Samsung takes on the Macbook Air with a slim laptop
Samsung's Series 9 laptop arrived in a blaze of publicity, with a glamorous unveiling party at Harrods attended by models and, bizarrely, an England international cricketer.
What prompted such a lavish affair? The Series 9 is certainly different: it's thin, light and looks great. It's clearly designed to take some of the gloss off Apple's Macbook Air and it does so with some degree of success.
It was quick to start – it uses a technology called UEFI, not the older BIOS used by almost all current PCs. UEFI will be used by future computers, especially ones running Windows 8 when it comes out next year but for now it's quite rare. It meant the Series 9 was much quicker to start than most computers we've seen – it opened up onto the Windows desktop in seconds.
That's helped by the 128GB solid state disk that it uses for storage, which is much faster than a standard hard disk. It has 4GB of memory but a relatively slow processor: an Intel Core i5-2537M that runs at 1.4GHz. That's a lot slower than most PCs we see these days, but it makes sense. The i5-2537M is a low-power chip, which means it produces less heat, so less cooling is required which allows the laptop to be thinner and lighter overall.
It also improves battery life, which was reasonable by modern standards: we got around five hours out of it in light use, and about half that in more intensive tasks such as watching videos. We've seen better, but not from something this slim. The battery can't be removed so if there is a fault it'll need to be professionally repaired.
Performance was mixed. The slow processor meant it was terrible for games and it took a long 68 minutes to do our DVD copying test, which normally takes around half that. It worked fine for general office and internet tasks and it was happy to play three video clips at once, including a high-definition one, so for most things it'll be fine. If you want to edit photos or video, though, you should look elsewhere or be prepared for long waits.
As with the Macbook Air there is no DVD drive, nor is there a network socket. Instead a small adapter cable attaches to a socket on the side of the laptop, and the network cable plugs into this. If you lose the adapter cable, you're in trouble, though the laptop connects to wireless networks and Bluetooth devices.
The adapter socket is hidden under a neat panel that flips up, and also conceals a USB3 socket and a tiny HDMI socket for attaching a monitor or flat-screen TV, though no cable was supplied for this. Under a similar panel on the other side are a USB2 socket, headphone socket and micro SD memory card reader. The latter is odd – a full-size SD card reader would have been much more useful and wouldn't have taken much more room. A webcam and microphone are built into the top of the screen.
The keyboard has a backlight, so it glows in the dark, allowing the keys to be seen more easily, and although it was shallow it was quite comfortable and well-spaced. The touchpad was large and doesn't have physical mouse buttons – instead you click one side for left-click and the opposite one for right-click. It didn't seem well-calibrated, though: we often found ourselves right-clicking when we meant to left-click.
The 13.3in widescreen display was bright and clear, and a row of bright but unobtrusive status lights sit at the top-right of the keyboard next to the power button. It comes with the Windows 7 Home Premium operating system and some Samsung software that popped up annoying messages too often for our liking.
This is an impressively portable laptop that looks great. But in terms of computing power it's not a great deal better than a £300 netbook, despite costing more than three times as much.
Read more reviews
A stunning-looking laptop, but we'd like better performance for our money
Looks great; slim and easy to carry; good screen and keyboard
Computing power isn't great; expensive; needs adapter cable for wired networking
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