Review: Samsung Series 9 900X4C (15")

 
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Published: July 27, 2012 2:00 PM
By Alexandre Botella
Translated by: Hugh Ehreth
The outstanding 13" Series 9 isn't the only ultrabook in Samsung's new range. There's also this 15", known as the Series 9 9004XC. In theory, it's just the larger version of the same computer. But, skeptics that we are, that just wasn't good enough for us. We had to dig deeper. We had to poke our nose around and find out the truth: is the super-sized version really on par with the 13"?

Design4/5



Opening the box, we found the same contours and materials that pleased us on the 13". The 15" is elegant with refined finishings. Our only very minor reservation might be the wrist support, which tends to collect fingerprints despites its non-glossy surface.

Series 9 side by side

The keyboard is also similar to the 13" version, with low-lying, quiet keys. One addition in this model is a shortcut column on the right.

Series 9 15
Samsung has also made use of the 15" format to enlarge the touchpad. The entire surface is clickable, except for a one-centimetre band at the top. The touchpad allows for smooth, precise finger movements and features multitouch functions such as zooming and two-finger scrolling.

Series 9 15
Mini-VGA and two USB 3.0 ports Power, USB 2.0, headphone/mic jack, micro-HDMI &  Ethernet adapter

The connectivity includes a USB 2.0 port, two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader (hidden on the right side), a headphone/microphone jack, and ports for a mini-VGA-to-VGA adapter, a micro-HDMI-to-HDMI cable and an Ethernet adapter (only the Ethernet adapter is included). While all these adapter ports help give the Series 9 its slender form, it unfortunately also means you'll have to carry a pile of adapters with you, which spoils some of the cachet once you've got them all plugged in.

Samsung Series 9 900X4C-A01 : heat
Heat readings for the 15" Samsung Series 9 with the components under stress.
Images captured with a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera.

Noise levels are never a problem on the 900X4C. While you can hear the fan pumping away a bit when you really push the components to their limit, the sound from a movie or video game is more than enough to cover it up. At start-up and when running lighter programmes such as word processing, web browsers or multimedia, the 900X4C is one of the quietest computers of its kind. The heat levels are just like those on the 13": slightly above average. It isn't enough to pose any real threat to the components, but we picked up a significant difference between the top of the keyboard and the wrist support (about 9° C).

Screen


Series 9 15

And now for the 900X4C's biggest weakness: the screen...

While Samsung succeeded in fitting a matte 15" display inside a chassis close to the dimensions of a 14" laptop by using a thin frame, it neglected to give it the care and attention it deserves. The screen on the 15" Series 9 is nowhere close to the quality of the 13" display. Here, it's TN technology, which offers very narrow viewing angles—just look at the two images above—and the contrast is astoundingly low (170:1), which means you have to sit right in front of the screen to get anything close to a tolerable image.

Series 9 15

Just lean slightly to the side, and you'll see the image get altered beyond recognition. This would have been an issue even on a low-cost laptop, so on a high-end product like this one, it's positively unacceptable. And even when you're sitting at the right angle you'll still need a calibration profile to make up for the poor colour accuracy (Delta E of 8.8).

Processing Power5/5



The Core i5-3317U handles productivity software, web browsing, multimedia and CPU-intensive programmes so well that you almost forget it's a low power consumption processor. The Series 9 has loads of computing power, especially for a laptop of its size.

The 128 GB SSD makes the 900X4C a responsive machine. This is something you particularly notice with its 25-second start-up (including Wi-Fi connection time), 8-second shut-down and 2 seconds when coming out of sleep mode.

Gaming2/5



The 900X4C makes no pretences when it comes to gaming. Like the 13", all the 15" has for the graphics is the Intel HD 4000. That will allow it to run older games without too much difficulty and newer games only by making huge concessions with the quality.

While the Series 9 clearly doesn't work wonders with video games, it decodes 1080p video effortlessly.

Audio3/5



Samsung series 9 15
 Green = good. Orange = tolerable. White = highly altered

With the little space available in the chassis, the integrated speakers deliver low volume and saturate the sound when you put the volume on max. The headphone output is better, with accurately rendered sound and average volume. So if you want to enjoy music to the fullest, you're better off plugging in your cans.

Battery Life5/5



Even at 15 inches, the Series 9 is well-suited for a mobile lifestyle thanks to its light weight (1.65 kg) and, all things considered, reasonable size (35.69 x 23.7 x 1.49 mm). The five-hour-ten-minute battery life during video playback (with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off, headphones in and the screen at 100 cd/m²) is another of the 900X4C's selling points.
3/5 Samsung Series 9 900X4C (15") DigitalVersus 2012-07-27 15:00:00

Pros

  • Great design
  • Small size
  • Quiet
  • Matte display surface
  • Good performance from the CPU, RAM and SSD
  • Battery life: 5 hours 10 minutes

Cons

  • Mediocre display
  • Adapters required for VGA, Ethernet, etc.

Conclusion

Despite overall good performance (video games notwithstanding) and high-end finishing, the atrocious quality of the display sets the Series 9 back all the way from five stars on the 13" to three stars on this 15". If you have to choose, we definitely recommend the 13" version with the PLS display.

OUR SCORE 3/5
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