Measuring 0.5 by 12.6 by 8.80 inches (HWD) and weighing just 3.92 pounds, the new Book 9 is slim and light, but it’s also very sturdy and substantial thanks to an aluminum chassis and improved keyboard, which provide a very solid feel to the highly portable ultrabook. It has the same sleek curves as the previous Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus, but with a slimmer overall profile and narrower bezels around the display. The result is a lighter laptop that packs a larger 15.6-inch capacitive touch display into a similar overall size.The keyboard has subtly sculpted keycaps, a surprisingly deep 1.3mm of key travel, and a soft-touch matte finish on the individual keys. It also offers backlighting, for easy typing in low-light conditions. The touchpad is quite large, measuring 4.25 by 3.2 inches, with a silky smooth surface and full support for Windows 8 gestures.Samsung uses a Wolfson digital-to-analog chip for better audio and recording, and partnered with Dolby to develop custom compression algorithms that reduce the flattening experienced when listening to compressed audio. To my ear, that sound is good when heard through the laptop’s built-in stereo speakers, but the real magic happens when listening with high-end headphones; that’s when FLAC files play back with better than CD quality audio.
Some users might ask why Samsung uses Full HD displays for its current ATIV 9 Books, after they already offered devices like the ATIV Plus (13.3-inch) with the extreme resolution of 3200×1800 pixels. Maybe the manufacturer noticed that 276 ppi was too much, since the human eye only has a resolution capacity of 188 ppi at full vision with a distance of 45 centimeters from the display. Interestingly, this is pretty much the exact value if you use 2560×1440 pixels (QHD) for a 15.6-inch display.The glossy display of our review unit seems to have an anti-reflective coating that works pretty well outdoors, even on a sunny day. The reflections aren’t too bad during work, where you are usually only using bright contents, even if you are not in the shade. There should not be any ergonomic restrictions on bright days if you can adjust your position to avoid bright surfaces like the sky in the background.The display of the Samsung ATIV Book 9 2014 has very wide viewing angles, even for an IPS panel. It does not matter if you are looking from the horizontal or vertical direction, and even from the smallest angles, there are no picture distortions that we know from TN panels besides the reduced brightness: There is no milky impression or inverted colors. Optimal is therefore the right description.
On the sides of the slim ultrabook, you’ll find a surprising number of ports and connectors, given the lack of space. On the left, there’s a full-size HDMI output, one USB 3.0 port, a stereo headset jack, and a tiny port for Samsung’s small Ethernet adapter dongle (included). On the right, you’ll find two more USB ports (one USB 3.0, one USB 2.0), a Kensington case-lock slot, and another small adapter port, this time for VGA ($39.99, sold separately). Also on the right side of the system is an SD Card slot, with a spring-loaded cover that keeps out dirt and grime whenever the slot isn’t in use.To maintain the slim dimensions and speedy performance of the ultrabook, the Book 9 is outfitted with a 128GB solid-state drive, which offers fast boot and wake times, and snappy performance. What it doesn’t offer much of is storage space—the Gigabyte U2442T-CF1combines a 128GB SSD and a 750GB hard drive for more capacity.Samsung includes a few pre-installed programs on the system, though not many that would be classified as bloatware. Samsung Link lets you share content with other Samsung devices, or stream media to a Samsung Smart TV. Samsung’s S Player+ provides more file format support than Windows 8 does, and offers better support for lossless file formats. For photos, Samsung offers both S PhotoStudio and a complimentary copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 11. Samsung includes a one-year subscription of Norton Internet Security Suite and covers the Book 9 with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.
The two small speakers at the bottom of the base unit could enthrall us, not only in comparison with the majority of notebooks. During the review, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 2014 sat on a table that could be used to reflect the sound. The high maximum volume is easily sufficient for a 25 m² room and there are no noteworthy distortions. We could only notice small fluctuations with constant high volumes. Otherwise, the speakers can convince us with a clear, differentiated, balanced and natural sound. Deep frequencies are not perfect due to the limited size, although the review unit can create a certain dynamic and even a convenient spatial sound experience. You can easily enjoy music, voice and movies without external speakers with this Ultrabook. The configuration menu in the attached picture only offers a limited functionality, but there is not much to improve anyway. Samsung’s notebook also works well in combination with your sound system at home and should be sufficient for most users.
The Ativ Book 9 2014 Edition comes with a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-4200U processor and 8GB of RAM—the same CPU as the previous Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus, but with twice the memory installed, resulting in noticeably improved performance. For example, in Photoshop CS6, the new Book 9 finished in 4 minutes 49 seconds, more than a full minute ahead of the previous Samsung Book 9 Plus (5:51). But while the increase in memory did eke better performance out of the same CPU, it’s not enough to compete head to head with a faster processor. The Toshiba Kirabook 13 i7s Touch, for example, boasts a faster Core i7 chip, and plowed through Photoshop in 4:37. It also offers significantly better performance in PCMark 8 with 2,344 points, where the Book 9 scored a still respectable 913 points. That said, the Book 9 is made for general users who demand fast performance, while the Kirabook is aimed at creative professionals who need more power to prevent being bogged down while they work.Equipped with Intel’s integrated graphics solution—Intel HD Graphics 4400—the Book 9 may not be ready to take on 3D gaming, but it should meet all of your other needs, from streaming movies and rendering web pages to editing photos and video clips. In 3DMark, the system scored 4,274 points under CloudGate (the medium settings test) and 267 points under FireStrike Extreme (the high detail settings test). Gaming, as mentioned earlier, is mostly out of the question, as the Book 9 2014 Edition failed to produce playable scores in any of our gaming tests, under any settings.The best aspect of the new Book 9, however, is its battery life, lasting 11 hours 26 minutes in our rundown test. This is a dramatic improvement over the previous iteration (8:15), and leaves all other competitors behind by a similar margin. This improvement is largely due to the change in display resolution, making it a trade-off that many will find worthwhile.
The perception of surface temperatures as well as the system noise is a highly subjective thing, so we want to let the diagram underneath this section speak for itself. The areas that you get in contact with in practice do not even reach 30 °C under load. There are no fan exhausts at the bottom and we can only measure up to 38 °C; it is therefore no problem to use the notebook on your lap.Our stress test with Prime95 and FurMark was a bit tricky since we could not prevent the ATIV Book 9 2014 from throttling with any setting. The CPU cores reached uncritical temperatures of up to 69 °C up to that point.
For anyone tired of working day to day on a small screen but still wants a high-end, thin-and-light with a long, long battery life, the Samsung Ativ Book 9 2014 Edition is one sweet system. It ain’t cheap, though, and you’ll probably need to come up with some combination of external and cloud storage to compensate for its 128GB SSD.