Top positive review
130 people found this helpful
After using it for a few weeks and getting the kinks worked out, it's good for what it is.
on June 13, 2012
My job role has changed a bit in the past year and I'm traveling and doing presentations to potential clients. The thinness of the Series 9 is awesome for traveling, as is the battery life, but I decided to ditch the dreary no-frills Samsung and for an Acer Aspire R7. I'll put up a review of that whenever (if) it becomes available from Amazon.
I'm replacing my 2009 model Dell Studio XPS 1640 that died on me with a bad motherboard hard drive connector :/
I'm a consultant for several clients in San Diego and I use my laptop for EVERYTHING, so not having one meant work stoppage for several days and I needed a new one QUICK. I went to best buy, frys electronics and for whatever reason, costco. I needed to try out every model I could to make a quick, but informed decision.
I went with the Samsung Series 9, mostly because the Series 7 they had at Best Buy caught my eye and nothing else I got my hands on really compared.
Battery Life - The battery isn't nearly broken in yet, I have been downloading and installing software like crazy, and I'm getting about 7 hours with brightness set to the middle setting. (See below). I'm used to about 1 hour and 45 minutes with the XPS, so 7 hours is astonishing, and when the battery is broken in I'm sure it will be a few hours longer.
Matte screen & brightness - I can actually use this thing outside! It was absolutely impossible using my XPS outside because of the gloss screen and good-for-indoors brightness. OK so I'm not joking when I say this thing is bright. On full brightness it's actually somewhat painful to look at it if you're in a dark room. It's great if you're outside at high noon on a sunny day, but I don't see myself ever going above 2/3rd brightness indoors.
Weight - 3.6 pounds, sounds a little hefty until you look at it with the screen closed and how much real estate it occupies on your desk. It truly is astonishingly light.
Thickness - .58" thick. That's with the screen closed. I found that it is only slightly thicker than a BIC lighter laying on it's side. When you open the screen you'll be amazed at how unbelievably thin it is. It actually makes me a little uncomfortable when I open it, thinking that my meat hooks will break it. But not to worry, it's quite strong.
Build quality - It's solid. When I un-boxed it I was worried because of how thin it is and my tendency to be rough on things. But the all metal body is very, very strong.
Boot time - With the SSD you can expect about 14-16 seconds.
Wake from sleep - With Intel Rapid Start Technology you can expect wake time to be around 2 seconds. Yeah...2 seconds. IRST uses a partition on the SSD that is the same size as your memory, (8,192MB for this ultrabook) and caches the memory to the partition when it goes to sleep. So it's ridiculously fast.
Heat - I got the chassis of the ultrabook just barely warm, and that's sitting on a pillow on my lap, downloading, installing software and charging the battery. There's a silent setting on the keyboard (FN + F11) that throttles the processors so it doesn't generate enough heat to use the fans. I couldn't get the fans to turn onto a setting high enough to hear it when I was doing regular work so I'd be hard pressed to get this thing hot enough for the fans to be audible. Bottom line, it's nice typing on a keyboard that isn't +90*F, or having sweaty legs when you're using it on your lap.
The I5 1.7 Ghz processor & video chip is ample for my needs: I use SQL Server Management Studio, Visual Studio 2010, remote desktop and of course browsing the web. It's not great for 3d applications, I use Google Sketchup Pro fairly often to design simple wireframe furniture when I'm away from my office and finish off the design on my desktop at home. But it's acceptable, but not as good as my old XPS when it was healthy.
The keyboard. I love, love, love the keyboard on my old XPS. Keys were soft, but firm when you mashed them, always quiet, and thoughtfully placed. The keyboard on this Samsung is just ok. Somewhat noisy, but not that bad, the travel is short and when you reach the limit of it's travel it abruptly stops. Granted, the keyboard needed to be thin because you have to squeeze electronics and a battery below it, so it's not a negative, just something to be aware of if you're a keyboard snob like me.
The connector on the power cord. It's tiny and metal, a little bit smaller than a standard headphone jack, but it's hollow. I have actual fear that someone will tug on the cord (trip over it, or bump into it) and break the connector. Is it possible that there is fault protection built in so that the laptop won't short out? I hope so, but I'll just keep it charged and hope that the battery lasts most of the day so I don't have to worry about it.
I really only have two complaints, and they're equally bad.
First off, the track pad is AWFUL. It's quite large for whatever reason. It means that your palm will touch it whenever you're typing and if you're not paying attention you'll be typing somewhere you didn't intend. So it's not only horrible when you're typing, it's awful to use! As far as I can tell from using it so far, there is no pressure sensitivity setting for clicking. If you want to move the cursor around, all of a sudden you'll notice that you're dragging a selection box, or moving icons around for no reason. I probably need more time to get used to it. I have gotten better but it's still an issue. Maybe they'll come up with driver updates...
UPDATE: Been using this for a few weeks now, still not used to it. I'm better at using it, but not great, I use a USB mouse whenever possible.
UPDATE 7/28/2012: There is a driver update out for the track pad! It allows you to turn off some features that cause all the problems (tap to drag, double tap to execute). That means they allow you to take away functionality to fix a problem that shouldn't have existed in the first place. It's now easier to type without causing you to accidentally click the mouse, but you lose some of the features every other laptop on the planet has. I neither added nor removed a star for this.
And next is the screen. Yes, it's bright, yes it's matte. But the contrast ratio is ABYSMAL (I can't find the site that actually told me the value but 175:1 comes to mind). Hard number's aside, you don't need them to realize that EVERYTHING is washed out. Some website backgrounds and text (such as Samsung's drivers page) is so faint that you can barely see them on this screen. It almost looks like a watermark... It is this reason, and this reason alone that I might consider returning this ultrabook. I'm going to give it a few days of use at work and see if I even notice, after all this is a work laptop and I'm only using it to write code.
UPDATE: I just played around with the display settings and got it to look not so horrible: Right click on desktop and go to Screen Resolution > Advanced Settings > Intel Graphics and Media Control Panel > Graphics Properties... Change it to Advanced Mode. General Settings > Color Enhancement Change the Color drop down menu to All Colors, adjust the Contrast and Gamma settings until a photo looks as normal as possible. My settings are:
I'm sure I'll be playing with this as I go on, but for now it doesn't look absolutely awful, just mostly bad.
Dan brought up the keyboard backlight, if you need to look at the keys to type be aware that the backlight is a green color and is ridiculously dim. There are 4 adjustment settings, the first 3 are just about worthless, the 4th (brightest) looks like it should be the 1st or 2nd dimmest setting. It doesn't bother me much since I know the keyboards backwards and forward.
I upgraded to Windows 7 Ultimate almost immediately after it's first boot. The drivers on the samsung website all installed without a hitch if you install them in the proper order: Chipset first, everything else on the Samsung drivers page, but save IRST and HECI for last. Getting IRST to actually work after doing a fresh windows install is actually a pain, and I haven't been successful getting it to work yet. Copy and paste this into a Google search for a guide on notebookreview: "660222-samsung-series-9-np900x3b-np900x4b-guide-intel-rapid-start-technology"
Apparently amazon doesn't allow you to link to external websites so you'll have to search for it.
UPDATE: I got IRST working finally. I enabled UFEI in the BIOS, restarted, opened Easy Software Manager and it actually started working. Installed Rapid Start software automatically, restarted and voila! The 8.3 GB partition created automatically and no more error saying IRST not enabled. So it Is now safe to upgrade to any version of Windows 7 and retain use of all the Samsung software. As such I am upgrading my rating from 2 to 4 stars. (It really should only be 3.5...)
It comes with a 128SSD, but has partitions that you can't see (21.7 GB for recovery, 8.3 GB for IRST) so you're looking at usable disk space of 89.2 GB. I have just about all the software I use installed and it's only occupying ~40 GB. If you want to get that space back you'll have to delete the recovery partition, but you might have trouble returning the laptop if you choose to do so.
Windows Experience Index Ratings:
Gaming graphics: 6.4
Primary Hard Disk: 7.5
Bottom line: It's no desktop replacement, but it's adequate for my needs. Being unplugged for 7+ hours is ridiculously awesome. I can't wait for taking a day off to sit at a park, cafe or beach and working on both business, and my tan, that sounds sexy enough to keep this thing around. I'll be updating this review as I use it.