Review Price £1,323.98
The good news continues with the 900X3A's specifications, with the headline being its use of a dual-core Intel Core i5-2537M. Intel's new Sandy Bridge low voltage mobile processors provide the best efficiency to performance ratios on the market, so though its standard clock speed is only 1.4GHz, this can turbo clock up to 2.3GHz and utilizes Hyperthreading to provide up to four virtual cores. Its CPU alone makes the 900X3A the most powerful ultraportable in its class, and will completely wipe the floor with the Macbook Air's paltry 1.86GHz Core 2 Duo, which is by now two generations behind.
The 9 Series also ships with 4GB of RAM as standard, an upgrade for which Apple charges £80. It's configured in a single stick of 4GB taking up one of the two DIMM slots so Samsung can conceivably offer models with 8GB of RAM in the future. What's more, though Samsung obviously doesn't encourage ripping the laptop apart, it may theoretically be possible to upgrade these yourself.
Thanks to its Sandy Bridge processor paired with a fast 128GB SSD,
the 900X3A trounces most laptops in the performance stakes.
For storage there's a capacious 128GB SSD (leaving you with a 98GB capacity as a 21GB section is reserved for a recovery partition), and though the 13.3in Air offers the same capacity, its SSD is likely to be slower due to using an older controller. We're yet to confirm how this is configured, and thus how easy it might be to upgrade, but we suspect it will be something of a chore to do so.
The only area where the Air still wins out in terms of internal specs is in offering dedicated graphics, albeit in the shape of the rather dated Nvidia GeForce 320M. This is better for light 3D gaming and Photoshop, but Intel's integrated HD-3000 solution comes out tops for hardware video decoding.
As expected, the OS of choice is Windows 7 Home Premium, and the install is fairly clean with only a few Samsung applications. Samsung's proprietary fast-booting software ensures that Windows boot times are reduced to as little as a claimed 15 seconds, and in our testing the 900X3A came close with an average of 20 seconds. One minor annoyance is Samsung's Wireless app which keeps notifying you of the available connections every five minutes, but this can easily be turned off.
As with the Air, the six-cell, 46Wh battery in the 900X3A is non-removable, so we were hoping Samsung's quoted battery life of seven hours wasn't an exaggeration. Again, the Series 9 allayed our fears by providing over four hours with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled, while switching these off and lowering the brightness to the 40 percent equivalent we run the Productivity test at on other laptops resulted in a solid seven hours and 20 minutes.
In general use the 900X3A stays cool, only getting warm on the left and running very quietly even under load. In fact, in anything but the quietest environment it's completely inaudible.
Finally, we come to value, and this might come as a bit of a shock: the MSRP of the 900X3A is a whopping £1,299! However, to put this seemingly high price into context, keep in mind that Apple charges £1,227 for its Air with 4GB of RAM and an Ethernet adapter. For only £70 more, the Samsung might not look as sexy or offer as high a resolution on its otherwise superior screen, but provides a vastly better processor and platform, fast external connectivity with USB 3.0, a backlit keyboard and, of course, Windows 7.
Our only real complaint, aside from the somewhat underwhelming design (again, only when compared to the Macbook Air – among Windows 7 laptops it has few rivals) is its high-maintenance glossy finish, and it would have been nice to see an included cleaning cloth and carrying case when paying this much.
We're also rather disappointed that the 11in Series 9 is not set to be making it over to this side of the Atlantic; yet another case of Europe being left out in the cold. Hopefully, if the 13in model is successful, Samsung will be persuaded to change its mind.
Lighter and arguably thinner than Apple's Macbook Air, the 13.3in, Series 9 900X3A may not be as pretty and attracts more fingerprints, but offers far more power and connectivity. Combined with a truly excellent screen, surprisingly good speakers, the best touchpad on any Windows laptop and decent battery life, if you're looking for one of the thinnest and lightest Windows 7 machines around it's an excellent choice and well worth its high asking price.
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