Users looking for a productivity-friendly notebook with strong multimedia prowess and long battery life have a compelling option in the Samsung ATIV Book 9 (2014 Edition). The 15.6-inch notebook sports a colorful, 1920 x 1080 touch screen and rich speakers in an attractive aluminum chassis that's just 0.63 inches thick. However, with a price of $1,499, the ATIV Book 9 is rather expensive for a notebook that doesn't pack the most powerful processor or graphics. Is it worth the money ?
Click to EnlargeThe Samsung ATIV Book 9 certainly looks and feels like a premium product. Its attractive aluminum body is a color Samsung calls "Mineral Ash Black" that looks just a little blue in the right light. The hinge and gracefully tapered sides provide a welcome silver accent, while a Samsung logo, also silver, on the lid adds a touch of class.
At 14.74 x 9.84 x 0.63 inches and 4.4 pounds, the ATIV Book 9 is significantly thinner and more compact than other 15.6-inch notebooks in its class, including the Toshiba Satellite P50T (14.9 x 9.6 x 1.1 inches, 5.2 pounds) and the Dell XPS 15 (14.6 x 10 x 0.7 inches, 4.6 pounds). The Book 9 is also slimmer than the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (14.1 x 9.7 x 0.71 inches, 4.5 pounds).
Click to EnlargeThe Book 9's 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 touch display provided vibrant colors and wide viewing angles on our tests. When we watched trailers for "X-Men: Days of Future Past" and "Guardians of the Galaxy," the blue in Mystique's skin and the green in Gamora's body really popped. Fine details, such as the wrinkles in Hugh Jackman's forehead, were also clearly visible.
According to our color tests, the ATIV Book 9's screen can display 98.2 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is significantly higher than the 80.3 percent mainstream laptop category average. However, it's just slightly better than the Toshiba Satellite P50T's 87 percent and slightly behind the Dell Inspiron 15's 103 percent. The panel displayed colors with a Delta E accuracy rating of 5.5 (0 is perfect accuracy), which is a bit worse than the Satellite P50T's score of 3.3, but better than the Inspiron 15's mark of 11.9.
At 279 nits of brightness, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 is quite a bit brighter than the 256-nit category average, the 229-nit Toshiba Satellite and the 211-nit Dell Inspiron 15. However, the Dell XPS 15 measured an even-brighter 364 nits. Colors remained true even as we moved 90 degrees to the left or right.
The 10-point capacitive touch screen was responsive to all of our inputs. We were able to draw with all of our fingers at once in Windows Paint.
Click to EnlargeEnhanced by Dolby Digital software, the Book 9's stereo speakers produced loud, accurate sound that was good for music listening or video watching. Whether we played Patrice Rushen's bass-heavy "Forget Me Nots" or the guitar-and-drum-heavy "How You Like Me Now" by the Heavy, sound was accurate and not tinny. We could even hear a strong separation of sound, as different instruments appeared to come from the right speaker than from the left.
The audio was loud enough to fill a medium-sized room, and measured 86 dB on our test, exactly on a par with the category average, but a little higher than the Dell XPS 15 (84 dB). The Dolby Digital software allowed us to control the equalizer and change profiles for different types of sound, including music, movies and gaming.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Click to EnlargeThe ATIV Book 9's wide, island-style keys provide a decent typing experience, despite their shallow travel and limited feedback. At 1mm of vertical travel and requiring just 50 grams of actuation force, the Book 9's keys fell below both the Toshiba Satellite P50T (2mm and 60 grams) and the Inspiron 15 (1.5 mm and 60 grams).
Nevertheless, the keys felt fairly springy. On the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, we achieved a rate of 79 words per minute with a 3-percent error rate, slightly below our 86 wpm/1-percent norm. The keyboard's backlight isn't particularly bright but was more than adequate for seeing the keys.
The 4.25 x 3-inch, buttonless touchpad provided mostly accurate navigation around the desktop, though we did notice occasional sticking. Windows 8 gestures, such as sliding in from the right for charms or in from the left for the task menu, worked smoothly. Pinch-to-zoom also worked accurately, but we could not enable or use other multi-finger gestures, such as two-finger rotate or three-finger swipe.
The Book 9 stayed pleasantly cool throughout our tests. After 15 minutes of streaming video, we measured the touchpad at a cool 79 degrees, its keyboard at 89 degrees and its bottom at 89 degrees Fahrenheit. We consider temperatures below 95 degrees acceptable and those below 90 imperceptible.
Ports and Webcam
Click to EnlargeBecause of its tapered sides, the ATIV Book 9 doesn't have room for a ton of ports, but it provides the essentials. The right side houses one USB 3 and one USB 2 port, a Kensington lock slot, a 3-in-1 card reader and a proprietary port that connects to Ethernet via an included dongle. The left side holds an HDMI-out port, another USB 3 port and a VGA-out port that works only with an optional dongle.
Click to EnlargeThe 720p webcam captured colorful, but noisy images of our face under direct light in our office. In our dark living room, the pictures were even noisier and darker, but still usable, considering the poor conditions.
With its 1.6-GHz Intel Core i5-4200U CPU, 128GB SSD, 8GB of RAM and Intel HD 4400 graphics, the ATIV Book 9 provides strong performance for everyday tasks like surfing the Web and watching videos, but it's not good enough for gaming or professional video/CAD editing.
On PCMark7, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, the ATIV Book 9 scored a solid 4,681, better than the 4,093 mainstream notebook category average. The Toshiba Satellite P50T, with its Core i7-4700HQ CPU, scored a much-higher 5,637, while the Core i7-4702Q-powered Dell XPS 15 reached 5,806.
Click to EnlargeOn Geekbench 3, another synthetic benchmark, the ATIV Book 9 scored a modest 5,151, a bit less than the 8,642 category average and the Dell Inspiron 15 (5,693). It was also far behind the 15-inch MacBook Pro (13,652), Dell XPS 15 (11,630) and Toshiba Satellite P50R (12,552).
The notebook's 128GB SSD booted into Windows 8.1 Professional in a mere 8 seconds, less than half the 19-second category average and the Satellite P50T's time of 17 seconds, and also much lower than the XPS 15's mark of 14 seconds.
The ATIV Book 9 completed the Laptop Mag File Transfer test, which involves copying 4.97GB of mixed media files, in 57 seconds. That's a rate of 89.3 MBps, about on par with the 86 MBps category average but way faster than the Toshiba Satellite P50T (24.5 MBps). The MacBook Pro (309 MBps) and Dell XPS 15 (231.3 MBps) were more than twice as fast, though.
The notebook completed the Open Office Spreadsheet Macro test, in which we match 20,000 names with their addresses, in 5 minutes and 21 seconds. That's somewhat faster than the 5:32 category average, but quite a bit slower than the Satellite P50T (3:59).
Click to EnlargeYou can watch HD movies on the ATIV Book 9, but we wouldn't recommend this machine for gaming. On 3DMark Ice Storm, a synthetic test that measures overall graphics prowess, the notebook scored 40,102, below the 46,898 category average, the Dell XPS 15's score of 56,113 and the Toshiba Satellite P50T's mark of 51,390.
When we fired up a game of "World of Warcraft," a rather undemanding title, we got a rate of 41 frames-per-second at 1366 x 768 resolution with autodetect settings, which dropped to a still-playable 34 fps at the notebook's 1920 x 1080 resolution. However, those numbers are both less than half the category averages of 83 and 90 fps and well behind the Dell XPS 15 (86/59 fps).
When we turned the special effects up, the rates dropped to an unplayable 22 and 15 fps at 1366 x 768 and 1920 x 1080 resolutions, respectively.
The ATIV Book 9 lasted a strong 8 hours and 38 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits brightness. That time is far better than the 6:19 category average, the Toshiba Satellite P50T's time of 2 hours and 38 minutes, and the Dell XPS 15's time of 7:07. However, the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display lasted 8 hours and 57 minutes.
Software and Warranty
Click to EnlargeSamsung bundles the ATIV Book 9 with a few useful utilities and a little bit of bloatware. Samsung Link lets you share content wirelessly between the notebook and other Samsung devices, including your phone, tablet and home entertainment system. Samsung SideSync lets you control your phone from your PC when it is connected over USB, allowing you to run the phone environment in a window or transfer files back and forth.
S Player+ plays music and video files. S Photo is a very basic, touch-friendly photo editor for Windows 8's Modern UI that lets you crop, rotate or add effects to photos.
Like most laptops, the ATIV Book 9 comes with security trialware, in this case Norton Internet Security. There's also a 90-day trial of Adobe Photoshop Elements 11.
Samsung backs the ATIV Book 9 with a standard 1-year warranty on parts and labor. The company scored a solid 89 out of 100 in our most recent tech support showdown, earning it a third-place finish out of nine brands.
Samsung offers two configurations of the ATIV Book 9 (2014 Edition). Our review unit was the $1,499 base model, which comes with a Core i5-4200U CPU and a 128GB SSD. There's also a $1,899 configuration, which has a Core i7-4500U CPU and a 256GB SSD.
Click to EnlargeWith its long battery life, solid performance, gorgeous display and attractive design, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 (2014 Edition) is a strong choice for anyone looking for a highly portable 15-inch notebook. Though the Book 9's sleek aluminum chassis and high-res touch screen justify this machine's high, $1,499 price, we wish the laptop offered more graphics oomph or a faster CPU.
For the same price, graphics professionals can nab the lightweight, 13-inch MacBook Pro, which offers a Retina display, a faster processor, Intel Iris graphics and a 256GB SSD (the 15-inch Pro costs $500 more but has a quad-core CPU). The Dell XPS 15 is another good choice because of its higher-res screen and available Nvidia graphics. However, if you want a touch screen, 15-inch notebook that lasts all day and looks good doing it, you'll be happy with the Samsung ATIV Book 9.