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Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus review

Andrew Williams



  • Recommended by TR
Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus


Our Score



  • Fab screen
  • Great design
  • Decent battery life
  • Good internal speakers


  • Battery life good, not exceptional
  • Windows 8 is not good at handling the screen resolution

Review Price £1,200.00

Key Features: 13.3-inch 3,200 x 1,800 pixel PLS screen; 4GB RAM; 128GB SSD (max 512GB); Intel Core i5(/i7) Haswell processor

Manufacturer: Samsung

What is the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus?

Want something that’s a bit like a MacBook Air, but with Windows 8 and better specs?

Fulfilling this sort of need is what the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus is all about. It has a great-looking, light aluminium body, a fantastic 13.3-inch screen and the strong battery life that the Intel Haswell chipset provides. What’s not to like? Well, aside from the daunting £1,200 starting price, that is.

SEE ALSO: Best Windows 8 laptops and tablets

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus – Design

Bodywork is an important feature in a high-end Ultrabook like the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus. Its shell is all-aluminium aside from the toughened glass screen panel, giving it the same top-end, hard and cool feel as a Macbook Air.

The finish isn’t too brazen about its metal construction, though. The Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus has a dark, almost blue-tinted, charcoal finish that’s consistent across the keyboard surround, the lid and even the underside. Maintaining a high-end finish on the bottom is the sign of a top-tier laptop – cheaper ones will tend to scrimp with basic plastic.

The speaker grilles and card slot are hidden on the underside

It’s not a shiny finish either, giving it a more demure look than something like the Asus Zenbook range. The Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus isn’t entirely coy about its flashy aluminium bod, though. The edges of the laptop and the surround of the trackpad are left as exposed metal – a little nod that you’re not dealing with a bog-standard plastic laptop here. But it’s far from brash about it.

Bodywork-wise the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus is up there with the best laptops money can buy. At 1.3kg it’s light enough not to give you shoulder ache when slung in a bag, and is seriously slim. At the chunkiest point it’s 13.6mm thick.

The Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus is never going to become as iconic as a Macbook Air, though. Only nerds will recognise it if you pull it out at Starbucks. But is that really a bad thing?

It also has something over Apple’s super-thin laptop. The Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus has a rather ingenious hinge.

It opens up to the normal viewing position of a laptop just like any other, but then a second stage in the hinge lets you push it all the way back, to a full 180 degrees of rotation. This is still a laptop – there’s no 360-degree tablet-style hinge here, like that of the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 11S – but it does have its uses, such as sharing a screen with a bunch of people.

The second bit of the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus’s hinge movement also exerts more resistance, meaning you won’t accidentally over-extend it. It's smart, and executed invisibly - stopping it from becoming a gimmick.

Connectivity is, like its Series 9 predecessors, decent but tailored to the skinny body of the laptop. On the left edge you get a micro HDMI port, a tiny proprietary Ethernet port and a USB 3.0 port. Around the other side sits another USB 3.0 port, a MiniDisplay Port and a combi headphone/microphone jack.

The Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus comes with a little adapter cable in the box that ends in a full-size Ethernet socket (plugging into the proprietary Ethernet). And the Mini DisplayPort can effectively be used like an HDMI port, with the right cable. There's also a full-size SD card slot on the laptop's underside.

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus – Screen

On paper the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus has an absolutely fantastic screen. It is 13.3 inches across, uses a PLS panel and a jaw-dropping resolution of 3,200 x 1,800 pixels. This makes it the highest-resolution laptop we’ve reviewed, ever.

This gives the laptop pixel density of 282dpi, which is much, much higher than the average laptop. As a result, the display is very sharp indeed. Now that we’re used to the super-sharp text of tablets like the Nexus 7 2, it’s good to see laptops finally start to catch up.

Colour and contrast are excellent too. Vivid but natural-looking colours and deep blacks make the display notable for much more than just its pin-sharp images.

What also helps to increase the pop of images is the fully-flat surface of the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus’s screen front. The display appears very close to the front of the panel, giving the screen an impressive immediacy – its pictures have the zing of a mouthful of lemon. It’s partly down to the lack of a protruding bezel, but also the way the PLS screen is constructed.

There’s no air at all between the glass layer and the display panel, both reducing how thick it is and increasing clarity.

The Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus’s PLS screen is also designed for great viewing angles. PLS is Samsung’s take on IPS, the type of screen used in iPads, and most high-end tablets – and is reportedly cheaper to make. The bit that matters to us, though, is that viewing angles are excellent: really top-notch.

There’s just one hardware downside. The Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus’s top screen layer is quite reflective. There is a fairly effective anti-reflective coating on the screen, but take it outside and you will be able to see yourself reflected in that 13-inch display.

For use on a bright day, you’d be better off with a matt-finish laptop like the Samsung Series 7 Chronos. However, make no mistake, this is a gorgeous screen, and it’s one of the best reasons to buy the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus.

The one other screen problem is the way Windows 8 deals with a super-high resolution screen like this. Within the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus’s software control panel you can alter the size of fonts to avoid everything looking painfully small on the laptop’s screen. But even after fiddling this is not a computer for those with dodgy eyesight – and many third-party apps don’t cope with the screen resolution at all well.

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Timi Azeez

August 29, 2013, 3:43 pm

I have to say, don't forget that the MAc Air uses a very low resolution than this laptop so it wasn't feasable to be at least 12hrs. Try the ativ book 9 at 1080p and see if the battery life gets better.


August 29, 2013, 5:11 pm

"Want something that’s a bit like a MacBook Air, but with Windows 8 and better specs?" Yes please... But if you could get rid of the awful and near enough unusable Windows 8 that would be great.


August 29, 2013, 5:24 pm

Did you check that the video report on the right side works is actual the mini DisplayPort that you say it is and not the Samsung proprietary mini VGA port supplied on the previous Series 9s. Samsung's specs http://www.samsung.com/uk/cons... say it is the latter but most users would prefer the mini DisplayPort.


August 29, 2013, 5:32 pm


I have Windows 8 installed on my Macbook Air. Apart from the start menu (which you can get back easily), it's an improved version of Windows 7. I really can't see why so many people have a problem with it.

I think I might get myself one of these as the odd keyboard layout on the Macbook air bugs me, and I don't use OS X.


August 29, 2013, 7:19 pm

Just out of curiosity, is the clutch cover over the hinge mechanism metal or plastic?


August 29, 2013, 7:30 pm

I love windows 8, each to their own.
Love to know how you get an i7 one, can't find any listing for it anywhere.

Close but no cigar

August 29, 2013, 10:04 pm

FANTASTIC to finally start getting laptops with decent resolution. Well overdue.

BUT... why this obsession with ultra thin? Absolutely I can understand it being very nice to get down from 30mm thick to something more reasonable, and weight is a big issue as regards portability, but does it really matter if the thing is 13.6mm vs 15 or 16mm thick when it so often comes at the cost of a decent number of USB port, a large performance hit or your have to fart about with (where the hell has it gone now!) proprietary cables for ethernet? ...the latter especially when it doesn't have 802.11ac.


August 29, 2013, 10:53 pm

Your score verdict isn't consistent with the description. I guess 9/10 for design is there because of availability of ports, but 7/10 for what you basically described as perfect in the chiclet department and 8/10 for build quality for 'can't do much better' seems uncalled for. And then you add to 'cons' a pivotal one many users would love to hear more about--but don't--that is display scaling in Windows 8. How about 'review of S9+, v. 2.0'?


August 29, 2013, 11:41 pm

And value 8/10 for a laptop that is priced out of 80% of people's budget. Who spends this much on a laptop when you could buy a tablet for on the go and a more powerful home PC for the same price?

Linh Nguyën

August 30, 2013, 12:06 am

I agree. A "near-perfectly executed keyboard" that only gets 7/10?

Linh Nguyën

August 30, 2013, 12:07 am

How do you use your Windows computer that makes W8 unusable?

Linh Nguyën

August 30, 2013, 12:10 am

Already preordered one from Amazon, but wish they had an SKU with matte screen.


August 30, 2013, 6:46 am

"The Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus is available in a bunch of different spec line-ups, topping-out with a Haswell-generation Intel Core i7 chip, 512GB SSD storage and 8GB RAM.
Our more conservatively-specced model has a 128GB SSD, 4GB of RAM and a Haswell-generation Intel Core i5 CPU."

This is NOT true. Samsung only offers this very conservatively-specced model which is not comfortable for extensive Internet browsing.


August 30, 2013, 8:41 am

Hi, We had a chat with Samsung before the review and they talked of plans to offer other spec configs. We'll get clarification of these plans later today and get back to you peeps.


August 30, 2013, 10:19 am

The ultrabooks are getting pricey, this is debatable, but you might be right they should give less points for that and pressure manufacturers a little (unless they get paid for good reviews of products they get, which is VERY common these days).

I couldn't disagree more with the desktop+tablet argument, however. I own one 13" laptop and two tablets (10" and 7") and they simply work in different uses scenarios for me. When doing M$ Office work + browsing + accessing my pdf library when not connected to the power outlet, I'm doing it efficiently on a laptop (even more on a 22" display, but I wouldn't want to carry it around), while some things are irritatingly unusable on a tablet, even one with a physical keyboard (multi-tasking is just too slow!). If you don't need an ultrabook, you don't need an ultrabook. In fact, I'm just getting the X3E (FHD matte version of the Series 9) to have a lightweight mobile workstation to carry around. I don't feel I'm sacrificing much, as I'm neither a heavy gamer nor a graphic designer. Why would I want a more powerful home PC which I wouldn't want to carry around or take with me for a 13-hour flight?


August 30, 2013, 10:32 am

That resolution is insane :D

Though under 'key features' you say the vertical res is 1,300px while under the screen section of the article you say it's 1,800px.


August 30, 2013, 11:36 am

Now just bring this resolution, and higher, to monitors please! I'd settle for a 4k resolution, just don't price is insanely high.

Chris Beach

August 30, 2013, 11:55 am

An Intel i series chip and 4gb is more than ample for any amount of internet browsing, the network connection will be limiting factor well before you run into cpu/memory limitations.


August 30, 2013, 2:31 pm

Any news on the alternative specs?


August 30, 2013, 2:50 pm

Drum roll...... sadly in the UK we'll only be getting the version we tested here. Sadface. I'll update the review soon as poss.


August 30, 2013, 4:53 pm

If all you do is internet browsing, then get a tablet.

I actually intend to do work on this laptop, which means running virtual machines, simulations, and compiling code.

8GB of RAM and 256GB SSD should be a bare minimum in 2013, especially considering the price Samsung is asking vs actual prices of RAM/SSDs these days.


August 30, 2013, 5:02 pm

Why would you need more than one USB port on an ultrabook? And Ethernet port? Does anyone still use those? Last time I did was in 2004.

Lack of 802.11ac is surprising, however.

As far as thicker and heavier laptops, if that's your preference, there are plenty of those on the market. Frankly, even this one is a bit too heavy for my liking.


August 30, 2013, 7:41 pm

Has Samsung release the i7, 8gb, 512 Ssd Book 9 Plus Anywhere Yet?

Matthew Bunton

August 31, 2013, 1:43 am

Its great to see higher res screens starting to appear on laptops they have been 1080p for far too long.

Looking forward to the 4K monitors when they are more affordable.


August 31, 2013, 5:58 am

Not a bad machine, but the 1.3 kg is nothing to write home about, and until Windows is adapted to handle these kind screens, the extra resolution is not that helpful. In that format, I would rather have a lighter machine.

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