Lightweight, attractive chassis; Captivating Retina-like display; Long battery life; Compelling app suite; Runs cool
Pricey; Keyboard a bit shallow
The ATIV Book 9 Plus keeps the slim and sleek chassis of its predecessor and adds a Retina-like display, long battery life and swift Haswell performance.
Apple hasn't updated its MacBook Air with a Retina display yet, but you can get high-res eye candy from Samsung's flagship ultraportable right now. The new ATIV Book 9 Plus notebook combines a 3200 x 1800-pixel touch-screen display with a fourth-generation Core i5 processor. Although its $1,399 price tag is a bit steep, this Ultrabook delivers a great viewing experience along with long battery life.
Design-wise, the ATIV Book 9 Plus and the ATIV Book 9 are practically identical -- and that's not a bad thing. The Book 9 Plus' aluminum unibody is quietly gorgeous, serving up a bevy of clean lines and soft, rounded curves. Samsung calls the midnight-blue chassis Mineral Ash Black, but weird color-naming conventions aside, the Book 9 Plus is a looker. The chrome Samsung logo found on the lid is the only ripple in the elegant sea of blue.
The ATIV Book 9's interior has also been ported over to the Plus, down to the chrome-lined touchpad and the wisp of a power button located directly above the keyboard deck. The biggest difference between the two notebooks is that the 3.2-pound, 12.6 x 8.8 x 0.54-inch Plus is slightly larger and heavier than its 2.6-pound, 12.4 x 8.6 x 0.5-inch predecessor.
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The ATIV Book 9 Plus is also heavier than the Acer Aspire S7 (2.4 pounds, 12.7 x 8.8 x 0.51 inches), Sony VAIO Pro 13 (2.4 pounds, 12.7 x 8.5 x 0.68 inches) and MacBook Air (3 pounds, 12.8 x 9 x 0.11~0.68 inches).
The Book 9 Plus has a Screen Scaling option in the Settings tab that resizes text to an optimal size for reading. This made content easier to read than on the ASUS Zenbook UX51Vz's 2880 x 1620 display. However, the MacBook Pro delivered text that was larger, sharper and easier to read on Kotaku, Clutch Magazine and CNN.com.
When we watched the 1080p "Ghost Team One" trailer , the ATIV Book 9 showed off the lead actress' tight-fitting blood-red dress and matching lipstick. We could also see the intricate details of a criminally old sofa and the lace pattern of another actress' dress. Viewing angles were wide enough to accommodate two people.
When we pitted the ATIV Book 9 Plus against the Air, the Samsung had better color, particularly when showing the lowlights in the brunette actress' hair. Greens and reds also looked brighter. The Samsung also had slightly better viewing angles.
The Book 9 Plus' brightness of 251 lux is just above the 241 ultraportable average and the MacBook Pro 13's 237 lux. However, the MacBook Air notched 263 lux, while the Aspire S7 lit the way with a bright 329 lux.
Performing Windows 8 gestures on the 10-point touch display was fast and accurate. Pinch-zooming the Modern display was also very easy.
Samsung includes a custom control panel to adjust color temperature and brightness and scale the screen as necessary. Of the six color presets (No Effect, Standard, Movie, Movie (Bright), Dynamic and Reading Mode), Movie (Bright) delivered the best results.
Having a Retina display on a laptop is awesome for watching video and viewing photos, but in some ways it's like driving a McCarren P1 on a city street during rush hour -- a beautiful waste. Currently, there are no Retina-ready apps in the Windows Store, compared to the more than 250 Retina-optimized apps in the Apple Mac Store.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The 4.1 x 2.7-inch Elan touchpad was responsive and accurate when navigating the desktop and performing Windows 8 gestures. However, two-finger scrolling stuttered a bit in Internet Explorer, as did pinch-to-zoom. Clicking the bottom corners of the touchpad to perform right and left clicks delivered firm feedback.
After running the Laptop Heat Test (streaming a full-screen Hulu video for 15 minutes), the ATIV Book 9 Plus' touchpad measured a cool 82 degrees Fahrenheit. The space between the G and H keys and bottom of the notebook were a little warmer at 88 degrees and 86 degrees, respectively. All of these measurements are well below our 95-degree comfort threshold. Compare that to the ATIV Book 9, which measured 86, 102 and 100 degrees on the touchpad, G and H keys and undercarriage.
Samsung Side Sync
The ATIV Book 9 Plus comes with Samsung's Side Sync, an app that lets you interact with your Samsung Android device. The app now enables users to connect their devices over Wi-Fi as well as USB. However, both devices must be on the same local network and have the SideSync app to work. The phone must also have USB debugging enabled.
Once SideSync launched, we could choose between Phone S Screen Sharing and Keyboard/Mouse Sharing. Keyboard/Mouse Sharing enabled us to use the ATIV Book 9 Plus' cursor to navigate our Galaxy S4. We loved using the notebook's keyboard to compose text messages and chats in Google Hangouts. It was a lot faster than thumb typing on our smartphone's smaller keyboard. We also appreciated having the ability to cut and paste text between the phone and PC, particularly when copying from Evernote or a bookmarked webpage.
SideSync can also back up your Android device's files using Samsung Kies, a file-transfer app. Once a device is connected, Kies launches and automatically backs up all the new files, including photos, music and videos.
Photo Screen Sharing
The ATIV Book 9 Plus faithfully re-created our Galaxy S4's display, down to the app icons. The virtual phone exhibited about a half second of lag as we navigated home screens and launched apps.
Toward the top of the virtual phone sits a small white arrow. Clicking the arrow reveals a bar with icons for screenshots, recording the display, and accessing a Pen Tool, File Transfers and Settings. A similar arrow along the bottom of the phone shows a panel with all your open apps.
When we navigated through the home screens and launched menus over Wi-Fi, there was little to no latency. However, when we played games such as "Reaper" and "He-Man," there was about a second of lag. The latency decreased when we switched over to a USB connection.
Samsung HomeSync Lite
Before the magic can happen, however, we had to install Samsung Link on the laptop and our Samsung GS4. From there we registered the Book 9 Plus to our Samsung account. Once completed, we launched Samsung Link on the GS4, selected the PC and had instant access to all our photos, video and documents .
While the Book 9 Plus' score of 5,077 on Geekbench is below the 5,940 ultraportable average, the Acer Aspire S7, which sports the same CPU, notched 5,051. The Sony VAIO Pro 13 and its 1.8-GHz Intel Core i7-4500U CPU notched 5,507, while the MacBook Air's 1.3-GHz Intel Core i5-4250U processor posted 6,769.
The Samsung turned in a PCMark 07 score of 5,017, which is comparable to the Aspire S7 (5,051) but higher than the VAIO Pro 13 (4,698).
The Book 9 Plus' 128GB SSD booted Windows 8 in 11 seconds, beating the 21-second average. However, this time wasn't enough to outpace the Aspire S7 (9 seconds) or Pro 13 (7 seconds). The MacBook Air and its 128GB SSD loaded OS X Mountain Lion in 10 seconds.
On the File Transfer Test, the Book 9 Plus duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 40 seconds for a transfer rate of 127.2 MBps. This showing is enough to top the 101 MBps average and the Aspire S7's 113 MBps. However, the Samsung was nowhere near the Pro 13 or the Air, which notched 242.4 MBps and 392 MBps, respectively.
During the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro, the ATIV Book 9 Plus paired 20,000 names and addresses in 5 minutes and 13 seconds, more than a minute faster than the 6:18 category average. This system was on a par with the Aspire S7 and Pro 13, which posted times of 5:12 and 5:10. The MacBook Air finished in 5:33.
During the "World of Warcraft" test, the ATIV Book 9 Plus achieved 24 fps on autodetect at 3200 x 1800. That's well below the 40 fps average and our 30 fps playability threshold. When we ran the test at 1920 x 1200, the frame rate rose to a barely playable 29 fps. The Aspire S7 (1080p) hit 28 fps and the Pro 13 (1080p) reached 20 fps. The MacBook Pro's Intel HD Graphics 5000 GPU notched 45 fps at 1440 x 900.
When we switched to Ultra, the Book 9 Plus dropped to 12 fps at 1800p and 14 fps at 1200p, missing the 20 fps average.
During the Laptop Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi), the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus lasted 8 hours and 6 minutes, shattering the 6:16 ultraportable average. The Sony VAIO Pro 13 posted a lower 7:20 with its standard battery and a whopping 13:32 with its extended battery. The Acer Aspire S7 clocked in at 8:53 and the MacBook Air finished at 11:40.
Software and Warranty
If you want to keep your music files separate, there's always the 7Digital-powered Music Hub. S PhotoStudio is a new addition to the suite, allowing shutterbugs to perform light edits or create quick collages of their favorite shots.
Third-party apps include the popular "Plants vs. Zombies," Bitcasa, Netflix, I Heart Radio, Adobe Photoshop Elements 11, Skype and Norton Studio.
The Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus comes with a one-year standard parts and labor warranty.
Overall, we give the edge to the Acer Aspire S7 ($1,499) in the premium Ultrabook category, because it lasts even longer on a charge and sports a lighter design. However, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus offers a sharper screen for $100 less, making it an excellent choice for shoppers craving a lightweight notebook with solid computing power, long endurance and a beautiful display.
|CPU||1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4200U|
|Operating System||Windows 8|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||128GB|
|Hard Drive Speed||n/a|
|Hard Drive Type||SSD Drive|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type|
|Native Resolution||3200 x 1800|
|Optical Drive Speed||n/a|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|Wi-Fi Model||Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6260|
|Touchpad Size||4.1 x 2.7 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||security lock slot|
|Ports (excluding USB)||mini-VGA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||micro HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Combo Headphone/Mic Jack|
|Card Slots||3-1 card reader|
|Warranty/Support||1 Year Standard Parts and Labor|
|Size||12.6 x 8.8 x 0.54 inches|