Samsung Notebook 9 (2018) review

A top 15-inch laptop of 2018, but with some flaws

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Our Verdict

The new 15-inch Samsung Notebook 9 suffers from a squishy keyboard and a small amount of storage for its price, but it might be just the perfect laptop for a specific person: someone that prioritizes lasting power and performance above all else … and can get used to that keyboard.

For

  • Excellent performance
  • Insanely long battery life
  • Useful software and hardware features
  • Incredibly portable 15-inch laptop

Against

  • Not enough storage
  • Squishy keyboard
  • Lackluster audio

Laptops like the Samsung Notebook 9 make for compelling products, because while they can have frustrating issues that stop them from greatness, they’re usually outweighed by the huge boons they bring to the table.

If you look at the Samsung Notebook 9, for instance, the battery is long lasting and the hardware is fast – but the squishy keyboard and too-small SSD holds it back.

Thanks to all of its flaws and benefits, the Samsung Notebook 9 is a laptop that’s great enough in some areas that it could be the best laptop for the right user – one that values battery life and raw power above all else – and can get used to a squishy keyboard.

Samsung Notebook 9

Spec Sheet

Here is the Samsung Notebook 9 (15-inch) configuration sent to TechRadar for review: 

CPU: 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8550U (quad-core, 8MB cache, up to 4.0GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce MX150 (2GB GDDR5); Intel UHD Graphics 620
RAM: 16GB DDR4
Screen: 15-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED (350 – 500 nits brightness)
Storage: 512GB SSD (PCIe)
Ports: 1 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0 HDMI, headphone out/mic-in combo port, 3-in-1 card reader, DC-in port
Connectivity: Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 8265 Wi-Fi (2 x 2 antenna); Bluetooth 4.1
Camera: 720p HD webcam with internal mic
Weight: 2.82 pounds (1.28kg)
Size: 13.70 x 9.03 x 0.61 inches (347.98 x 229.36 x 15.49mm; W x H x D)

Price and availability

The model we reviewed here is priced at $1,499 (about £1,069, AU$1,959), which gets you the hardware listed to the right. However, there’s a starting configuration with half the RAM and without dedicated graphics for $1,299 (about £929, AU$1,699).

Both of the Samsung Notebook 9 models have 1080p displays, plus Thunderbolt 3 ports and fingerprint sensors for login through Windows Hello. And, the only color option available to the Samsung Notebook 9 is a silvery ‘Light Titan’. So, not much has changed this time around, except for upgrades to both processing and graphics power.

Starting at $999 (about £719, AU$1,299) the brand-new Dell XPS 15 handily outshines the Samsung Notebook 9 when it comes to value, putting forth half as much RAM but far stronger Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics and a 128GB SSD- plus-1TB HDD combo storage solution behind an FHD display.

However the Samsung Notebook 9 far out prices the $2,399 (£1,719, AU$3,129) MacBook Pro 2017 for with more modern processors, even if it doesn’t have the Touch Bar. However, the AMD Radeon Pro 555 GPU in Apple’s flagship may outclass the Nvidia MX150 chip a bit. So, where does that leave the Samsung Notebook 9?

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Design

The Samsung Notebook 9 relies quite a bit on its features and styling to justify the price, so it’s good that it is indeed quite stylish and fully-featured. Compared to last year, though, the Samsung Notebook 9 really hasn’t changed all that much design-wise.

This is great news, as we’ve always loved Samsung’s laptop design approach. The Samsung Notebook 9 is flat where it needs to be, and only has the necessary amount of curves – this laptop radiates subtle luxury throughout its silvery aluminum chassis.

The Samsung Notebook 9 comes in just under three pounds and is just 0.61 inches thick, making it one of the most portable 15-inch laptops we’ve ever tested. That said, there’s one part of the chassis we’d have wished were a little better.

Samsung Notebook 9

The keyboard, while spacious and deep in travel, is awfully squishy feeling when it comes to feedback. While it’s certainly not the crisp, punchy experience we’re used to on laptops in this price range, it doesn’t impact your time using it – just anticipate a learning curve. It’s up to you whether some of the laptop’s other major benefits outweigh this flaw.

Also, we found the keyboard backlighting to be awfully faint, not appearing much brighter than a glow-in-the-dark sticker and similar in hue. At the very least, the keys are well-spaced and leave room for a fantastic fingerprint sensor and touchpad.

The touchpad on this laptop is coated in glass like before and offers up supreme palm rejection in that it not once triggered mouse movements while typing. Meanwhile, the fingerprint sensor is snappy to set up and speedy in action – all laptops should feature this standard.

Samsung Notebook 9

Display and audio

Unsurprisingly, Samsung’s FHD display in use here is fantastic, offering excellent color reproduction through its LED panel. Reds absolutely pop while blacks all but disappear into the screen’s bonding.

However, the Samsung Notebook 9’s true brightness potential is hidden behind an outdoor mode within the Samsung Settings app. This increases the screen’s maximum brightness of 350 nits by another 150 to give a max brightness of 500 nits – which puts it in league with the MacBook Pro.

The fact that the Samsung Notebook 9 display is fantastic isn’t surprising, knowing the manufacturer – just turn that Outdoor Mode on when watching Netflix, and you’ll have a great time. You’ll be happy to know that this settings app also features a blue light reduction mode – making those 500 nits easier on the eyes.

As for the audio, we’re sad to say that it sounds about as thin and tinny as you’d expect from tiny, down-firing speakers. This is one place worth looking at for Samsung in terms of improving the 2019 model.

First reviewed April 2018