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 tend to make for compelling reviews, because while they do have some notable flaws that can hold them back, they’re generally outweighed by the massive benefits the notebook offers overall.

The Samsung Notebook 9, for instance, has awesome performance and lengthy battery life – but the tiny SSD and squishy keyboard can hold it back.

All of this culminates in a notebook that’s perfect enough in some areas, that it may just be the best laptop for you – as long as you’re the type of user that prioritizes raw horsepower and battery life above everything else, and can get used to a mushy 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

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). We’re sure to see even lower prices for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, too.

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

While it doesn’t have the Touch Bar and super-sharp Retina display, the Samsung Notebook 9 far out prices the $2,399 (£1,719, AU$3,129) MacBook Pro for more computational power. Having said that, however, the MacBook Pro’s AMD Radeon Pro 555 GPU may outclass the Nvidia MX150 chip by a margin.

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?  

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Design

Because the Samsung Notebook 9 relies quite a bit on its stylings and features to prop up its pricing, it’s good that it’s quite stylish and full of features. Compared to last year’s offering, though, not much has changed about the Notebook 9’s design.

This is actually a great thing, as we’ve always appreciated Samsung’s approach to laptop design. Flat where it needs to be and with only a small amount of curves, the Samsung Notebook 9 radiates subtle luxury with its silvery aluminum frame.

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