First impressions of Samsung Series 9 NP900X4C

I'm absolutely no computer expert, so don't read this as a product test! I give my first impressions of this solid made computer as a photographer who needed a light and powerful workhorse for travel and everyday work. This high-end Samsung Series 9 NP900X4C is a perfect travel companion for the photographer working in the digital darkroom on the move.

Intel® Core™ i7 Processor 3517U + 8GB DDR3 1600 MHz - makes life easy!

Introduction 
Almost six months ago, I received a long awaited replacement for my seven year old Dell Inspiron 630m laptop, my old machine is still going strong, but a lot has happened since 2006 and it was time for a new travel-mate. The Dell computer was my first laptop, and back then I was thrilled to get a computer that "only" weighted about 2,7 kg. with a 9 cell battery, in a compact and robust body. That computer has been used a lot over the years on travels and for everyday use, but for some time I have been searching for a replacement.

Over the years Apple has set the standards for high-end laptops and I really like the design of the newer MacBook Air, but I never bought it, because I hate glossy displays and also wanted a bigger display, but the design and the use of Flash memory were really an eye-opener for me. What I had in mind was a light and powerful ultrabook with a high resolution 14-15" display with an anti glare surface, a Solid State Drive and at least two USB 3,0 ports, together with plenty of Ram and long battery life. 

I believe the Samsung Series 9 NP900X4C to be the the perfect match and I ordered it as soon as I saw it announced here in Denmark. Well, what's so special about it? - it is the thinnest and lightest 15in ultraportable in the World to date! and it is so special that Samsung does not class as an Ultrabook, because it plays in a whole other league with premium features, read on to find out more...  

The thinnest and lightest 15in laptop in the World!

Design and Build
This computer costs more than each of my Carl Zeiss ZF lenses alone, and it oozes the same quality with its gorgeous sandblasted anodized gunmetal blue/grey "Mineral Ash Black" and the chrome edges makes a nice contrast and further emphasising that incredible thinness. The dark metal gets fingerprint marks easily, but they are not so noticeable or annoying as seen on other computers.

I hate plastic! and luckily the outer parts is metal with absolutely no creaking sounds! I love this simple and conservative design with a minimal of fuss and certainly no bling-bling! it's definitely a more business/productivity type laptop for people on the move who don't want to carry something heavy about. Also the power adaptor is incredibly small and light-weighty, which makes transport a lot easier - very nice, because as a photographer you have a lot of other stuff to carry around.
 
Good ergonomics, a rock-solid feel with excellent design and aesthetics, it is really very well made; very strong and with minimal flex although it is extremely thin and light for a 15inch laptop. The low weight of only 1,65 kg. is something I really like. The 14.9mm thick Series 9 laptop beats its rivals - like the Apple MacBook Air and Acer Aspire S5 and it's almost as light as they are too - impressive given its larger 15in screen. Unlike many ultrabooks that use several bolted together panels, theNP900X4C comes packaged in a true unibody chassis, like that of the MacBook Air. 

No design is perfect for everyone and I've found a few design issues, that are easy to live with, but they would have been easy for Samsung to correct early in the design phase. Something I find a bit annoying is lack of a charging led indicator on the outside of the chassis, you have to open the lid to to see if the computer is fully charged, this would have been easy to make a small indicator on the side of the chassis when you connect the power adaptor!. The charger plug also has a very small barrel that will be easily snapped once someone trips over the wire!.

Another silly thing is how hard the lid is to open, the minimalistic design gives absolutely no grip and the magnets are simply to strong! and keeps the computer firmly together as a closed oyster. My technique is to hold the computer with its back against my body and then open the lid, an almost perfect design is not always practical!. One thing I do like is the way the lid closes, the magnets closes the lid with an elegance, not found on any other laptop, this is great!.

Gorgeous sandblasted anodized gunmetal blue/grey "Mineral Ash Black" body

Screen Quality
The 16:9 widescreen spreads wide across the top panel and the LED-backlit panel is extraordinarily bright and anti-reflective, so you can actually use the screen in various light conditions. One of the reasons I bought this computer is the display with its semi-matt anti glare surface, that is very handy in bright environments outside or at a window-seat for example. The super slim design of the computer and the use of MaxScreen, gives an incredible narrow bezel and I really like aesthetics of that design feature.

I'm getting old and I find 13in displays eye-straining, the 15in means that you're not squinting at tiny text, this is very relaxing for the eyes. The display is extremely sharp with a resolution of 1600x900, it easily differentiates from most ultrabooks, but you might say that this is not Full HD or as good as a Retina display from Apple, and that's right! ...I find it more than enough for most work and a higher resolution would also mean a better graphic-card and then the battery-life would suffer, so I think it is a nice compromise. 

The colour rendition is great with rich vivid colours, without being oversaturated and blacks levels are excellent. Most laptops are almost impossible to use in bright environments, but that is not the case with the NP900X4C, it has the brightest display I have ever seen! 400 nit is double the amount of brightness compared with most other laptops, that mean that in most cases I only have to set the brightness very low and then save battery power (I prefer to set the brightness manually!).

This computer has a 13inch little sister Samsung Series 9 900X3B, which uses a PLS display with superior viewing angels, unfortunately my computer doesn't! and that means that the viewing angles are not optimal, it has good side-to-side viewing angles but the vertical angles is not so good. The display is by far the worst feature of the computer which is a real shame!, but in the right position it is excellent, but it is a bad compromise on a super high-end computer!

The backlit keyboard is great to type on and the green light is not to bright!

In use
This computer has lightning fast "cold-start" boot-time of only 9 seconds on Windows 7 64bit and it wakes really really fast too, in fact it does every thing fast! its a pleasure to work with!. Return from standby is also very quick at under 2 seconds and return from hibernation is under 10 seconds and it is Super silent too, an almost eerie silence if you sit in a room without sound! The computer has a special "silent" mode that locks the CPU to 522MHz to minimise fan use, I have not used this feature yet, because even with this mode off, the Samsung never makes a peep. Yes it has minimal noise and absolutely none heat issues.

For this screen size and weight the battery life is exceptional, the battery life has good efficiency and is excellent in medium-to-low backlight and load scenarios, it lasts for seven to eight hours easily! Samsung have proved again that they can make a very efficient platform; but the backlight can really hit the battery life when used at high settings, so using the computer in bright environments reduces the batterylife drastically.

The NP900X4C is such a pleasure to use, its chiclet keyboard sports a roomy layout with good spacing, and keys that offer excellent feedback despite the relatively shallow travel. It’s the same story with the huge buttonless glass-surface touchpad. It’s lovely to the touch, large enough for comfortable gestures, and flawless in its responsiveness. Windows still can't match MacOS for multi-touch gestures but this is among the closest alternatives.

The Samsung Series 9 is relatively free of installed software. There’s a useful disk imaging tool from Samsung, the software update manager from Samsung, Cyberlink YouCam, a migration tool, application launcher bar and the Samsung Fast Boot software. There’s also the Easy Settings tool which gives you access to many settings in one place. For example you can set the performance mode, turn Wi-Fi and BT on and off, access some display settings, the audio enhancer, fast start, quiet mode, battery life extender, keyboard backlight and other settings. Unfortunately the tool takes a long time to start up which makes it annoying to use.

Like most ultraportables, there’s no room for an optical drive but if films on laptops are your thing, a DVD drive that plugs into a USB port will do the trick!. Samsung have provided a good selection of ports despite the thin casing but in order to squeeze everything in they’ve had to use three micro-sized ports, two proprietary, that will require adaptors. Micro-HDMI cables are cheap and easy to find but the VGA adaptor is something that many will have to take the time to order. Given that Samsung have provided the micro Ethernet port adaptor with the Series 9 and that they provide a VGA adaptor with the budget-level Series 5, it seems like penny-pinching at this price-point and it’s silly.

This computer can eat all the Nikon D800 36MP Raw files you throw at it, no problems observed at all!, but all is not perfect! the CPU Turbo Boost does not work under battery power and you have to connect the power adapter to get max Turbo CPU power in extreme situations. Also the limited usable disk space (system takes 30Gbytes of the 128GB Solid State Drive) you need to make choices over what you load, but you can always keep a 64GB SD card in the card slot or use a Lacie P’9223 Slim SSD drive, which is a perfect match for this computer! .


The rugged and solid chassis is a true unibody design like like that of the MacBook Air

Summary
The Samsung Series 9 NP900X4C is not only an amazing computer, but it is also a unique ultraportable, the combination of a 15inch display and low weight of only 1,65 kg. can’t be found in any other product today. The large 16:9 widescreen and USB 3,0 port combination will be attractive to mobile photographers or videographers while the high brightness of the display, makes this a good mobile workstation for outdoor or window-seat use.

Very thin and light, great if you move about a lot, this was the primary reason I bought this laptop. I'm getting old and I find 13in displays eye-straining, the 15in means that you're not squinting at tiny text, this is very relaxing for the eyes. That great anti-glare display and crisp all-metal shell lift the Samsung Series 9 15-incher above the ultrabook rabble, and speedy Intel silicon inside makes it very productive. One thing I did not mention in the review is the handy Chargeable USB 2,0 port, that can be used even when the computer is turned off! - this is a great feature and I have used it to charge my phone and other devices. After having used this computer for almost six months, I can only give it my highest recommendation! Being the "feinsmecker" that I am, I don't really think about the big price tag! - if you value quality and style, it’s worth every penny of its premium price!.

If you find the 15inch to big you can take a look at the lighter 13inch version Samsung Series 9 900X3B, that is also incredibly thin, with its sub-13mm profile making it the slimmest 13-inch computer, but being the thinnest isn’t enough; it’s also the lightest, weighing a mere 1.15kg. It also has the best PLS screen of any ultrabook, but it is not so powerful and it only have one USB 3,0 port and reduced batterylife.

Rating: Build Quality: 10/10 - Functionality: 9/10 - Performance: 9/10


Conclusion - Pros:

+ The thinnest and lightest 15in ultraportable in the World!
+ SuperBright 400 nit "semi-matt" anti glare display (1600x900)
+ Impressive Super slim design only 14,9 mm thick with MaxScreen (very thin bezel)
+ Gorgeous sandblasted anodized gunmetal blue/grey "Mineral Ash Black" body
+ The all-metal rugged chassis is a true unibody design like like that of the MacBook Air
+ Very long battery life that lasts for seven hours easily!
+ Low weight of only 1,65 kg.
+ Full-size SDXC card slot
+ Super silent, an almost eerie silence!
+ Good connectivity with two USB 3,0 ports
+ Large multi-touch clickpad (Apple-style)
+ Soft green backlit keyboard - not to bright!
+ Lightning fast "cold-start" boot-time of only 9,1 seconds (Fast Start: 1,4 sec.)
+ Chargeable USB 2,0 port can be used even when the computer is turned off!
+ Top-notch Ultrabook performance and Fast Data Access with Solid State Drive
+ Really small and light power adapter is nice when travelling!

Conclusion - Cons:

- No supplied HDMI cable or VGA dongle
- No charging led on the outside of the chassis
- Micro HDMI, VGA and LAN ports, might be less robust?
- Display angles is limited, but in the right position it is excellent!
- The lid can be hard to open, the minimalistic design gives absolutely no grip!
- Speakers are average and it can't play loud music, but you'd be foolish thinking it could!
- Big price tag! - if you value quality and style, it’s worth every penny of its premium price.
- Limited usable disk space (system takes 30Gbytes of the 128) - Recent models have 256GB

Impressive Super slim design only 14,9 mm thick

No Fuss! simple and stylish design, even underneath!

Mineral Ash Black Leather Notebook Carry Case - Premium and stylish protection on the move!

The Lacie P’9223 Slim SSD drive is perfect match for my computer!

2 comments:

  1. looks more compact and lightweight than the previous models, but this thin unit makes it like a clone of mac book

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    Replies
    1. Yes, you are completely right! it is a 15in clone of an Macbook Air, so for the first time Windows uses have a real alternative to Apple.

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