There's no doubt about it: Samsung's Series 9 has always been a hot-looking laptop. Thin and every bit as iconic as a MacBook Air, the 2011 Series 9 laid the groundwork for all the sleek and sexy ultrabooks we've seen so far and throughout January's CES.
We've peeked at the second-gen Series 9 13-incher a few months ago, but we also knew that a larger-screened version was on its way. I saw it at CES, and wondered how the concept of a thin ultrabook would work on a 15-inch scale. Well, it's here now at CNET, and before I dropped it off at the Labs for testing, I spent a little time with it up close.
The new Series 9 laptops are even sleeker and more solid-feeling than last year's models; some of the plastic-type materials have been left behind for an all-metal aluminum body that's made of a single piece of metal and has the same carved-from-one-piece body feel as a MacBook Air, although technically the Series 9 does have seams underneath.
To no great surprise, the 15-inch Series 9 feels exactly like the 13-inch Series 9, except larger. In footprint it resembles a 14-inch laptop, but the thickness is shaved down greatly. So is the weight. At 3.5 pounds, it's not much heavier than some 13-inch ultrabooks, and it's far thinner and lighter than any 14- or 15-inch laptop I can recall. Of course, that means some compromises: just like the 13-inch Series 9, it has no optical drive. Ports have also been compromised onsomewhat, in favor of dongle-based solutions; while two USB 3.0 ports and a USB 2.0 port line the gracefully curved sides (resembling the cross-section of a plane wing), Ethernet, HDMI, and VGA are accessed via dongles.
The 15.6-inch matte screen still looks as great as the 13-incher, although the 1,600x900-pixel resolution is slightly less astounding at this larger size. The screen looked very bright and had strong viewing angles, but didn't seem nearly as vibrant as the screen on the HP Envy 14 Spectre. The backlit keyboard has a MacBook Air-like layout, with keys that are firm but shallower than a standard laptop. The touch pad is tremendous; it's on the order of Apple's large clickpads for sheer surface area.
There's a question that arises in my mind: who needs a really thin 15-incher? This larger Series 9 isn't exactly ultraportable, and it's even a bit thicker than I would have imagined. Still, the laptop rests gracefully, has a wide-tilt screen hinge, and feels very comfortable.
The Series 9 15-inch (NP900X4B) comes with similar specs to a 13-inch ultrabook: 1.6GHz Core i5-2467M processor, 128GB SSD, and a lofty 8GB of RAM. Graphics are merely Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics (this isn't an Ivy Bridge laptop with Intel HD 4000 graphics--at least, not yet). The recently reviewed Envy 14 Spectre mentioned above is a close comparison.
That Spectre is also a close match on price; the 15-inch Series 9 will cost $1,499 when it goes on sale in late April (as opposed to $1,399 for the Spectre).
Stay tuned for CNET's full review, but we could have a battle of the "highly priced high-style large-screen ultrabooks" on our hands.