Laptops like the 2018 15-inch Samsung Notebook 9 make for interesting reviews, because this is one of those devices with nagging flaws that are arguably outweighed by immense benefits.
For example, the new 15-inch Notebook 9 is a fantastic performer with a long-lasting battery – perhaps the longest battery life we’ve seen yet – but it’s held back by a squishy keyboard and a relatively small amount of storage – neither of which you often find on most laptops at this price point.
The result is a laptop that is frankly fantastic enough in some areas that it may just be the right laptop for a specific person: one that prioritizes lasting power and performance above everything else … and can get used to a squishy keyboard.
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
Configured as you see to the right, the Samsung Notebook 9 15 is priced at $1,499 (about £1,069, AU$1,959). However, a starting model with half as much memory and lacking the Nvidia MX150 graphics costs a cool $1,299 (about £929, AU$1,699).
Both models come housing Full HD (1080p) displays, as well as Thunderbolt 3 ports and fingerprint sensors for secure Windows Hello login via Windows 10. And, the only color option available for both models is the silvery Light Titan. So, not much has changed since last year save for graphics and processing power.
While it lacks the Touch Bar and super-sharp Retina display, this laptop far out-prices the $2,399 (£1,719, AU$3,129) 15-inch MacBook Pro for more computational power. Having said that, the MacBook Pro’s AMD Radeon Pro 555 graphics might outclass the Nvidia MX150 chip by a hair.
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. So, where does that leave the Notebook 9?
Seeing as how the Notebook 9 relies quite a bit on its stylings and features to prop up its pricing, it’s good that the Notebook 9 is quite stylish and packed with features. Compared to last year, though, there isn’t much at all different about the Notebook 9 design.
That turns out to be a rather good thing, as we’ve always appreciated Samsung’s approach to laptop design. Flat where it needs to be and only with a small amount of curves, the Notebook 9 exudes subtle luxury through its silvery aluminum frame.
The laptop weighs just under three pounds and is merely 0.61 inches thick, making it one of the most portable 15-inch laptops we’ve ever tested. That said, there is one element of the chassis we’d have wished were a little tighter.
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.
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 laptop display’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 nits.
At any rate, this display is first-rate, which should come as no surprise given its maker – just turn on that Outdoor Mode when watching Netflix, and you’ll be fine. Take solace in knowing, then, that this settings app also features a blue light reduction mode when those 500 nits get to be too much.
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