A 15-inch laptop designed for power users, Samsung's premium ATIV Book 9 Pro ($1,600) packs some noteworthy features, including Nvidia 950M discrete graphics, a 3840 x 2160 UHD touch screen and a top-notch design. Inside, the system is powered by a speedy Intel Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. But in an increasingly competitive market, the ATIV Book 9 Pro doesn't quite do enough to keep up with the 15-inch MacBook Pro and Dell XPS 15.
Aside from a few polished metal accents on the sides, lid and elsewhere, the laptop's pure black chassis looks quite stealthy. The body is constructed out of aluminum and is thin enough to give the system a pretty sleek profile. However, the matte finish picks up fingerprints and smudges too easily.
The ATIV Book 9 Pro measures 14.72 x 9.83 x 0.7 inches and weighs 4.45 pounds, which makes it slightly larger than both the 2015 MacBook Pro (14.13 x 9.73 x 0.71 inches and 4.49 pounds) and the XPS 15 (14.06 x 9.27 x 0.66 and 4.4 pounds),although there's only a tenth of a pound difference in heft.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Even though key travel on the ATIV Book 9 Pro's keyboard was only 1.07mm (1.5 to 1.6mm is more standard), in my experience typing felt swift and accurate. The keys' 60-gram actuation weight helps prevent the keyboard from feeling too dead or lifeless, and the sturdy deck has very little flex.
The 4.2 x 3-inch touchpad features a ton of space to move around, and I like the thin strip of polished metal around its edge, which adds some subtle flair to an otherwise understated design. The touchpad's surface is brushed metal that feels even smoother than the finish on the rest of the system, and with its quick and responsive movements to both clicks and gestures, the touchpad is a pleasure to use.
The 15.6-inch, 3840 x 2160 UHD touch screen on the ATIV Book 9 Pro is a joy to look at, but like other systems that feature an extra wide color range, certain hues are somewhat exaggerated. In the ATIV Book's case, its display features a subtle green tint that made the paint on Tom Hiddleston's face in the trailer for High Rise look more like Tiffany blue than the chalky sky blue I saw on other displays. That said, with an abundance of pixels to work with, the ATIV Book 9 Pro's pictures and videos looked sharp and featured good black levels as well.
According to our colorimeter, the ATIV Book 9 Pro's screen can reproduce 129 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which is much wider than the 86 of the MacBook Pro and the 107 percent of the Satellite Radius P55. However, the one panel that topped the Samsung's color range was the UHD version of the XPS 15, which featured a super-vibrant color range of 191 percent.
The one area where the ATIV Book 9 Pro stumbled was in color accuracy, as it recorded a Delta-E rating of 9.5 (closer to zero is better). That's worse than most of the other panels in this class, including the XPS 15 (0.7), the MacBook Pro (2.1) and the Satellite Radius P55 (1.1).
With a brightness of 405 nits, the ATIV Book 9 Pro outshines its 15-inch competitors. Dell's XPS 15 comes the closest at 382 nits, but that's with a 1920 x 1080 anti-glare screen. On an XPS 15 with a 15.6-inch UHD display, the screen measured just 282 nits. The 2015 MacBook Pro measured 303 nits, and the Toshiba Radius P55 was even dimmer at 260 nits.
For your audio enjoyment, the Book 9 Pro features quad 4-watt speakers positioned in pairs on either side of the system. The ATIV Book's volume was above average, and easily filled our 15 x 15-foot lab with music, although its slightly airy soundstage took away from the crisp handclaps and percussion in Kygo's "Stay." Strong highs and good treble performance helps cover that up, and I liked the way the ATIV recreated Maty Noyes' delicate vocals.
The aluminum chassis on the ATIV Book 9 Pro distributes heat well, and on our heat test (15 minutes of streaming HD video), the hottest spot on the system (the bottom vent) measured just 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The space between the G and H keys was slightly cooler at 88 degrees, while the touchpad was only a touch higher than room temperature at 77 degrees.
Ports and Webcam
The ATIV Book 9 Pro comes with a healthy amount of ports, including four USB connections (three Type-A and one Type-C), HDMI, a combo headphone/mic jack, and an SD card reader.
The 720p webcam above the display captured photos with decent detail, but often struggled to recreate colors accurately.
When I took a selfie in our well-lit office, a picture from the ATIV Book turned part of a wall from white to light blue, and added a little too much red to the skin tones on my face.
Featuring an Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU, 8GB of RAM, Nvidia 950M graphics and a 256GB SSD, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus provides plenty of performance for productivity, graphics work or heavy multitasking, but not enough oomph for high-end games. This meant I had no trouble powering an extra 1920 x 1080 display while streaming multiple full HD videos on YouTube and 10 Chrome tabs open in the background.
On Geekbench 3, which measures overall system performance, Samsung's ATIV Book 9 Pro scored 12,344. That's quite a bit higher than the 8,936 mainstream laptop average, but falls slightly short of the XPS 15's score of 13,502 (Intel Core i7-6700HW, 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD) and the 2015 MacBook Pro's 14,423 (Intel Core i7-4870HQ, 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD). Toshiba's Satellite Radius P55, however, scored much lower at just 6,053 (Intel Core i7-5500U, 12GB of RAM and 512GB SSD).
When we ran our spreadsheet macro test, which uses OpenOffice to match 20,000 names and addresses, the ATIV Book 9 Pro finished in 3 minutes and 36 seconds. Dell's XPS 15, which features the same CPU, also finished in 3:36, while the 2015 MacBook Pro (Intel Core i7-4870HQ) and the Toshiba Radius P55 (Intel Core i7-5500U) were further behind at 4:14 and 4:35, respectively.
When we duplicated 4.97GB worth of mixed media files, the ATIV Book 9 Pro's 256GB posted a transfer rate of 133.9 MBps. Unfortunately, that's slower than competing SSD-equipped machines, including the 2015 MacBook Pro (636 MBps), the Dell XPS 15 (254 MBps) and the Toshiba Satellite Radius P55 (212 MBps).
Don't expect much graphics prowess from this Samsung. On 3DMark's Fire Strike graphics test, the ATIV Book 9 Pro and its Nvidia 950M GPU scored 3,236. Dell's XPS 15 (3,949) posted a score almost 25 percent higher, due to its newer Nvidia 960M GPU.
Those results carried over to gaming, where the ATIV Book 9 Pro reached only 16.2 frames per second in Rainbow 6 Siege at 1920 x 1080 and low settings, while the XPS 15 posted a significantly better 76 fps at the same settings.
The ATIV Book 9 Pro can't keep up with its closest competitors when it comes to endurance. The notebook lasted 5 hours and 31 minutes on Laptop Mag's Battery test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness. Dell's UHD XPS 15 lasted an hour longer at 6:36, and Apple's 2015 MacBook Pro was even more impressive with a battery life of 9:08. The Samsung also trailed the 15-inch laptop average (5:50).
Software and Warranty
The ATIV Book 9 Pro comes with Windows 10 and Samsung's suite of PC apps and utilities. If you already own a Samsung phone, you'll want to check out the SideSync app that allows you to connect your phone to the PC (via USB or wirelessly), transfer files by simply dragging and dropping, and even add a picture-in-picture view of your phone's screen to the ATIV Book's display.
Unfortunately, there's a little bloatware, including Candy Crush and a link to Adobe Photoshop Express, but nothing too intrusive or annoying.
Samsung backs the ATIV Book 9 Pro with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.
In the end, The ATIV Book 9 Pro highlights what Samsung often does well on its laptops: combine a sleek, seductive aluminum design with a bright colorful touch screen. At $1,600, the ATIV Book also compares favorably with the Dell XPS 15's $1,800 price when equipped with discrete graphics and a UHD touch screen. However, you can pick up the XPS 15 for $1,000 if you're willing to forego a 4K display and discrete graphics. The Book 9 Pro also makes the $1,999 starting price of the 2015 MacBook Pro (with no GPU) look downright exorbitant
Unfortunately, the Nvidia 950M GPU in the ATIV Book 9 Pro pales in comparison to the 960M in the XPS 15 which helps justify the Dell's higher price. Samsung also doesn't offer any other configurations, so what you see here is what you get. But the biggest problem is the ATIV Book's subpar 5.5 hours of battery life, which makes picking up the system and walking out the door a less attractive proposition. The ATIV Book 9 Pro is a sweet-looking system with a bright, rich display, but the MacBook Pro and XPS 15 both offer better performance, lower starting prices and longer endurance.