Face-Off: Apple MacBook Air vs. Samsung Series 9

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Apple really upped the ante with the latest 13-inch MacBook Air, slimming down its iconic design even more while adding a higher-res display and a lot more battery life. Just as important, the 13-inch Air ($1,299) integrates flash memory in a way that gives the machine an instant-on feel. Well, now there’s a Windows laptop that’s ready to take Apple’s star ultraportable head on. The Samsung Series 9 ($1,649) features a super-sexy and sturdy aircraft-grade metal chassis, a more powerful processor, backlit keyboard, and gesture-tastic clickpad. Is this machine you’ve been dreaming of, or is Apple’s slim marvel still the champ?

We’ve pitted the Air and the Series 9 against each other in a 13-round fight for the ages.


The aluminum unibody MacBook Air is even thinner and lighter than its predecessors, thanks to further design innovations. For example, Apple integrated flash memory right in the logic board instead of using an enclosed drive, shaving off 90 percent off the space needed for storage. The 2.9-pound notebook has a 12.8 x 8.9-inch footprint, but it’s the thickness (or lack thereof) that really impresses. The profile measures just 0.11 to 0.68 inches.

Full MacBook Air Gallery

The Samsung Series 9 is made from a combination of duralumin, aluminum, and high-grade plastic, thus it can't boast a unibody design. Nevertheless, the construction feels solid -- even more so than the Air, especially when carrying it by one corner. Duralumin, a metal alloy used to make aircraft, is twice as strong as aluminum according to Samsung. The notebook is 2.88 pounds -- a hair lighter than the Air -- measuring 12.9 x 8.9 inches with an edge that tapers from 0.64 down 0.62 inches. So the Air is thinner at its thinnest point but the Series 9 is thinner at the thickest point.

Full Samsung Series 9 Gallery

Aesthetically, the Series 9 has a little more flair than the Air. Where the latter tapers in a straight line on the edge, the former includes a flowing arch outlined in chrome that offers some (but not too much) eye-candy. Under the lid, the two notebooks could almost be mistaken for twins. The island-style keyboard and large clickpad on the Series 9 are a clear nod to the Air.

Winner: Samsung Series 9

Don’t get us wrong. We love the MacBook Air’s sleek profile. But the Samsung’s curves and brushed black metal look makes it just a little more exciting.


With such thin designs come compromises in the number and variety of ports. The 13-inch Air has come a long way since the first generation, which only had three ports. Now it includes two USB, a Mini DisplayPort, a full-size SD card slot, and a headphone jack. The Series 9 utilizes a design element from the first generation Air: pull-down port drawers. It has two USB ports as well, though one is a USB 3.0 interface that will also charge devices while asleep. Additionally, there’s a Gigabit Ethernet (with included adapter) and a mini HDMI port, plus a microSD slot and a combo headphone/mic jack.

We wish that the Air included mini HDMI instead of DisplayPort (though you can buy an adapter), and we wish that the Series 9 had a full-size SD slot.

Winner: Draw

While the Series 9’s USB 3.0 port is a great feature to have, the Air makes it more convenient to access ports and transfer photos from a camera.


The island-style keyboards on the Series 9 and the MacBook Air have a similar look and feel. We experienced good travel and response on each. After taking the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, our average scores were about the same.

The surface of the Series 9's keys have a more obvious matte coating than the Air's, which provided a marginally better typing experience (especially for users with fingernails), but the difference was negligible.The Series 9 also gets props for bringing a keyboard backlight to the party, a feature which isn't available on the Air.

The Air has direction keys on a row above the numbers so you can do things like activate Expose, control media playback, and adjust the brightness--just the way we like it. Plus, you can make the Function keys the primary keys in OS X’s Keyboard preferences.

The Series 9, like most PCs, privileges the Function keys. That means to adjust things like the screen and backlight brightness, volume, Wi-Fi, etc., you need to press the Fn key. However, we like that Samsung included an Fn Lock to switch the Function keys to secondary status. The only drawback: this doesn't only affect the top row, but any key with a secondary Fn action, such as the arrow keys.

Winner: Samsung Series 9

Despite our issues with the top row, Samsung's addition of backlighting puts the Series 9 ahead in a very close category.


After Apple introduced the glass Trackpad on the MacBook line we've seen several PC manufacturers attempt to create touchpads that rival it. Most don't succeed. However, we have to give credit to Samsung, as the clickpad on the Series 9 is one of the better Windows-side implementations we've seen.

Both touchpads are large: 3.9 x 2.7 inches (Series 9) vs 4.3 x 3.0 inches (Air). We had no problem executing one, two, three and four-finger gestures. The Air’s glass touchpad is a little smoother, and the Series 9 has more of a soft-touch finish, but both make for easy navigation and clicking.

With two fingers users can scroll, pinch to zoom, and rotate on both of these ultraportables. However, the Air includes screen zoom functionality for magnifying the entire screen, not just a window. Another big difference we noted: the lack of scroll with inertia on the Series 9. Scrolling is far smoother and easier on the Air. There is a Momentum setting for the Series 9 clickpad, but it only applies to one-finger mouse usage, not two-finger scroll.

Both laptops feature three-finger gestures. The Series 9 offers a few extras: three-finger press will launch a specified program and three-finger click will mimic the middle button mouse click by default. Users can change this to mimic a different mouse button or assign one of a long list of actions to it.

One of the most useful gestures in Mac OS X is four-finger swipe for Expose. It allows users to quickly see all available windows and programs and easily pick one or to clear all windows and look at the desktop. Users can also swipe left or right with four fingers to switch applications. The four-finger gestures on the Series 9 are very similar. Swipe down to clear windows away and see the desktop, swipe up to access the Aero 3D window manager (though Expose is better).

We did encounter one drawback on the Series 9: when using the touchpad with two hands (one finger resting on the left click area) the cursor sometimes jumped or the pad accidentally actiated a multitouch gesture. We haven’t encountered these issues with MacBook clickpads.

Winner: MacBook Air

Better two-handed sensitivity plus smooth inertial scrolling puts the Air ahead by a bit, but Samsung (and Synaptics) still deserve major props for delivering a clickpad that's smooth and easy to use.


Samsung touts the brightness on its Series 9 at an impressive 400 nits. When comparing the two, we found the picture on the Samsung to be more vibrant but that blacks were deeper on the Air. However, the Series 9 has superior viewing angles because it uses a matte display; the Air’s screen is glossy. When watching video while leaning back, we had to tile the Air's screen forward to avoid reflections.

Like most 13-inch notebooks, the Series 9 has a 1366 x 768 resolution display. The Air goes a step further, offering 1440 x 900. This means that the Air can fit more on the same size screen, which has its advantages.

Winner: Draw

Although the Series 9’s display is brighter and has better viewing angles, the Air ties this round up by cramming in more pixels.


The thinner the laptop, the less room there is for better quality speakers. Still, there was a big difference in audio quality between the Air and the Series 9. Apple placed the speakers underneath the keyboard, so sound pumps straight up from the deck. For such a slim machine, the volume and quality are impressive. The Series 9 speakers are thin little strips on the left and right edges of the casing. Volume was surprisingly loud, but audio quality was not-so surprisingly tinny and flat.

We played the same songs on both notebooks: Zoe Keating's "Sun Will Set", which features multilayered cello strains, sounded mushed together and indistinct on the Series 9, whereas there was some space between layers on the Air. John Barrowman's soaring tenor in "All Out Of Love" had none of the characteristic depth on either machine, but the Air at least managed not to make him sound tinny and flat.

Winner: MacBook Air

The Air just sounds better.


In our standard performance tests the Series 9 came out ahead in overall performance, which isn't surprising since it has a newer, more powerful CPU and more RAM than our Air review unit. [See full specs for the Series 9 and the Air]

However, in our Transfer Test, the SSD inside the Air proved speedier by 10 MB/second. Both are plenty fast, though.

Full Benchmark Scores: MacBook Air | Samsung Series 9

We also tested application open times on both notebooks using Firefox 4 and the LibreOffice suite. (Times are averaged)

Program MacBook Air Series 9
Firefox 4 2 seconds 2 seconds
LibreOffice 4 seconds 3 seconds
New Document open
3 seconds 2 seconds

The Series 9 did a little better on average.

Next, we attempted to edit an 8-minute, 720p MP4 video (recorded with a Sanyo Xacti camcorder) using iMovie and Windows Live Movie Maker. Once we'd selected the clip, it took WLMM 5 minutes to prepare the video for editing but just 2 minutes for iMovie. Editing is more cumbersome in WLMM, but the Series 9 didn't lag or stutter as we moved through the clip to find precise places to clip and add effects. The Air performed similarly here. When the video was ready, we exported it as a 720p clip using the default settings. The Series 9 was done with the video in 8 minutes, the Air took 38.

Winner: Samsung Series 9

The more powerful Core i5 processor inside the Series 9 makes a big difference when doing resource-intensive tasks.

Boot and Wake Time

When we first tested the Air and Series 9 we noted speedy cold boot and wake times for each laptop. The Air went from off to ready to use in 15 seconds. It took 20 seconds to see the Windows 7 desktop on the Series 9 and another 5 seconds until the blue circle stopped spinning.

Booting isn't the only measure of speed. With notebooks it's just as important how fast they come back from sleep. Samsung claimed that the Series 9 would wake from sleep in 3 seconds, but our initial tests said otherwise. We saw 4 seconds to wake with no programs running and 5 to 6 seconds with two programs running. Then an automatic Windows update came through. Afterwards, we found that the Series 9's wake speed had improved. Still, the Air wakes from sleep pretty much instantly.

(all times in seconds) MacBook Air Series 9
Time to Sleep 1 12
Time to Wake (no open programs) 1 2
Time to Wake (3 open programs) 2 3
Time to Boot 15 24
Time to Shut Down 2 14

Time to sleep is also important, as users want to close their notebook and know it's off without having to wait. Sliding the Series 9 into a bag while it's in the process of sleeping shouldn't hurt it, but it's still annoying that it takes longer.

Winner: MacBook Air

Apple delivers a more instant-on like experience with the 13-inch MacBook Air.

Graphics and Video

Thanks to its Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics, the 13-inch MacBook Air blew the Series 9 away in our graphics benchmarks. Yes, the Air's graphics are integrated, not discrete, but Nvidia's tech consistently beat out Intel's integrated HD graphics. Not only did the Air score twice as many marks in 3DMark06, it also managed 53 frames per second at its native resolution in World of Warcraft (with graphics set to Good), whereas the Series 9 crawled along at 14 fps at its lower native resolution on the same settings.

3DMark06 Scores

Though you can’t get your serious game on, casual titles such as Farmville and Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook ran just fine.

You can also enjoy HD video. We played a 1080p trailer for The Discoverers on both machines and saw smooth movement, crisp edges, and bright colors. Neither stuttered or dropped frames. We saw the same excellent performance when streaming a 1080p Lady Gaga performance from YouTube and the 1080p QuickTime trailer for Miral.

Winner: MacBook Air

No contest here.

Battery Life

One of the biggest benefits of toting an ultrathin ultraportable is being able to use it away from an outlet. For notebooks of this type, we like to see at least 6 hours of runtime. The MacBook Air exceeds this, lasting almost 6 and a half hours during the LAPTOP Battery Test. The Series 9 came in at more than an hour less.

Winner: MacBook Air

Getting close to all-day longevity is a big plus.

Bundled Software

Apple bundles every MacBook with a robust suite of software, ranging from web applications (Safari, Mail) to basic but powerful media creation tools (iMovie, GarageBand). There are many equivalents on the Windows side (though they're less lauded) and Samsung has also built up a good set of useful utilities and programs.

Samsung's branded apps are productivity-focused for the most part, but we appreciate that the utilities are actually useful. We really like Samsung's Fast Start (responsible for the speedy wake times) and the Speed Boot manager, where users can choose which programs load first to keep boot time from getting longer as you add more apps. File Share makes it easy to set up a connection between computers on the same Wi-Fi network so they can transfer files wirelessly. And Easy Migration helps users port programs from an old computer to a new one.

While there are multimedia options on the Series 9 (Easy Content Share, Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center, Windows Live Movie Maker), the Mac OS X and iLife '11 equivalents are superior. iTunes is not only a media player, but has a well-integrated store for digital media. iMovie is both easier to use and has more bells and whistles than WLMM. Plus, the Air includes GarageBand, an audio recording and editing tool that's useful even if you don't have a band. The Air doesn't skimp on utilities, either. OS X also has an integrated migration tool, and Time Machine backups are easy to set up and restore.

The new Mac App Store simplifies things further by giving users a single source for locating and updating apps right from the dock.

Winner: MacBook Air

Apple offers better pre-loaded software for creative users, and the Mac App Store makes it easy to discover and download all types of programs.

Warranty and Support

Apple backs the MacBook Air with a one-year limited warranty and 90 days of free telephone support (AppleCare). While we're not fond of the short phone support window, Apple's website has excellent tech and customer support areas staffed by Apple employees. In addition, Air owners can take their machines to an Apple Store for in-person help with problems. Most help is free, though hardware repairs outside of the warranty period cost extra. Customers may purchase 3 years of AppleCare service for $249. We gave Apple a grade of A in our 2010 Tech Support Showdown.

Samsung backs the Series 9 with a three-year international warranty, which includes 24/7 phone support and two way free standard shipping for repairs. When we tested the company's tech support last year we gave phone support good marks for their helpful and friendly techs. Since our last test, Samsung has revamped its website to make it easier to find the information users need. Overall, the company's Tech Support Showdown grade was a C, but we expect a higher web grade when we retest later this year.

Winner: Samsung Series 9

Although the quality of Apple’s support is better--and more accessible--having three years of coverage built in provides great peace of mind.

Pricing and Configuration Options

Neither the MacBook Air or Series 9 are designed to be user-upgradable, so customers will have to choose from the options offered by Apple and Samsung.

The 13-inch Air, starting at $1,299, has two basic configurations with upgrade options for each available on Apple.com:

MacBook Air Base Config Upgrades Base Config Upgrades

1.86-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo


1.86-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo 2.13-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo [$100.00]
Memory 2GB DDR3 4GB DDR3 [$100.00] 2GB DDR3 4GB DDR3 [$100.00]
AppleCare 90 Days 3 Years [$249] 90 Days 3 Years [$249]
Price $1,299 $1,648 $1,599 $1,948

The Samsung Series 9 only has one configuration for $1,649. An enterprise version is available for $1,699 with Windows 7 Professional and TPM security.

If customers configured the MacBook Air to have 4GB of RAM and a three-year warranty, thus bringing the specs closer to the Series 9, the notebooks end up being the same price. However, we like that Apple gives users more choice. There are two CPU, two size of RAM, and two SSD options. Prices range from $1,299 up to $1,948. We would like to see similar options for the Series 9.

Winner: MacBook Air

The much more affordable starting price of the MacBook Air makes it the better value for most. Plus, consumers like more configuration options, even if their options are narrow.


It was a hard-fought battle, but the 13-inch Apple MacBook Air defeated the Samsung Series 9, earning 9 points to Samsung’s 6 points. The two machines tied in a couple of rounds, but the Air pulled ahead because of its better touchpad, faster boot/wake time, beefier graphics, and longer battery life.

On the other hand, Windows users will really like what the Samsung Series 9 has to offer, including a better backlit keyboard, sexier design, and stronger overall performance. And while there is a significant price delta of $350 between these two notebooks, the Series 9 is definitely one of the better designed Windows ultraportables that we’ve tested.

You can’t go wrong with either of these machines, but in the end the Air’s lower price and longer endurance make it the champ.

MacBook Air Series 9
Ports X X
Touchpad X
Display X X
Speakers X
Boot / Wake Time X
Graphics X
Battery Life X
Software X
Warranty and Support
Pricing and Configurations

[polldaddy poll=4832804]

Add a comment
  • Milz Says:

    Thankyou all for your comments. Ive being planning to buy a laptop for myself and preferred the macbook air but someone told me samsung was better. So I decided to go online and after going through all your comments Im undecided now whether to buy the mac or samsung. But I would still prefer to have the macbook air.

  • Jack Says:

    For me, samsung is the winner... I tried using both and personally, samsung series 9 was better. So i hope this will help you decide.

  • ReVeLaTeD Says:

    This review was of course based on the 2010 AIr, which was admittedly garbage. The 2011 Air blows past the Samsung in almost every way. But I wanted to point out one small fact.

    For performance you used Bootcamp. That's fine. But there is NO WAY you used Bootcamp and got 6 hours of battery life. It's well documented that running Bootcamp can easily cut your battery life in half.

  • Clarence Says:

    Been using the new macbook air 2011 13"base and it is a much improved version of last year's iteration. I am loving it.

  • jb82 Says:

    The problem with this comparison is that you are giving points to the mac for some of the benefits mac os brings (boot time, better battery life) without giving points for the windows benefits (wider range of software, better compatibility with work applications, better driver support with usb modems and some other devices). So that brings it to 9-9 with a more rounded comparison.

    It is really difficult to compare because like most people say - if you like mac os you'll get a macbook air and wouldn't even look at the Samsung.

    A better comparison would be to compare the mba running windows and the Samsung as this is the only real comparison. Give the mba an extra point for the added versatility of running a great second OS with better battery life, wake time etc and definitely wins the software category due to 2 OSes and start from there.

    The pricing/config will probably go to Samsung (due to the included windows license, no need for parallels etc). The boot will probably now be a draw and Samsung will most likely win the battery life. This brings it to 9-8 to Samsung. So windows users will also probably pick the Samsung which highlights the total irrelevancy of a comparison!

    Sounds right to me. Although both are great buys really.

  • Clarence Says:

    Just a quick update in case anyone was wondering, the (Hard Disk/SSD) is the flash component that starts at 64Gb for the 11 inch and goes all the way up to 256Gb on the custom BTO 13 inch macbook air. It is redesign in such a way that instead of placing the whole SSD with casing in the macbook air, Apple has customize the flash memory chip into an amazingly small form factor so that it takes less space within the macbook air. For all intend and purpose it works like a SSD except in a smaller form factor to save on both size and weight.

    To @ Pro PC

    Hopefully what i type so far helps you out, no intend to sound smart, am really just a common normal everyday user and as such i am not experience enough to be really giving any sort of advice, just wanted to be helpful but if in anyway i sound arrogant on the topic, i apologize.

  • Clarence Says:

    @Pro PC

    Hi there, am really happy to be able to help answer your question, firstly you do not need an emulator for windows to run on mac hardware as there is an option called boot camp that allows you to natively boot into either MacOSx or Windows, you do need to purchase a copy of windows and install it on the Mac hardware. If you rather stay within MacOSx then you can also run windows virtually using an addition software called "parallel" you will still need a copy of windows for this "virtual windows" to work. i would highly recommend using windows 7 professional as it has more networking options that might be helpful since you wife might want to physically connect her mac up with her client's windows PC. Also window 7 drivers are provided. So by running windows on a mac hardware you can get both MacOSx as well as Windows7 operating system on her computer which means that there should not be any issue regardless of the software her clients are using.

    Same thing for the kids, Mac hardware can run both MacOSx and Windows thereby giving them experience in both OSes.

    Here is some simple advice while buying a mac, i hope it helps you out abit.

    1). If price is important (and it should be, no reason in wasting money) always go for the base spec. Reason being that it gives the best price performance ratio and also has the best resale value in view of its purchase price for when you do want to sell it away when you upgrade.
    2). When a company builds a specific laptop usually the baseline model with the slowest processor has a much lower chance of hitting the thermal envelope of the product. This is really important for a laptop/notebook class product as it's limited size constrains the amount of heat it is able to dissipate. The higher the processor speed, the faster it generate heat. This increase heat often causes the computer to "step down" it's performance. So the amount of speed difference between the higher end model compared to the baseline model is usually not as much as expected due to thermal throttling. As such performance to cost ratio is skewed ever further towards the baseline model. Heat also is important as it determines where we can use our laptop/notebook. e.g. on the lap in contrast to on a table. A laptop that heats up really fast and stays hot might not be ideal for using on the lap. Baseline model tend to stay cooler for a longer period in contrast to top of the line model.
    3).SSDs really makes a huge difference. Hard disk have traditionally been a major bottleneck, also it has moving parts which on a mobile device is never a good thing. With SSDs we are really seeing a HUGE improvement in overall performance and with it greater peace of mind, knowing that the computer is not going to fail because of excessive movement. SSDs do degrade over time (really really slowly) but even when it does fail, at least you are still able to read from it. The macbook air is the first laptop that i have that comes with an SSDs and having use a hack load of computers to date, most of them top of the line custom desktop, nothing and i mean nothing feels quite as nippy as the macbook air, which i believe is due to the SSD. Think of it this way, if the CPU/GPU is in a sense the engine, you can think of the Hard disk/ SSD as the road it travels on. The fastest engine is not going to make a difference in a massive jam. The SSD is basically a wider and smoother road for (stored/to be used/to be store) data to travel on.
    4). Don't buy into things that don't really make the end product better, a laptop with a super fast cpu but a really slow Hard Disk is not going to be better than a laptop with a moderately fast cpu with a fast SSD. Each product is only as good as it's main bottleneck regardless of the greatness of its other components. This is further complicated in a mobile device because things like robustness, heat dissipation, build-in input devices, build in screen size, mobile power consumption, screen quality, keyboard flex and a myriad of other things come into play. It is having components that work well and compliment each other that gives end users an amazing experience.
    5).Try to buy at the start of a product cycle instead of at the end.
    6).Look for a refurbishes unit on the mac store, it has the same one year warranty that you can extend to 3. It does NOT come with a nice box but its a whole lot cheaper. When buying a refurb please do check the spec carefully. The specs of pervious models can look very similar to the latest incarnation so please look through to ensure it is the model that you want.
    7). Buy a product that fits your needs. No point in paying excess for a really mobile laptop that you leave on your desk all the time. In the same way, there is no point in buying the most costly powerful system if you really only do basic stuff on the computer.

    The macbook air that i have which is the base macbook air (1.86 Ghz core2duo, nvidia 320m, 2Gb of ram, 128Gb SSD) will do all that your wife "needs" as long as she is not making her training videos in full HD. Also while the processor is able to handle video encoding the new sandy bridge processors are much more capable in this area. i would recommend that if you do buy a macbook air to upgrade the ram to 4Gb as it should give a nice boost in video editing, though i can't be entirely sure seeing how i am having amazing nippy performance with just 2Gb of ram. This macbook air is also many months into its product cycle and a refresh is due soon, you might want to wait and see if that might be a better option.

    To end this i would like to let you know this macbook air is by far this best computing experience i have had on any platform. It really is a combination of components that really do blend together to create this amazing user experience that has totally floored all my expectations of computing. It is unbelievably good. To be honest i don't know if apple or any other company can come out with a product that beats the macbook air 2010 in terms of a complete user experience. It is sleek and sexy, nippy in performance, the tampered design with inclined keyboard is amazing to type on, this is my 3rd macbook and its the coolest( in terms of looks and heat) and quietest. It has the longest battery life for purely typing and reading. It is instant on. It is so so light. I could go on and on about it but i think you get the picture. Hope that helps.

  • Pro PC Says:

    Regarding your last comment, I think this is the most informative and best review I have read so far. In fact, this is the first thing that I have read that actually has me considering a Mac product. Sure, I have the iPhone 3G and a host of little ipods but never have I considered actually buying a mac. I like the real world experience you gave of actually using the Mac for some period of time.

    The only reason I have been looking at reviews and comparisons is because my wife "wants" a Mac and so far every review and comparison test I have read has helped support my No Mac policy; high price, limited variety of business software, you still have to by Office and Windows emulator anyway (I can get a licensed copy of Office for PC from work for free), and not least of all the proprietary nature of Apple.

    I recently went to MacMall to price them out. Sure, the Air starts out at $1500 but by the time I'm done adding all the pre-installed software and upgraded hardware, it came out to 3 grand. Also, I get a choice of some 22 things I can "customize" my Air with , half of which I feel it needs to compete with the PC.

    I went to NewEgg and found the Samsung for $1500. It already had the 4 GB of memory, the faster processor, Windows 7 and a three year warranty. The hard drive wasn't upgradeable from 128 to 256, I still need to by an external DVD drive, and some extra memory (microSD). I still need to buy some software, too. But here's the kicker: there must be 100,000 things I can by for my PC on this site. Sure, there are always problems to sort out, especially with anti-virus software. But I have 100,000 choices I can make. AND, it's backwards compatible with a lot of stuff I bought years ago. It's like the difference between open source and, well, MacOS.

    Ok, back to what my wife really "needs". Internet marketing, presentations, document collaboration, training video production, internet conferencing, ease of travel. Arguably all done better by the Mac. However, also done very well by a PC these days. She also needs to be able to connect to her customers networks and use the software that they are using. Can a Mac do that? This is a real question because I don't really know. I've never seen anyone using a Mac for business before. Can the Windows Emulator do that? Can I go to a client, use the external CD drive and load whatever software they are using and run it on the Emulator? For me, that would be the real test.

    And for my kids, I want to train them on whatever they are going to be using when they finally become employed (assuming they eventually do become employed). That is where every computer company should be looking. And that is why I am not getting them the easy to use, no problems Mac. And when they get to college, I want them writing documents like I am writing at work (assuming they actually go to college and I can actually afford to send them).

  • Clarence Says:


    Actually there are people nowadays that want an ultraportable that also can serve as sub gaming machine, one of the main factor that i consider when purchasing a laptop is it's ability to play WoW at a reasonable frame rate. With this review i was better able to make a proper choice because it was one of the category that was listed. I love the fact that both are amazingly thin and light and have great battery life and amazing display but only the mac is capable enough to handle the games that i play.

    Another plus point is the mini display port on the mac, it allows me to connect to me dell 3008 wfp 30 inch monitor via the mini-diplayport to dual link dvi cable. With this optional connector i can use my monitor at its full native 2560x1600. I can't do that with the samsung. [Yes WoW is very playable at that resolution. Did about avg 48 fps on a mix of low/fair/good settings set in 10 man raid. =)] Furthermore the mini-displayport has many different optional connectors that allows people to work with different equipment so i can understand why the author gave a draw rating on this category as both have really good points. Besides not everyone prizes an ethernet port, i don't need one as everywhere that i go there is wifi available but on the off occasion that i really need an ethernet port, there is a connector that i can purchase that allows me to connect that way though i can't see why i would need it since i can always tether from my iphone.

    On the software category i must say it is so much easier to get things on the macbook air then a windows base ultraportable. I use to own a alienware m11x R1(has a displayport out), but as awesome as it is, it was so hard to get software on to it without a dvd drive. On the mac it is so easy because of the mac app store, i got angry birds, Sketchbook express and aperture 3 (So amazing what aperture 3 can do i love it) , loaded from the app store in mere mins and they work beautifully. Also the preloaded applications like the ilife 11 suite is really so much easier to use and so much more polish that what is offer on similarly priced windows ultraportable.

    Another area that i would like to highlight is how the extra screen real estate is a real plus for anyone that has to work with photography, while brightness is important, the extra viewing area has a greater day to day value since it offers more room for us to work on. Also the macbook air is plenty bright and i have no issue with glare on this screen at all, i think apple did a really good job on this screen, in fact it is the best non matt screen i've seen and loads better then the one on my alienware m11x as well as my unibody macbook.

    At the end of the day there are things that we feel are more important and there will be things that others view as more important, i am just happy that we have two great products that we can choose from. I have to say that the reasons people find this article bias is largely due to the fact that they view the extras on the samsung series 9 as important, but this may not be the case for everyone. While both are great ultraportables only the macbook air meets my requirement of being able to play WoW/SC2 and connecting at native resolution to my Dell 3008 wfp. These things may not be important to you but i am glad that the author considered them and have written a fantastic, unbiased and awesome review.

  • Marv Says:

    Well said Simon well said.

  • Downhill Dude Says:

    Regarding the price delta, two points:
    1. These are vanity pieces. The people that buy these want to look cool, they don't care too much what that costs them. As well, they like to brag/show-off, so most will have to upgrade the Macbook, or else it's too much of a delta in specs. Many will upgrade, and erase the price delta.
    2. The Samsung will drop rapidly in price, where the Apple will be (artificially) price fixed. The delta won't last too long, even baring upgrades.

  • Mark Rejhon Says:

    This is relevant to me:
    I bought my MacBook Air also for running Windows; it makes a better Windows machine than the other ultraportable Windows machines in many ways -- and I get the bonus of trying out MacOS X, and learning to program for it in XCode, etc.

    So it's no longer a simple as "If you run Windows, you get a PC, if you do Mac, you get a Mac" -- because Mac's make great Windows machines nowadays, too... (and at the time of writing, Air is the best portable videogame PC that weighs less than 2.5 pounds too!)

  • Simon Says:

    I appreciate the informative, factual content of the review, but I share the concerns of some that - at the very least - the conclusion is skewed unfairly in the MBA's favour. I think in large part this is down to the choice of the categories and the decision to attach an equal weight to each in totting up a final score. For example, i find it a little rediculous to infer that graphics performance and general cpu speed are equally important in a machine of this sort. Certainly in my experience, owners of ultra-portable, ultra-slimline notebooks didn't purchase them for their gaming credentials. I have long considered the inclusion of discrete graphics in units like this, which are certainly better than integrated alternatives, but still aren't anywhere near powerful enough to run modern games "well", somewhat pointless. I know this is a subjective issue, and will vary from user to user, but i think there is a rational case to be made that predominantly, in machines of this type, general productivity and performance is far more important than gaming performance. Thus, the Series 9's vastly superior processor outweights - by a large margin - the fact that it is somewhat weaker in GFX terms.

    I take some commenters' points about connectivity too. The idea that proper ethernet and usb 3.0 are weighed equally with full-size sd support and hamstrung ethernet-over-usb is a stretch. A USB pen with an SD card slot is far less of a compromise than running ethernet at a fraction of it's intended speed over USB.

    The criticism over lack of screen brightness calibration is something the reviewer should simply accept. An attempt was made to make the test fair, clearly, by matching percentage, so the reviewer accepts the general point that battery life tests should be made at equivalent brightness levels. It was simply not enough - it is an error to assume that brightness percentage relates to real-world brightness in the same way from machine to machine. Users don't choose their screen brightness based on a desired percentage; they choose brightness based on their impression of how bright the screen looks. Therefore, tests involving battery life should be made with the screens at the same real-world luminance level. The only way to achieve this (accurately) is through calibration.

    Finally, Mark, this is a patently silly thing to say:

    "I understand that when you configure the Series 9 similarly the price delta is erased. But people don’t necessarily shop that way."

    I'm afraid the vast majority of consumers looking to spend over $1000/£1000 on a notebook (or any computer for that matter) like to know whether they're getting value for money. In the modern day and age, the average consumer is perfectly well capable of understanding the significance of "this processor is two generations and about 90% faster than this processor" and "this computer has twice as much memory as this one". People can quantify the benefits such upgrades bring through their own computing experiences. Moreover, every single consumer in the world, expert or not, can understand the advantage of an extra years' warranty.

    In other words: paying less and getting less does not count as a win over paying more and getting more.

  • Tyler P Says:

    I think the discussion here has been excellent and very thought-provoking. I appreciate the article/review, and the conversation that has ensued from its writing.

    I agree with a lot of the author's conclusions and assessments. I do believe that one or two points should have gone in the direction of the Series 9 (which may be why many others have been vocal about their opinions as well) but I do agree that the author has been as unbiased as possible in this situation; we all have to confess that we each hold our own unique proclivities for certain opinions and/or interpretations.

    What "Remeber?" has stated quite frankly detracts from this constructive conversation. "Remeber?", please keep your immature and illogical remarks out of this thread as it shows you have nothing intellectual to add. This is not a place to demonstrate your lack of grammatical talent or your childish remarks.

  • K. T. Bradford Says:


    I confess I am not impressed with the software that comes on Windows by default (not counting the stuff Samsung provides). Windows Media Player is serviceable, but not as robust as iTunes. I have attempted to make videos with Windows Live Movie Maker several times and have always ended the project frustrated and dissatisfied. iMovie is no Final Cut, but it's good for making simple videos and is easy to learn. And as much as iPhoto annoys me, I'll take it over Photo Gallery any day. As a Windows user, I'm used to having to go out and find third-party programs for my media playing/sorting, movie making, and photo editing needs. But Mac users at least have that covered. I think that the Mac equivalents of these and other comparable default Windows apps are just better. Is that bias? I think it's experience.

  • Remember? Says:

    Oh, haha! I just got it, lol, note that this was posted on apirl 1st... Apirl fools day!! rofl microsoft tools' favorite day! why? cause we celebrate the biggest fools in existence! aka, microtools! u had me worried. Apple will pwn microsoft all day, every day, and twice on Sunday. Dont get me wrong, im fine with samsung, most of my stuff is smsng. but these arrogant microtools are on my nerves. There proudful,but do they have to be proudful of? Gettin there butt kicked by Apple? Thats why there tools!!

  • Remember?? Says:

    Have we forgotten a few things? For you cry-baby, whining, complaining, theiving, tools of microsof (note: not windows lovers,very different) How long would u suppose it takes for a windows machine to go sucky? I would give a year, probly cause the 15 viruses it got over that period have started to badly slow it down. And what about the amazing resale value of a mac? I still see 2k6 models selling for $6OO. So before u have petty arguments over oh so spiecel USB 3.O, think about what matters, hmm?

  • Seriously? Says:

    So we're complaining now?

    I think not. Providing empirical evidence as to why your final statement "... but in the end the Air’s lower price and longer endurance make it the champ." doesn't cut it, is not complaining.

    It is also not asking you to be biased against apple. However, your software section shows a clear bias towards the apple ecosystem and ignores the potential software limitations of the OS.

    If that isn't biased, then perhaps you are right and I have a false impression of what bias entails.

  • K. T. Bradford Says:

    @Tyler P

    Additionally, all of the points you made above I made in this story. Those points make the Samsung more attractive for you, but there are some great points on the MacBook side as well. What I see people complaining about here is that we didn't weight the rounds the way they would have. That's fine. After all, we hope to provide people with enough information so that they can make better decisions. After going through it, round by round, I am sure there are many consumers who will decide that certain categories (such as graphics or speakers) aren't as important to them as others (such as overall performance and a backlit keyboard). Personally, I like having a wider range of choices in terms of price and configuration (granted, there aren't very many Air choices, but there are some).

    However, it occurs to me that that the bias people want me to have is anti-Apple, not a neutral view. If your assessment of the Series 9 vs Air above is considered "without bias" then you're under a false impression of what bias entails.

  • Mark Spoonauer Says:

    No need for hand holding. I understand that when you configure the Series 9 similarly the price delta is erased. But people don't necessarily shop that way. It's like saying the Xoom is a good deal because you get 32GB of memory for the starting price vs. an upsell on the iPad 2. That's why Samsung is coming out with a tablet for $499 in June.

    We pointed out that the Series 9 won the design category but the display category was a wash because the matte screen's advantage was cancelled out by the Air's high-res panel. Series 9 also won the keyboard category because its keyboad is backlit. Again, nothing biased going on here. If we didn't like the Series 9 we wouldn't give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

    If you have the extra money to spend, I say get it if you're a Windows user. Full disclosure: that's the OS I use every day.

  • K. T. Bradford Says:

    @Tyler P

    Just a note, the Series 9 doesn't have WiMax, even though the product page says so. We confirmed this with a Samsung rep.

  • Tyler P Says:

    @ Mark Spoonauer and other Apple Fanboys (of which I am one too).

    Let me hold your hand and walk you through why no one has mentioned the $350 price delta. The MBA retails for $1299.00. Now, add $100.00 to bring it from 2 GB to 4GB of RAM. Now, add an Apple extended warranty for an additional 2 years to bring it up to a total of 3 years (to match the Samsung) for $250.00. This brings the MBA to a total of $1649.00. You can purchase a Samsung Series 9 laptop for $1599.00 from Amazon.com.

    Oh wait, I forgot a few things:

    1. the Samsung has a back lit keyboard
    2. the Samsung has a processor that is two generations ahead of the MBA's Core 2 Duo (the Core i5 allows for four simultaneous threads, not just two, and over-clocks based on processing demand up to 2.3 GHz--meanwhile, the Core 2 Duo in the configured MBA mentioned above is stuck at 1.86 GHz)
    3. the Samsung has better wireless connectivity options: Bluetooth 3.0 and WiMax 4G connectivity (neither of which are on the MBA)
    4. Duralumin is 2x stronger than aluminum (more expensive too)
    5. the Samsung has a MATTE screen, not glossy (which has been a common complaint on Apple's screens) and has a much brighter screen which will save battery life (since it does not have to be set as high to match the MBA--unfortunately the review testing the battery life here is flawed in this respect)

    If all this does not add more value than the MBA over and above the similarly configured system I mentioned above then you have confirmed that your opinion is biased and subjective.

    A side note: I love Apple products. I have owned an iPhone 1, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and iPhone 4 (including several iPods). Everyone in my family has one too. In this case, Samsung is clearly the winner for bringing the best ultra-portable to market. Who knows, in 6-10 months Apple will probably swing back with a hard punch when it refreshes its MBA line and it completely dominates the Samsung. But for now, the Samsung Series 9 is king.

  • Seriously? Says:

    @ Mark

    I think its because for most people looking to run Windows on a thin portable laptop, there isn't a price Delta.

    By the time you have bought a Windows licence ($200) and parallels ($100) or VMware and configured another 2GB of ram ($100), the $350 difference is more than chewed up...and we haven't bought any dongles yet.

    Add on top of that 3 years of Apple care ($250) vs Samsung's included 3 year international warranty and its actually cheaper.

    Its not "funny" (as you say) that no one is bringing up the price delta...its logical that no one is because it doesn't exist for those that want to run Windows. Surely you have worked this out already?!

    Like I've said all along and you want a lightweight, slim and good looking laptop - if you're Windows the Samsung is better, if you like OSx then go the air!

    I've been shopping for a new windows laptop and my choices are dell, lenovo, sony, asus, msi etc. I've previously (and recently) owned a macbook pro running windows and it wasn't an experience I want to repeat. IMO the Samsung series 9 has more in common with the u36jc than it has with the Mac Air.

  • Mark Spoonauer Says:

    Funny how no one is bringing up the $350 price delta. Are all the critics of this piece assuming that if you have a grand to spend it doesn't matter?

  • Jim L Says:

    I have to agree with Seriously. The review was generally informative, mostly factual. But it just reeks of biasness.

    Having used both machines, the conclusion sums it up. If you like Mac + ultra-poratable, Mac Air is truly for you. Else Windows users will clearly prefer the Series 9.

    K.T just some advise, if you want want your reveiws to be regarded with respect, you have to work on your delivery. This types of review does leave a very unpleasant taste, unless read by someone who shares your exact same view. You are sure to find Mac lovers who would love your review, but even the rationale ones will find it hard to stomach.

    If its any consolations, people are generally emotional (and not rational). So I suppose that could have been your intended audience.

  • david stillwell Says:

    Why is the boot time of the Air listed as much faster than the Samsung? When the first blog post here went up a few days back the Air booted three seconds slower than the Samsung. Engadget found the Air to boot five seconds slower than the Series 9. Both boot times for the Air were far longer than 15 seconds.

  • Lonnie C Says:

    Are you sure about that some site mention Mac book air are not memory upgrade but only ssd if you want get down business solder smt chips, plus most Mac software quite expanse PC, is really hard to said, I'm sure they both has own advantage, only is matter of time.


  • K. T. Bradford Says:

    @tech guy

    According to our Samsung contact, the Series 9 is not user upgradeable.

    Also, as I pointed out above, some may like the Air's ports better. It depends on your wants/needs, which is why that category is a draw.

  • tech guy Says:

    @Mark Spoonauer:i really hope there ll be no bias coming into reviewing a product and articles in laptopmag.

    but i sure as hell feel there is a bit in this particular review as Seriously pointed out.how many would consider DP,usb2 and full SD card slot better against HDMI, usb3 and mini sd sold(that too considering ethernet adapter and HDMI adapter to buy separately which adds extra price for the air)

    even battery life test is a bit flawed.

    what about considering a category of upgrading a hardware in future.SSD and RAM can be upgraded in series 9 which cant be done on air.

    to some extent the software category included isnt good enough .

    i do understand diff people ll have diff opinions and priorities they want/need but try to make bias go completely away and btw i am avid reader of laptopmag and visit this site atleast twice daily

  • Mark Spoonauer Says:

    You raise some interesting points about brightness. Thanks for that and we will be taking a harder look at our battery test. But you can be sure that no pro apple bias came into play here--or any of our reviews. The software section relates primarily to bundled software not the os but obviously having an app store to easily discover and install new programs helps. The bottom line is that the series 9 is not $350 better but we still recommend it as one of the better designed high performance ultraportables out there.

  • L Chung Says:

    Also, is it possible to test the battery life of the Macbook Air on windows? I know that it would be less because OS X is catered to improve battery life on Mac notebooks, but for a windows power user, I would like to know which would be the better choice, assuming that if I got the Air, I'd install windows on it?

  • Seriously? Says:


    Thank you for your response re battery life tests, however I must disagree that it is fair to compare screens of dissimilar brightness at the same percent brightness.

    We all know, screen brightness eats battery life, therefore, the only fair way to undertake these tests is by setting the screen at the same brightness (not the same % brightness).

    In each case where this methodology is employed, the Samsung beats out the Air. As an example (there are others), over at CNet they use this criteria:

    "We first set the brightness of each laptop screen to 60 to 70 nits (or 60cd/m² to 70cd/m²), using a Konica Minolta LS-100 luminance meter to calibrate laptop brightness. If a laptop supports autodim, we disable the feature in order to ensure that the laptop remains at the same brightness level thought testing."

    And got this result:

    "The 13-inch Series 9 achieved 5 hours and 22 minutes of battery life while the 13.3-inch Air scored 4 hours 58 minutes in battery life tests. Both models for their battery life tests were lefts alone to play movies for however long it took for the laptops to shut down from lack of power."

    The results are similar on all reviews which employ this more scientific methodology.

    I can also understand why you didn't test blu-ray playback...the AIR cannot play blu-rays...the Samsung on the other hand has software (free) that will allow you to...so is that +1 for software?

    You are correct that I weigh usb3 and real LAN (as opposed to the usb lan at USB speeds available on the Air) far higher than a full SD slot vs a mini SD.

    Once again, I am not objecting that they are both great well designed laptops and I completely understand that the decision will ultimately come down to the choice of OS. I also understand that in any review there is going to be some element of subjectivity and a difference between how individuals weight criteria, but a little less obvious bias would be in order.

  • K. T. Bradford Says:


    We include a section on software in all of our reviews, and here we feels it's particularly important given the price of these units. We did not test Blu-ray playback, though we did test HD video playback (see Graphics section).

    We provide details of our battery life test. Sorry I didn't make that clear in this piece (there's a link in every full review we do. <a href="http://www.laptopmag.com/about/how-we-test-notebooks.aspx?page=3" rel="nofollow">Here you go</a>.) We did have both notebooks on the same percentage brightness, but that's the only way to be fair. We test all notebooks under the same conditions -- if we didn't, it wouldn't be very scientific. If we tweaked it to different standards each time, then there would be a flaw.

    HDMI vs DP is a toss-up, USB 3.0 is certainly better than 2.0. However, full vs. microSD slot, the full one has to win. We called a draw here because there are pluses and minuses on both sides. However, one of the reasons why we do these face-offs and have so many rounds is that many consumers weight categories differently. You feel that the HDMI and USB 3.0 trump the Air's ports, so for you the Series 9 is superior.


    Which categories do you feel are unnecessary?

  • Seriously? Says:

    I don't often comment on these sorts of articles, but this clearly mac apologist review has me rather annoyed.

    While I completely agree with techy that the decision to purchase will be based more on the choice of OS, in what world is hdmi, usb 3 and (real) LAN not better than DP, and USB 2?

    Also, when did software become a function of a review and if it is a valid (and not biased) criteria - the fact that it has (cough) itunes takes it into the lead? Seriously? And while we're on the topic of media software did you compare how each played back your favourite bluray via an external player?

    On most other review sites, which are happy to provide the details of their batter life test, the Samsung beats the air easily. The screen on the Samsung is brighter, therefore turning them both to the same % (which is what I expect you did) is a flawed test.

    I agree with your final conclusion that both are great units depending on what OS floats your boat but a published review like this should really display a lot less bias.

  • Steve Says:

    And you guys just had to add some unnecessary categories and draw a couple of them to influence and bias the "Face-Off"...
    But yea interesting.

  • Techy Says:

    it's kinda sheepish how you guys continue to pit a Mac vs. a Window cuz to be frank it wouldn't matter which one is better, if you a windows you would go with Samsung 9, if you are a Mac you go with the MacBook Air still interesting though

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