Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite review

There are four basic versions of the ATIV  Book 9 Lite: With and without touchscreen and either black or white. While it has a similar appearance to the 13.3-inch Series 9 models, the Book 9 Lite is made from plastic.

The other distinguishing feature compared to the other members of the family is the use of an AMD accelerated processing unit (APU) instead of the more common Intel hardware. Samsung have put a “x4 quad-core” sticker on the palm rest but have not made any explicit reference to the AMD processor, neither on the box, nor on any sticker, nor in the BIOS). Does this notebook belong to the Book 9 family? Read on.

Build and Design

The ATIV Book 9 Lite have a similar appearance to the 13.3-inch Series 9 notebooks but the ATIV Book 9 Lite is larger in all dimensions with the tapered plastic edges used to give an impression of thinness. However, it still feels very thin. The overall feel is that the notebook is reasonably robust. There is some deflection if the notebook is squeezed but nothing feels flimsy. While it is possible bend the display slightly, this does not cause ripples on the screen.

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The hinges are smooth and firm (in fact, too stiff at the moment) with no hint of wobble. The label on the box says the color is “mineral ash black” which, in the real world means very dark blue. Most surfaces have a matte finish but the display back has an imitation brushed metal finish under a glossy coating with a shiny “Samsung” logo.

As with many thin-and-light notebooks, there is no official provision for user access to the inside. I couldn’t resist taking a look inside to see how a computer can be squeezed into so little space and quickly discovered that not only are there the 11 screws but also plastic clips around the edge of the base which have to be prised apart.

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The inside is dominated by the battery, each side of which is a loudspeaker. The SSD is hidden under the gold-colored ribbon cable. There is one fan for the CPU. Two Wi-Fi antenna cables are connected to the mainboard which indicates that the Wi-Fi is integrated without a separate card. These two cables disappear into one of the hinges which indicates that the antennae are in the display and unlikely to suffer the weak Wi-Fi signal problems of most other members of this family.

The various ports, with the exception of the power socket, appear to be directly mounted onto the mainboard or a secondary board on the other side of the fan. For what is advertised as a System-on-a-Chip (SOC), there are a surprising number of other components on the mainboard. Officially, there’s nothing that can be upgraded although it should be possible to change the SSD to one of higher capacity.

Ports and Features

As is often the case with thin notebooks, the ATIV Book 9 Lite is not generously endowed with ports. Altogether there is one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port, an audio jack, a gigabit ethernet port (for which a dongle is provided) a micro-HDMI port and a VGA port (which needs a special dongle). There is also an SD card slot under a flap on the left side. Even the power jack uses an unusually small plug. One improvement compared to most other Series 9 notebooks is the provision of a security slot (even if the notebook is too thin for a standard cable lock). The ports also have slightly greater separation than on the previous Series 9 models.

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The display of the ATIV Book 9 Lite does not share the outstanding quality of the other recent 13.3-inch Series 9 models. It is a standard TN LCD panel (AUO 152C) and while the viewing angles are good, the display is not in the same league as the IPS / PLS panels used in the other 13.3″ Series 9 notebooks. The resolution is 1366 x 768 which, while providing, by default, clear and well-sized, text, does not provide the level of detail enabled by higher resolution displays. The maximum brightness is 250 nits (according to the label on the box) which is adequate for indoor use but is dim compared with the 400 nit panels on some of the other Series 9 notebooks.

Speakers

Samsung have included a reasonably good pair of speakers into the chassis. As can be seen on the internal photo, these are more than simple loudspeakers. The downward-facing speakers on the bevelled sides of the computer appear to benefit from the computer being on a table top so that the sound can be reflected upwards and both audio quantity and quality are relatively good with a hint of bass.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard appears to be very similar to the other Series 9 / ATIV Book 9 models, but this one does not include backlighting. However, the bold white lettering on black keys provides good low-light visibility. As is common for the keyboards on this size of notebook, some functions are either absent or are accessed using the Fn key.

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One only needs to spend a few minutes with one of these big pads to realise that the smaller touchpads in older notebooks are inconvenient to use in comparison. Most users don’t ever try visiting the pad control panel, but there are numerous options.