At CES 2011, Samsung revealed its answer to the Apple MacBook Air—the Series 9 notebook. This ultrathin laptop has impressive hardware, but it also has an impressive price tag. As of this writing, the 13" Samsung Series 9 (Model: 900X3A) has a suggested retail price of $1,649.99 (US). The 11" Series 9 (Model: 900X1A) has a suggested retail price of $1,199.99 (US).
Samsung sent TechRepublic a 13" Series 9 to test, and I just couldn't resist taking it apart. I'm glad I did. I discovered that the Series 9's case is easy to open, it uses quality internal hardware, and you can upgrade the RAM. I only have one real complaint about the Series 9—listed below.
Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Samsung Series 9 (13.3-inch) ultraportable notebook
The 13" Samsung Series 9 has a unique Duralumin case and weighs 2.88 pounds and measures 12.9" (W) x 8.9" (D) x ~0.62" (H).
Our 13" test machine had the following technical specifications:
- Processor: 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-2537M
- GPU: Intel HD Graphics 3000
- RAM: 4GB DDR3 (8GB max)
- Storage: 128GB Samsung SSD
- Display: 13.3" LED display (400nit; 1366 x 768 max resolution)
- Battery: 6-cell Lithium, 6300 mAh (up to 7 hours of battery life)
- Ports: Micro HDMI, Ethernet (requires dongle), 1 USB, 2 USB, Micro DS Card slot, headphone jack, mic-in jack
- Speakers: 3W Stereo speakers with HD audio
- Camera: 1.3MP HD webcam (optional)
- Input device: Touch pad (supports multitouch)
- Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth V3.0 High Speed
- Warranty: 3-year
- Operating system: Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Internal hardware and chips
- 128GB Samsung SATA II SSD - MZMPA128HMFU-00000
- Samsung 4GB DDR3 SODIMM M471B5273CH0-CH9
- Broadcom 4324A-BRCM1048 802.11b/g/n WLAN+BT PCI-E Mini Card
- Intel Core i5-2537M Processor (3M Cache, 1.40 GHz)
- Intel BD82HM65 Platform Controller Hub (PCH)
- Realtek RTL811E Integrated Gigabit Ethernet Controller for PCI Express Applications
- Texas Instruments TS3L500AE 16-bit to 8-bit SPDT Gigabit LAN switch (markings TK500AE)
- SMSC MEC1310 Keyboard and embedded controller
- NEC USB 3.0 controller (D720200AF1)
- Macronix MX25L5121E 512Kb CMOS Serial Flash Memory
- SMSC EMC2112 Fan controller (link to newer EMC2113)
- Parade PS810 HDMI/DVI Level Shifter
- Synaptics T1320A Touchpad controller
- Realtek ALC269 - High Definition Audio Codec with Embedded Class D Speaker Amplifier
- Genesys Logic GL823 USB 2.0 SD/MMC Flash Card Reader single chip
- Intersil ISL95831 3+1 Voltage Regulator for IMVP-7/VR12 CPUs
- Intersil ISL6255 Highly Integrated Battery Charger with Automatic Power Source Selector for Notebook Computers
- Alpha & Omega AON6786 30V N-Channel MOSFET
- Alpha & Omega AON6912A 30V Dual Asymmetric N-Channel MOSFET
- Advanced Power Electronics AP0803GMT-HF 30V 50 A Single N-channel Power MOSFET
- Texas Instruments TPS54319 2.95-Vto6-VInput, 3-AOutput, 2-MHz, Synchronous Step-Down
- Switcher With Integrated FETs
Cracking Open observations
The Series 9's Duralumin case is sturdy, but it doesn't offer the same rigidity as the MacBook Air's unibody aluminum enclosure.
The Series 9 uses standard Phillips screws both inside and outside the case. This fact meant I didn't need to constantly swap driver bits during the teardown or purchase a special screwdriver.
Unlike the MacBook Air (2010), the Series 9 uses standard DDR3 SODIMM DRAM chips. The Series 9's motherboard has two, 204-pin SODIMM slots and can support up to 8GB of RAM. The MacBook Air's 2GB of Elpida 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM was soldered to the machine's motherboard. I was glad to see that our test machine came with a single 4GB chip. This allows you to upgrade the RAM by purchasing a second 4GB chip. Too many PC manufacturers fill their machine's memory slots with low-density chips, which forces you to buy all new chips when upgrading the RAM.
My only real complaint with the Series 9 is its GPU. Samsung used the Intel Core i5-2537M processor's integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 technology. For the Series 9's price tag, I would have preferred it to use a separate GPU, such as the MacBook Air's NVIDIA GeForce 320M.
Stay tuned for our full review
TechRepublic's Jason Hiner will put the Samsung Series 9 through its paces next week and writing a full review—provided I can put it back together.
Update 12/19/2011: This post originally appeared in our TR Dojo blog.
Bill Detwiler has nothing to disclose. He doesn't hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop support specialist in the social research and energy industries. He has bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Louisville, where he has also lectured on computer crime and crime prevention.