Laptops

Samsung Series 9 worthy rival to Apple MacBook Air

Bill Detwiler cracked open the Samsung Series 9, and thinks it's the first ultrathin laptop to rival the MacBook Air. But, he does have one complaint.

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

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.

About

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 supp...

14 comments
jprimrose
jprimrose

Get the Toshiba Portege, better deal, add ram 2 8gig, win pro, dynadock, and push to tv, still cheaper. Macbook sucks, no disc drive.

judd1234
judd1234

Bill, I have bought one these and am very happy with it. I have seen elsewhere that there are two upgrades that people are doing now -- one is the RAM and the other is WiFi card which they're replacing with the Intel Centrino 6230 or 6200 (as it is supposedly better than the Broadcomm card). Is WiFi something that will be reviewed too? I agree on the graphics. Would have like to seen a better GPU. That's actually the lowest scoring item on the Windows Experience Index.

Komplex
Komplex

Am I missing something? An 13.3 inch, 128 GB SSD MacBook Air is $400 cheaper. And the 256 Drive is $100 cheaper. Is that really a rival?

sumit_eternal
sumit_eternal

i think this isn't good graphics card can anyone give me name of graphics card equivalent to it from nvidia n ATI.

sjbirkel
sjbirkel

I'm really excited about the Samsung. Some professionals need to use Windows to do their job, and given that constraint, this computer is a breath of fresh "air".

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

It's still at the lower end of the current generation of NB's. Gigabyte has a nice little 15 Inch unit that can take either a i3, i5 or i7 CPU and 8 GIG of RAM and it works quite well even if you load it with Windows. It's blistering when loaded with a 64 Bit Nix Distribution a i7 CPU and 8 GIG of RAM. With Samsung only fitting 1 X 4 GIG Memory Module I would be looking at reduced performance as it's locking the unit into Single Chanel Mode and only supplying Data at 50% of the FSB of the CPU. Hardly a good thing unless Samsung don't expect any people to use it as supplied. ;) Col

abc123a
abc123a

You have it all wrong. It runs Windoze and therefore it cannot be even an unworthy rival.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

I'm sure a Jason will test the Series 9's Wi-Fi capabilities, but it will likely be a real-world test, not one designed to evaluate the card's exact data throughput or range.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler

The Series 9 was designed to compete directly with other ultraportable notebooks, like the MacBook Air. In fact, its dimensions and weight are near identical to the Air. As for price, a 13-inch MacBook Air with the following specs is $1,399.00: - 1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo CPU - 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 128GB Flash Storage The Series 9 is more expensive, but is uses newer hardware, such as Intel's latest line of "Sandy Bridge" processors. If Apple revamps the MacBook Air line this summer, we'll be able to make a better comparison.

judd1234
judd1234

The Samsung comes with 4GB of RAM and a 3-year warranty. Add those upgrades to a MacBook Air and I'm pretty sure the MacBook will cost more...

JadedKnight656
JadedKnight656

"Only" an i5? The i3's are basically an i5 without a turboboost, which is all but useless in a laptop. As for your Single Channel Mode comment, just no. I don't even feel like getting into the reason, just no.

jpb21k
jpb21k

For your statement to be remotely credible, you would have to run the MAC OS on the Samsung (Yes it is possible) for a comparison. Have you even tried using a current version of Windows?

judd1234
judd1234

Bill, You listed $1,399 above. Add $299 for the AppleCare Protection Plan (to take it to a 3 year warranty like Samsung) and you get $1,698. That makes the MacBook Air MORE expensive than the Series 9.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

Are advertising i7 this is acceptable? Or even wanted? Col

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