From the 900X3A’s class-leading touchpad things only get better, especially when it comes to audio and video. Considering how little space the 1.5W speakers have to play with, the volume levels they produce are nothing short of amazing. Admittedly they distort at maximum and are inevitably lacking in the bass department, but even with the volume turned down we would be more than happy to use these for entertainment.
If anything, the screen is even more impressive. In fact, if we hadn’t just reviewed the Lenovo ThinkPad X220t with its lovely IPS-panel display, we would be classing this as the best display we had seen on a small laptop. As you might have guessed from that, the 900X3A still uses good old TN, but this 13.3in panel doesn’t display many of the weaknesses we would usually associate with the technology.
First off, there are its viewing angles. Horizontally, they are close to infinite with hardly any drop-off in contrast or corruption of colour. Even viewing from the top results in minimal contrast and colour shift, leaving the image eminently viewable. Only when viewing from the bottom do things become unwatchable, and on a laptop that’s not a likely scenario.
Then there’s the contrast and backlighting. Backlighting was very even with not a hint of bleed, meaning no distracting pale splotches while viewing dark material. Black levels were also superb, so you can really pick out every detail in dark and gritty movies and games, regardless of how bright you set the backlight.
Speaking of brightness, this is another factor that sets the Samsung apart. At 400 nits, Samsung claims its 900X3A has the brightest display of its size in the world, and after nearly getting our retinas seared off we’re not about to argue. The display can go from almost completely dark for ultra battery saving to painfully bright, which is handy when trying to work or play in a sunny location.
Combined with excellent sharpness, we really can’t think of any negatives with this screen, especially since Samsung has made the excellent decision of going for a matt screen finish to keep reflections to a minimum! We would even say it beats that on the 13.3in Macbook Air, except Apple offers a higher 1,440 x 900 resolution compared to the 900X3A’s 1,366 x 768. This may sound like a deal breaker but in use the Series 9 still feels like it has plenty of desktop real estate.
Rounding off the Series 9’s audio-visual talents is high-definition (720p) webcam, yet another win over its closest rival.
Connectivity is also streets ahead, mainly due to the presence of USB 3.0. Because the laptop’s tapered sides are too thin to accommodate even USB ports without sticking out, Samsung has implemented a rather nifty solution: three ports each on both the left and right side are found when you pull down magnetically-held flaps. We feared these would be a weak point and might break with constant use, but in our testing we found the mechanism to be very sturdy.
On the left we have a proprietary Gigabit Ethernet port which requires an adapter to hook up, a micro HDMI port and a USB 3.0, or SuperSpeed port. As a further point in its favour, Samsung actually supplies the Ethernet adapter as standard, rather than making it an expensive optional extra as with Apple’s Air.
On the right you’ll find a micro-SD card reader, 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack and always-on USB port which can be used to charge devices even if the laptop is turned off. Last but not least, Bluetooth 3.0 and Wi-Fi N are also on board.