Samsung Series 9 worthy rival to Apple MacBook Air

Bill Detwiler cracks open Apple's redesigned Mac mini for a look at the hardware inside the new unibody enclosure.

Credit: Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

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)
Credit: Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

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.

Credit: Bill Detwiler/TechRepublic

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.