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Samsung Notebook 9 (2016) review

One stellar entry-level Ultrabook

Samsung Notebook 9 review
Great Value

The Samsung Notebook 9 is only available in one Intel Core i5-powered configuration that starts at $949 (about £649, AU$1,247). Not a bad price considering, as the MacBook Air comes with the asking price of $1,099 for the same configuration and a lower resolution screen.

The Asus ZenBook UX305 is still the bargain basement winner with an Intel Core m3 model available for only $699 (£649, AU$999). And for those of you that feel the Core m is an inferior processor family, the firm recently introduced a $799 (about £555, AU$1,092) Core i5 version of its ever popular ZenBook.

Samsung Notebook 9 review

Spec Sheet

Here is the Samsung Notebook 9 configuration sent to techradar for review:

  • CPU: 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 2.8GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
  • RAM: 8GB DDR3 1866
  • Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED anti-reflective display
  • Storage: 256GB m.2 SSD
  • Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, mini HDMI, mini VGA, mini DisplayPort, SD card reader, headset jack
  • Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
  • Camera: 720p HD webcam
  • Weight: 1.85 pounds
  • Size: 13.64 x 9.33 x 0.57 inches (W x D x H)

Performance

With an Intel Core i5 processor on tap, the Samsung Notebook 9 is a solid performer and handles multi-tasking like a champ. Although this laptop only comes equipped with integrated graphics, I was able to easily play a few rounds of Hearthstone and begin my journeys into the world of Hyper Light Drifter.

Admittedly, neither of these games are really pushing this machine, especially with both games maxing out at 30fps and the earlier even being optimized for iPads. However, it's nice to be able to play a few titles on Ultrabook-grade hardware rather than streaming from an Xbox One or Gaming PC running Steam.

Samsung Notebook 9 review

Benchmarks

Here's how the Samsung Notebook 9 performed in our suite of benchmark tests:

  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 5,534; Sky Diver: 3,335; Fire Strike: 816
  • Cinebench CPU: 284 points; Graphics: 40.97 fps
  • GeekBench: 3,021 (single-core); 6,327 (multi-core)
  • PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,665 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 2 hours and 56 minutes
  • Battery Life (techradar movie test): 4 hours and 20 minutes

Samsung's ultralight machine pulls its weight in our benchmarking tests, delivering numbers in step with other Core i5-powered machines like the Dell XPS 13. Thanks to a m.2 SSD, it's even a step ahead of some machines like the LG Gram 15, which is equipped with an older form of SATA III flash storage.

Samsung Notebook 9 review

The Notebook 9 has been advertised with battery life lasting up to 10 hours; however, in my own experience, it only managed to last about half as long. Five hours of run time is disappointing considering Samsung is angling this machine as an Ultrabook, a class of notebooks known for their all-day battery life.

However, considering how thin and light this thing is, the short run time is a little easier to swallow. Thankfully, the Notebook 9 is also pretty quick to recharge, taking only two hours to fully juice up the battery from empty.

Samsung Notebook 9 review

Popping sounds and sights

While battery life isn't all too impressive on the Notebook 9, I have to say the display is stunning. The Full HD screen is plenty sharp for its 13.3-inch size and it produces incredibly vibrant colors and distinct levels of contrast.

Colors are almost too vivid - not to the point of being oversaturated as Samsung's older Galaxy device - but warm enough to make the display inaccurate for image editing. The good news is you can easily tweak the display and switch to a cooler setting through the preloaded Samsung Settings panel.

The onboard speakers are decent in their own right. Despite being placed on the underside of the laptop (and at the thinnest edge, too), the speakers produce clear and loud audio. Unless you're pressing the front edge of the machine directly into your lap, you'll still be able to clearly hear your tunes streaming out of the small tweeters.

Samsung Notebook 9 review

Bundled software

Although Samsung is known for bolting a ton of Android apps on its smartphones, the firm has kept the preloaded software to a bare minimum on the Notebook 9. Samsung Settings comes in handy for tweaking settings such as your device's power management and the color temperature on the display. Meanwhile, Samsung Update – as the name suggests – will keep all of the bundled apps up to date.