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Samsung's thin and light Notebook 9 harks back to simpler times
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Samsung's thin and light Notebook 9 harks back to simpler times
Samsung's new flagship laptop, the $1,500 Notebook 9, does not have a touchscreen. Its display does not detach or fold back into tablet mode. It's not even that exciting-looking. And yet I am fully enjoying my time with it. Though it doesn't offer some of the niceties we've come to expect on modern laptops, it excels in just about every way that matters, with healthy battery life, a comfortable keyboard, a bright display and a thin design. Even the touchpad is OK, and that's saying something.
Samsung's 15-inch Notebook 9 isn't flashy -- it doesn't have a detachable design or a 4K screen -- but it gets all the important stuff right, making it one of the best laptops we've tested recently. Highlights include decent battery life, fast performance and a comfortable keyboard. What's more, thanks to some slim bezels and a light, 2.9-pound chassis, it's so compact that it's easy to forget you're using a 15-inch system. If you can live without a touchscreen -- and swallow the high price -- there's a lot to love here.


I was sure I had received the wrong shipment. The Notebook 9 is available in two sizes: 13.3 and 15 inches, and though I knew I was getting the 15-inch version to review, it really did seem, when I pulled it out of the box, that I had been sent the smaller one. First off, thanks to some super-skinny bezels (just a quarter of an inch wide), Samsung was able to cram a 15-inch display into a machine with a much smaller footprint. Think: the sort of chassis you'd normally find on a 14-inch laptop. Second -- and this is where I really got confused, I think -- the 15-inch version weighs only 2.9 pounds. Think about that for a second: That's on par with the 13-inch MacBook Air. (The 13-inch Notebook 9 is even lighter, at a barely there 1.9 pounds.) Perhaps you can understand, then, where the 15-inch laptop we have here simply doesn't match my notions of how a machine that size should look and feel.

Before I gush too much, though, I want to make one thing clear: Light as this is, it's not a particularly pretty machine. Its magnesium-alloy casing is sturdy, yes, but it looks like plastic from afar. There's also a strange bump where the palm rest ends, putting the keyboard on a slightly lower plane. What can I say? It's weird-looking.

As plain as the Notebook 9 is, Samsung makes up for that in other ways. Aside from those skinny bezels and that compact footprint, the port selection is good, even despite those slim half-inch-thick edges. On the left side we've got a full-size USB connection, along with a headphone jack, a USB Type-C port and a Mini DisplayPort. Over on the right you'll find another USB port, along with a full-size HDMI socket and a microSD card reader. That covers most of the bases, then, though I'm one of those people who would have preferred -- and regularly use -- a full-size SD slot.

The keyboard also excuses the uninspired design. The buttons here are well spaced, springy and responsive; I never have to retype a letter because it didn't register the first time. They're also relatively quiet, which is always a plus. If I could change anything, I would prefer not to have to hold the function key to adjust things like volume and screen brightness. But for typing, it's fantastic.

As I said, the touchpad isn't bad. Not perfect, but I would totally agree with my colleague Chris, who said in his initial hands-on that the trackpad "didn't make me want to shoot myself." Indeed, Chris. Indeed. Yes, it does that thing that other touchpads do where it sometimes makes me accidentally rearrange pinned browser tabs, but it happens less often here. Most of the time, the touch surface works fine for single-finger tracking and two-finger scrolling.
The display is another example of where the Notebook 9 isn't flashy, perhaps, but is still enjoyable to use. The 1,920 x 1,080 panel we have here isn't particularly high-res, but it still feels more than adequate for everyday use. What the machine lacks in pixels it makes up for in balanced, pleasing colors and minimal glare; this isn't a matte panel, exactly, but the gloss is so minimal that you won't see many reflections. It helps, I think, that the display has a high brightness rating of 350 nits. (The brighter the panel, the easier it is to outshine natural light.) Separate from screen glare, the viewing angles are wide enough that when you dip the screen forward, the colors mostly keep their fidelity. That's also a plus.

As we've learned over and over again, there's more to good screen quality than just pixel density. And if the pixel density were higher, the battery life wouldn't be as long as it is, which would be a shame.

While I never craved a higher resolution, however, I did sometimes miss having a touchscreen. Going as far back as Windows 8, Microsoft's operating system has been built for a mix of keyboard and finger input. Indeed, basically every Windows laptop I've tested in recent years has had a touchscreen, even if it didn't have a detachable or convertible design allowing it to be used in tablet mode.

With that bit of background, you can say I've been spoiled. My inclination is to hit the Start button in the lower-left corner when I'm ready to power down the machine. And when I needed the built-in calculator app, it sure would have been nice to tap the numbers with my fingers rather than click, click, click on each digit. I realize that having a touchscreen would have meant a slightly heavier, slightly thicker design, but I think I would have been OK with that.

News Group : technology
Date: 2016/4/21
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