Creating a good cheap laptop is difficult. It has to balance the right compromises, deliver enough performance to get by and do so at a reasonable price. Few do it well and they're rarely pretty things, but the 13.3-inch Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite is an exception. It's just £599 with a touchscreen, and only £499 in a non-touchscreen incarnation. It looks good, it weighs around 1.5kg and it's damn fine laptop in most respects.
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First impressions count and the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Like makes a good one. It may cost just £500 or so, but it doesn't look and feel like it does. It's plastic, obviously, but it's well put together and nearly as slim and silky as the far more expensive Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus.
Indeed, the design is clearly of the same lineage, which is all the more impressive. It makes the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite the kind of laptop you're proud to own, which isn't something you often say about £500 laptop. Samsung hasn't cut many corners here.
Our version is the blue one, which is very nice. There's a white one too, but for our money the blue looks more tasteful and should stand the test of time better.
Samsung has cut some corners with the screen, however. We're reviewing the touchscreen version here, which measured a distinctly below-par 221:1 contrast ratio in our tests. The result is distinctly grey, cloudy blacks and rather flat colours, though this is typical of laptops at this price.
A peak brightness of 224 nits is adequate, but the addition of touchscreen layer means reflections are more problematic than usual. The viewing angle isn't great, either, though it's fine in the sweet spot.
None of this makes the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite impossible to use, but films and photos lack the punch they do on pricier laptops. But it's the reflections that irk most, which makes opting for non-touchscreen version the best bet in our book. Not only is it £100 cheaper, it's 100g lighter and removing the touch layer should reduce reflections due to the tighter air gap in the screen.