Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus full review
We've already taken a look at the impressive Ativ Book 9 Lite - see Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite review: affordable ultraportable laptop - and the Plus model is the flagship device. This is an Ultrabook rival to Apple's MacBook Air and MacBook Pro at the same time so let's see what it's got to offer. (See also: Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus and Book 9 Lite hands-on review: Windows 8 laptops.)
Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus: Design and build
Design-wise, the device looks very similar to the old Series 9 laptop, which is no bad thing. The thin aluminium uni-body looks sleek and attractive in its blue tinted 'Ash Black' colour with arcing lines and cleanly finished silver edges.
The Plus has a classy, premium feel with excellent build quality. There's no scrimping here as even the underneath of the laptop is metal, matching the MacBook Air.
It's a 13-inch laptop measuring 13.5mm at its thinnest point and only a millimetre more at its thickest, and weighs 1.4 kg. That about as portable as a MacBook Air but Samsung has kitted the Ativ Book 9 out with some specifications which rival the MacBook Pro.
We like the backlit typing experience, even if it is the same plastic keyboard found on the Ativ Book 9 Lite. The trackpad is outstanding with a smooth feel and responsive nature that only requires the lightest of touches. See also: The 8 best laptops: What's the best laptop you can buy in 2013?
Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus: Hardware and performance
The star of the show here is the 13.3-inch touchscreen which has a resolution of 3200 x 1800 pixels meaning a high pixel density of 275ppi, the highest we've ever seen on a laptop. We've gotten used to high pixel densities on smartphone and tablets so it's nice to see laptops catching up finally.
Windows is not really equipped for this high resolution though. You'll need to change the display settings to 200 percent zoom to make the Windows 8 desktop a usable size. And even then, many Windows programs don’t honour this scaling so you’ll be peering at the tiniest of small print when using these programs.
Aside from the high resolution, the display has good contrast, rich colours and great viewing angles with Samsung's IPS-like PLS panel. All are slightly tainted by the highly reflective glossy sheet of glass, though.
If you should want to, it folds completely flat but the hinge goes cleverly stiff at around 105 degrees. This means you can open the laptop fairly easily but you don't end up pushing the screen back when using touch input.
The Ativ Book 9 Plus is powered by an Intel Haswell (4th-gen) processor and built-in HD 4400 graphics. In this case it's a 1.6 GHz dual-core Core i5-4200U which is backed up with 4GB of memory and a 128GB SSD.
Samsung says it can boot up from cold in under six seconds and although our review sample couldn't achieve this goal it managed a still very impressive eight seconds. Note that this is not really a cold boot, but Windows 8’s restore from hibernation mode.
The laptop fared well in benchmark tests achieving an impressive 4648 points in PCMark 7, but only outpacing the MacBook Air by 50 points, or 1 percent.
Graphic performance is capable at low quality settings but the laptop is no gaming rig. In Stalker: Call of Pripyat at our lowest standard test at 720p/Medium-detail, the Ativ Book 9 Plus managed a playable 31 fps.
Increasing the resolution to 1080p effectively halved the framerate to 16 fps, while cranking it to the screen’s full 3200 x 1800-pixel resolution made the game plummet to just 7 fps.
Seemingly almost matching the latest MacBook Air model, Samsung touts a battery life of up to 11 hours from the 55.5Wh non-removable battery. But Samsung is renowned for over-stating its products capabilities.
In reality, the Ative Book 9 Plus was found to last for a considerably shorter time. Our usual video rundown test comprises looping an MPEG-4 HD video, streamed over Wi-Fi, with screen brightness set to 120 cd/m2. Here the Samsung lasted just 5 hours 1 minute.
Connectivity is potentially good even if there isn't room for full-size ports other than two USB. The Ativ Book 9 Plus has two USB 3.0 ports, micro-HDMI, mini VGA, mini ethernet, combined headset jack and an SDXC card reader is hidden behind a flap on the underside. To use the VGA or ethernet options though, you will need to carry around the proprietary Samsung dongles.
A 720p webcam for video calls and a surprisingly decent pair of stereo speakers also make an appearance. There's no 11.ac wireless meaning the Ativ Book 9 Plus is behind the curve here which is a shame.
Like the Ativ Book 9 Lite, Samsung pre-loads some software in the form of SideSync and HomeSync Lite. These programs only work with certain Samsung Galaxy devices, and respectively allow you to take control of the smartphone or tablet and share content between devices. See also: 7 best laptops for games reviewed: best gaming laptops 2013.
Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus: Specs
- 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U (dual-core, 2.6GHz Turbo)
- Intel HD Graphics 4400
- 13.3in (3200 x 1800, 275 ppi) PLS LED
- Windows 8 64-bit
- 128 GB SSD, SATA
- 4 GB DDR3 1600 MHz
- ethernet via proprietary dongle
- mini-VGA via proprietary dongle, micro-HDMI
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 0.9 Mp
- stereo speakers 2x 2W
- Built-in mic, 3.5 mm line-in
- 3.5 mm line-out (combined with line-in)
- 2x USB 3.0
- Slim Security Slot
- SDXC card slot
- 102 x 68 mm, two button, multi-touch
- Samsung SideSync, HomeSync Lite software
- 40 W mains adaptor
- 55.5 Wh lithium-ion, non-removable
- 320 x 223 x 13.5-14.5 mm
- 1409 g