Samsung Series 9 NP900X3B: Conclusion

April 15, 2012 by John Ratsey Reads (180,702)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Software & Support
    • 6
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 2
    • Usability
    • 8
    • Design
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 7
    • Features
    • 6
    • Price/Value Rating
    • 6
    • Total Score:
    • 6.14
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Heat and Noise
Readers may remember that this ultrabook contains not just one fan, but has two, in spite of the modest power rating of the CPU. The Samsung engineers evidently realised that the thin fans that can be squeezed into such a thin chassis could not be very effective unless spinning quickly, which creates more noise. The decision to provide two fans means that the fan activity is inaudible except in a quiet room and, even then, they can only be heard (with a purr, not a whine) when there is significant CPU load. My Lenovo T420s is much noisier. Full marks to Samsung for this aspect of the design.

HWiNFO shows that the CPU temperature only reaches about 75°C under intensive work which is cool considering the thin chassis (although placing the computer on a soft surface which blocks the bottom air vents will reduce the cooling efficiency).The outside of the chassis does not get uncomfortably hot with a maximum temperature of 41°C (106°F) and the palm rest stays cool under all conditions.

Battery Life
Samsung claim up to 7 hours running time on the battery, which is good considering that the nominal battery capacity is only 40WHr. The actual capacity of my battery is 38.85WHr (3% wear even though new). However, the notebookreview standard battery rundown test (Windows 7 Balanced power profile, 70% screen brightness, wireless active and refreshing a web page every 60 seconds) could only manage 4 hours and 55 minutes, which is well below average for the ultrabooks.

Battery life test results (higher scores mean better battery life):

However, in mitigation it must be noted that 70% brightness (I actually used 5/8) on a 400 nit panel is equivalent to 100% brightness on many notebooks. I therefore repeated the test with the display at 3/8 brightness (37% and equivalent to about 53% brightness on my T420s) and using a wired internet connection). This increased the run time to a more respectable 6 hours and 47 minutes so Samsung?s 7 hours is in sight and could be achieved with even lower display brightness (minimum brightness is equivalent to about 5/15 on the T420s which can, at best, manage 5 hours on its main battery).

Conclusion

If you want a slim, light and stylish notebook with a high quality, high resolution display then the 13-inch Samsung Series 9 must be on your shortlist. If you value the display above everything else, then there?s very little competition. However, achieving the slim and light form factor has necessitated some compromises, particularly the below-average battery capacity and the congested ports, many of which need dongles, while Samsung are charging a premium to the users who value this notebook?s attributes. Performance is below average but is still more than adequate for most applications.

Some of this notebook?s drawbacks will be overcome with the arrival of the Ivy Bridge version, which promises lower power consumption and/or better performance. Indeed, I would hypothesise that Samsung originally planned the release of this notebook to coincide with the arrival of Intel?s Ivy Bridge platform but then produced an interim version when Ivy Bridge was delayed. However, with the other ultrabooks also benefitting from Ivy Bridge?s improvements, this notebook will still be lagging in some areas.

For me, the question is whether this notebook can take over from my much larger Lenovo T420s (which is actually one of the lightest 14? notebooks available). And the only way I can find out that answer is to give it much more use than I have done to produce this review. Will the pleasure of looking at the display outweigh the other disadvantages? I will have to report back in a month or two.

Pros:

  • Excellent PLS (Samsung?s equivalent of IPS) display
  • Amazingly thin and light
  • Robust and stylish
  • Quiet

Cons:

  • Moderate battery capacity
  • Only two USB ports  and needs special dongles for the network and display devices
  • Limited potential for hardware upgrades
  • Expensive


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