) you'd have to remove RAM modules from inside the machine and get higher capacity ones installed. 4GB is plenty for good performance under Windows 7 with many apps running.
In terms of ports and connectors, it includes one high-speed USB 3.0 port and one USB 2.0 with higher power output for charging USB devices.
A micro-HDMI port is the only way to connect the laptop to LCD/plasma TVs and monitors -- but it's not a full-size HDMI connector, so you'll need an adaptor to convert the micro-HDMI plug to a standard size HDMI connector.
There is no VGA port for connection to corporate projectors or older style monitors. You can buy a micro-HDMI to DVI adaptor for connection to newer monitors and projectors.
There's also audio in/out, an internal microphone, micro SD camera card reader, and gigabit Ethernet LAN.
One notable omission for business travellers is inbuilt 3G mobile broadband capability -- so you'll either have to connect to the net via Wi-Fi hotspots or via a 3G modem connected by USB (or Wi-Fi in the case of Mi-Fi style modems)
There is no external docking option for the Samsung Series 9 notebook, so when you bring it home or to work, you'll need to plug in all your external accessories each time. (Investing in a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard might be a good way to avoid some of the plugs -- but there's not much you can do about the external monitor.)
Although there are several versions of the Series 9 notebook available overseas, there's only one model available in Australia, product code NP900X3A-A01AU, which sells for $2,499. (Note: see article update at top -- this model has now been discontinued and replaced with three newer models.)