It is clear from coverage of this year’s CES in Las Vegas there is one word that will define the laptop market in 2012: ultrabooks.
Ultrabooks are an Intel-based spec for a super lightweight laptops, using its low-voltage Sandy Bridge processors, and typically retailing at US$1000 or below.
I have spent the last two weeks reviewing a Samsung Series 9 laptop, which while not an ultrabook in the strictest sense (especially in terms of price), does share many of the qualities that make lightweight laptops so attractive to business users.
The Series 9 weighs in at an astonishing 1.36kg. This means even the least fit of us can carry it from conference to meeting and back without breaking into a sweat.
Samsung says the lightweight metal which makes up the back of the lid, and much of the chassis, is duralumin. The same alloy was commonly used in the early 20th century to make airships, including the infamous Hindenburg.
Looking at the Series 9, it’s hard not to make comparisons with Apple’s latest incarnation of the MacBook Air, considering that for many the Air is the benchmark for the lightweight computing category, but the sleek black finish and airfoil shape gives the Series 9 a more professional look than its Apple contemporary.
Samsung is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of LED displays, which is reflected in the picture and video quality on the 13.3 inch backlit display. The screen has a matt coating which makes it a little easier to read directly under a light.
Two hidden compartments on either side of the laptop house connections for USB and USB 3 ports, mini-HDMI, audio, and a micro-SD card slot. The Series 9 does not have a built-in ethernet port, but those of us who have tried to use the internet in a hotel before will be relieved to know an ethernet adapter comes in the box.
The keyboard is comfortable to use for basic word processing and some spreadsheet entry, and the travel between keys and key pressure is what I’ve come to expect in modern laptops.
Those who’ve used a MacBook before will feel comfortable using the strikingly similar backlit keyboard, and trackpad design.
Samsung claims the 6-cell lithium battery lasts up to seven hours. In practice, the Series 9’s could not last half a work day for me. After a full charge, I managed to deplete the battery in only five hours with moderate web browsing and playing a few short video clips.
Benchmark testing carried out by PC World late last year found that while the Series 9 is perfectly good for single tasks and basic computing, you may find it becomes sluggish when multi-tasking or doing memory intensive work.
Would I buy it for my business?
The simple answer is no.
At the time of writing this article, the cheapest Series 9 on PriceSpy was $2,789. This is almost $300 more than the top of the line MacBook Air. Although it has more RAM than the next comparable MacBook Air, the underpowered processor does not really make use of it.
Many New Zealand businesses do not support Macs on their systems, so if you are looking for an alternative to the MacBook Air I would recommend waiting until the middle of this year when many of the Intel-based Windows operating system ultrabooks are expected to hit the shelves, including perhaps another offering from Samsung.
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
CPU: Intel Core i5 Processor 2537M
Display: LED backlit, HD capable 13" 16:9 Screen
Graphics: Intel® HD Graphics 3000
Memory: 4GB DDR3 System Memory (up to 8GB)
Storage: 128GB Solid State Drive
Networking: 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 3.0, ethernet
Connectivity: Micro HDMI Input, Headphone Jack, mic-in, MicroSD Slot, 2 USB Ports, 1.3mp webcam
Battery: 6-Cell Lithium, 6300 mAh, (up to 7 hours claimed)
Size: 327.6mm x 226.06 x 16.3 (w/e/h)
* BYO is a new section in Computerworld that looks at devices and applications that are of interest to business IT users.