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Samsung Series 9 900X3A - Design Continued, Usability

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Opening the 900X3A up, we're greeted by a similarly cohesively-challenged interior due again to that recessed screen bezel with its protruding metal outer edge, and Samsung's decision to use a combination of metal and glossy plastic in the keyboard surround. If it had just used metal only for the entire base, this would be a notably more premium-looking machine. Fingerprints are again a serious issue, and you'll want to wipe the palm-rests regularly.

Samsung Series 9 900X3A

Another annoyance is that the glossy plastics used in the base and the screen's bezel are different, with the former sporting the extremely subtle gold-flecked effect we saw on many previous Samsung laptops including the premium X360. We're also not sure about the shiny silver power button - we see what Samsung was trying to achieve but we don't feel it's quite worked.

Samsung Series 9 900X3A

So far, we've been quite negative regarding the 900X3A's looks, but let's just put things into perspective: this is only in comparison to the Macbook Air, to which no other ultraportable has come even close where sheer style is concerned. On its own merits and when compared to the rest of the Windows laptop market, Samsung's slick, light and well-built 9 Series is one of the most attractive entrants to be found.

If Samsung were to have used a less fingerprint-prone finish for its Duralumin, removed the protruding edges, used metal for the entire base and etched the power button, its 900X3A would have been a real winner in the design stakes. As is, it's attractive but not totally lust-worthy.

Samsung Series 9 900X3A

When it comes to usability, things are far less ambiguous. The isolation or Chiclet keyboard features well-spaced, matt black keys. Layout is flawless, though we do miss the X360's extra function keys which were tucked in to either side of the cursor keys.

Samsung Series 9 900X3A

Feedback is shallow but decent considering how little space Samsung has to work with, and the 'click' the keys provide is subtle but adequate. Our only complaint is that on a few occasions the touchpad inadvertently registered our palm-movements and changed the cursor position during typing - something that can be managed with the touchpad software.

Samsung Series 9 900X3A

One important advantage the Series 9 has over Apple's Air is that it offers a backlit keyboard (though the original Macbook Air also had one, Apple removed this feature in its latest refreshes). Samsung's backlighting system can be controlled manually or automatically by an ambient light sensor which worked flawlessly in our testing, and you can choose between no fewer than seven different brightness settings.

What really stands out from the crowd and its Samsung predecessors, though, is the 900X3A's superb touchpad. Constructed from a single sheet of unmarked, sand-blasted black glass, the large multi-touch pad looks and feels lovely. Its surface offers the ideal blend of smooth and textured, and is very responsive.

Samsung Series 9 900X3A

We've had serious issues with touchpads integrating their buttons into the touch surface in the past. The HP TouchSmart tm2 is the most problematic example, but Samsung's own SF310 also caused some annoyance.

However, the Lenovo ThinkPad X220t convinced us it could be done right on a Windows laptop, and now Samsung takes this a step further: we actually prefer the 900X3A's touchpad to any other we've tried, including those with physical buttons. The integrated 'buttons' here offer perfect feedback with a positive click and absolutely no dead zone, and the pad never misinterpreted our presses as touches. Brilliant! Compared to the Air's touchpad, it's essentially a dead heat, which is really saying something considering how highly we regard that.

edge360

April 8, 2011, 2:17 pm

'Thanks to its Sandy Bridge processor paired with a fast 128GB SSD,
the 900X3A trounces most laptops in the performance stakes.'

But the graphs show the test results for the Samsung X360? Or am I just missing something?

TechVegan

April 8, 2011, 3:12 pm

@edge360:
No, our bad, the top result was just wrongly labeled.
Thanks for pointing that out - fixed.

fireflud

April 8, 2011, 3:41 pm

What?? No 11 inch version for europe? Gutted

Geoff Richards

April 8, 2011, 3:45 pm

@fireflud - we know! I wonder if enough of us clump together whether Samsung would consider reversing that decision...? :D

simon jackson

April 8, 2011, 3:50 pm

Very disappointed we're not going to see the 11 inch version :/ I'm in the market for an ultraportable, and whilst i think the 13 inch version is compact enough, and certainly very light and slim, i'd probably be inclined to trade some performance for an even smaller form factor. And what's the deal with ordering this sort of thing from the US? I'd always assumed this is one of those things i could just do - ordering over seas isn't usually a problem - but everywhere i've looked for a samsung series 9 wont ship the product internationally. What gives?

Great review by the way!

edge360

April 8, 2011, 4:43 pm

@Ardjuna: Ahh, now the laptop seems like a much more attractive proposition. Glad I could help.

fireflud

April 8, 2011, 5:42 pm

@ Geoff: if they could bump the RAM to 4GB and SSD to 128GB on the 11inch version and make it available this side of the pond, I'll be the first in line :)

TechVegan

April 8, 2011, 7:08 pm

@simon jackson:
To be honest, this decision baffles us too. Good luck getting it from across the Atlantic!

Glad you like the review :)

Tim Sutton

April 8, 2011, 8:24 pm

Anyone looking to import from the US should take a look at http://www.bundlebox.com/

With shipping and VAT it doesn't usually work out much cheaper than buying here, but its MASSIVELY handy.

Sleeper

April 8, 2011, 10:46 pm

I love the look of this as I'm a bit bored of Apple's brushed aluminum look. If I was in the market for a new notebook this would be it, however I'm happy enough with my Macbook for now.

ThaDon

April 8, 2011, 11:12 pm

Can a microSD card still be accessed from within Windows 7 with the flap closed flush?

DOES the flap close flush with a card inserted?

Caleb9ce

April 9, 2011, 4:42 pm

I honestly cant believe why they are not able to offer IPS screen for the price that they are charging.
Small things like this makes the overall package compelling.

munky

April 9, 2011, 6:41 pm

Samsung UK site says this: "Adding to the outstanding performance is the Intel® Coreâ„¢ i7 / i5 Processor" - does anybody know when the core i7 version will be available?
Not that the core i5 are available yet either.

Any specs for the 11inch version, by any chance?

TechVegan

April 11, 2011, 2:58 pm

@ThaDon:
An excellent question. Normally, the flap can't close once a microSD card is inserted, but if you push it in (as you usually would to eject it using the spring mechanism) you can close the flap and the card can still be read from - just take care when opening the flap again as the card will be loose.

@Caleb:
Don't forget that Apple doesn't either, and to be honest the 900X3A's TN screen is so good it's almost not an issue.

@munky:
For now, Samsung will only be selling the configuration as reviewed.
And there are no European specs for the 11in as it won't be coming out here.

YG

July 27, 2011, 2:23 pm

Ardjuna, don't you think it's worth mentioning there's no DVD drive, or is it assumed that this standard on all 'slim' laptops nowadays.

Also 128 GB SSD (effectivley 98GB) is a quite stingy, especially as there's not much indication on the net of how to get this bumped upto 256 GB - same goes for the 4 GB to 8GB upgrade.

Are Samsung just holding back, trying to drip feed us the good stuff or is there more to it?

kiers

September 14, 2011, 3:50 am

Hmmm these reviews may be missing something? I've heard that WIFI on these thin samsungs is an issue. they don't have the powerful antennae (normally embedded behind the display) so they have a hard time sniffing out and latching on to quality signal.

Anybody hear/experience anything related to this?

Russ

February 22, 2013, 12:39 am

I was given one of these bad boys and I've put it to good use. The legitimate downsides are that it had moody wi-fi, not as durable as they would like (one of the curved panels on right side bent back (and i treat it like a princess)), and the power port on mine is broken. I need to wiggle it to get it to work. This kinda sucks, but other that it being kinda frail, I've never seen a machine start up as fast as this one, nor have I seen one that is legitimately cool. people see macbooks all the time and people see a mackbook air and they thing 'that dud's got money... showoff.." while this laptop people just say, "Woah that is sexy! Look at those sweet curves!" runs games fine (to an extent) and overall good computer!
(need to disassemble it to fix power port though)

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