Notebooks like the Samsung Notebook 9 tend to make for interesting reviews, because while they can have irritating flaws that hold them back, they’re generally outweighed by the massive benefits they can offer.
If you look at the Samsung Notebook 9, for instance, the battery is long lasting and the hardware is fast – but the squishy keyboard and too-small SSD holds it back.
This all culminates in a laptop that hits enough perfect notes, that it may just be the best laptop for you – as long as you’re the type of user that prioritizes raw horsepower and battery life above all else, and can get used to the mushy keyboard.
Price and availability
The model we reviewed here is priced at $1,499 (about £1,069, AU$1,959), which gets you the hardware listed to the right. However, there’s a starting configuration with half the RAM and without dedicated graphics for $1,299 (about £929, AU$1,699).
Both of the Samsung Notebook 9 models have 1080p displays, plus Thunderbolt 3 ports and fingerprint sensors for login through Windows Hello. And, the only color option available to the Samsung Notebook 9 is a silvery ‘Light Titan’. So, not much has changed this time around, except for upgrades to both processing and graphics power.
While it doesn’t have the Touch Bar and super-sharp Retina display, the Samsung Notebook 9 far out prices the $2,399 (£1,719, AU$3,129) MacBook Pro for more computational power. Having said that, however, the MacBook Pro’s AMD Radeon Pro 555 GPU may outclass the Nvidia MX150 chip by a margin.
Starting at $999 (about £719, AU$1,299) the brand-new Dell XPS 15 handily outshines the Samsung Notebook 9 when it comes to value, putting forth half as much RAM but far stronger Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics and a 128GB SSD- plus-1TB HDD combo storage solution behind an FHD display. So, where does that leave the Notebook 9?
Because the Samsung Notebook 9 relies quite a bit on its stylings and features to prop up its pricing, it’s good that it’s quite stylish and full of features. Compared to last year’s offering, though, not much has changed about the Notebook 9’s design.
This is actually a great thing, as we’ve always appreciated Samsung’s approach to laptop design. Flat where it needs to be and with only a small amount of curves, the Samsung Notebook 9 radiates subtle luxury with its silvery aluminum frame.
The Samsung Notebook 9 comes in just under three pounds and is just 0.61 inches thick, making it one of the most portable 15-inch laptops we’ve ever tested. That said, there’s one part of the chassis we’d have wished were a little better.
The keyboard, while spacious and deep in travel, is awfully squishy feeling when it comes to feedback. While it’s certainly not the crisp, punchy experience we’re used to on laptops in this price range, it doesn’t impact your time using it – just anticipate a learning curve. It’s up to you whether some of the laptop’s other major benefits outweigh this flaw.
Also, we found the keyboard backlighting to be awfully faint, not appearing much brighter than a glow-in-the-dark sticker and similar in hue. At the very least, the keys are well-spaced and leave room for a fantastic fingerprint sensor and touchpad.
The touchpad on this laptop is coated in glass like before and offers up supreme palm rejection in that it not once triggered mouse movements while typing. Meanwhile, the fingerprint sensor is snappy to set up and speedy in action – all laptops should feature this standard.
Display and audio
Unsurprisingly, Samsung’s FHD display in use here is fantastic, offering excellent color reproduction through its LED panel. Reds absolutely pop while blacks all but disappear into the screen’s bonding.
However, the Samsung Notebook 9’s true brightness potential is hidden behind an outdoor mode within the Samsung Settings app. This increases the screen’s maximum brightness of 350 nits by another 150 to give a max brightness of 500 nits – which puts it in league with the MacBook Pro.
The fact that the Samsung Notebook 9 display is fantastic isn’t surprising, knowing the manufacturer – just turn that Outdoor Mode on when watching Netflix, and you’ll have a great time. You’ll be happy to know that this settings app also features a blue light reduction mode – making those 500 nits easier on the eyes.
As for the audio, we’re sad to say that it sounds about as thin and tinny as you’d expect from tiny, down-firing speakers. This is one place worth looking at for Samsung in terms of improving the 2019 model.
First reviewed April 2018
Rocking an 8th-generation Intel Kaby Lake Refresh Core i7 processor and Nvidia MX150 GPU, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Samsung Notebook 9 absolutely aced our benchmarks. What is surprising, though, is the massive amount of battery life that this laptop boasts.
During our benchmark tests, the Notebook 9 proved that it’s able to handle just about any computing task you throw at it within the scope of the average user. Without a 4K display, don’t expect to edit 4K media on this machine, but it should render 1080p video and image files without issue.
The laptop’s graphical performance is awfully impressive, and indicates you should be able to get some casual, basic gaming out of this device and fantastic video playback.
That said, we were a bit disappointed by the storage on offer. If a professional or prosumer were to pick up this laptop, they’d fill up that 256GB SSD in no time. Especially for the price, Samsung should offer at least 512GB or a hybrid solution – Apple might not, but Dell sure does.
In spite of our qualms with the Notebook 9, we’re in awe of one key advantage of Samsung’s latest 15-inch laptop: insane battery life. This might well be the longest-lasting laptop we’ve tested yet, crushing both of our benchmarks and outlasting the most power-packed laptops we’ve seen.
At nearly 8 hours in our PCMark 8 battery test and more than 12 and a half hours in our local video rundown test, the Notebook 9 handily outclasses the Dell XPS 15 of last year, though we can’t speak for the 15-inch MacBook Pro.
How did the Notebook 9 achieve these numbers? Well, Samsung boosted the battery capacity of its 15-inch laptop by nearly 10Wh to 75Wh this time around. Simultaneously, sporting just a 1080p display while adding more battery only resulted in net gains in battery life.
If your needs focus more on general performance and reliability, then the Notebook 9 might be an excellent choice, knowing how long it can last you on a charge. Those figures, not even accounting for Windows 10 Battery Saver Mode and tuning brightness below 50%, would see you through cross-country, and even intercontinental, flights.
Features and software
While Samsung did shove McAfee antivirus into this laptop at launch, Samsung at least developed some fantastic settings control software for its unique features. For example, the Samsung Settings app can send the laptop into a silent mode, that reduces fan noise by turning on power saving features.
Better yet, this is where you activate Outdoor Mode, which boosts the screen brightness to 400 nits rather than 350. From this app, you’ll also be able to switch between maximum performance modes and additional battery saving modes that could make the already lengthy battery life even longer.
The Samsung Notebook 9’s software even features an HDR mode that can make colors pop more in photos and videos, though to our untrained eyes it just seems to make scenes darker and colors a bit more pronounced. You can also control keyboard backlighting here – but, you can’t make it any stronger or change the color.
At any rate, the Samsung Settings app is one of the most useful pieces of software we’ve seen pre-loaded onto a laptop in a long time.
In spite of a keyboard that isn’t quite punchy enough for our tastes and dimly backlit, and some lackluster audio performance as well as a small amount of storage, we found that the 15-inch Samsung Notebook 9’s benefits far outweigh its flaws.
You will absolutely be hard-pressed to find a laptop that performs this well, and which also lasts this long. Sure, that’s thanks in large part to a 1080p display in a time when high-resolution options are all but required, but depending on your specific needs this could be an incredible laptop for you.
In the name of beefy battery life and versatility in performance, not to mention all the ports we’ll ever need in a laptop, it’s easy to recommend the Samsung Notebook 9 to most students and general users. You can expect to go far with this laptop – and for longer without having to charge.