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REVIEW: Samsung made the best MacBook Air competitor

IMG_0881.JPGRafi Letzter/Tech Insider

I’m a big fan of gadgets that don’t waste your time or money on features or flashy specs you’ll never need or use. Give me a workhorse that’ll do the job well without a lot of muss or fuss and I’m happy. That’s exactly what Samsung’s new 15-inch Notebook 9 does.

At 2.9 pounds and rocking an Intel i7 processor and 8 GB of RAM, this is just a seriously light, seriously powerful computer. Its frame measures just 0.57 inches at its thickest point, and while it sure looks a lot like a big MacBook Air running Windows 10, that doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a beautiful machine. If I had $1,200 to buy a laptop, this is probably the one I’d buy.

Here’s what I like about it.



The first and most important decision you make in buying a laptop is between Windows 10 and Apple OS X (and Linux too, you nerds.) This laptop runs Windows 10, which is my preference. If you got burned by Windows 8, especially trying to run it on a non-touchscreen device like this one, you should know that Microsoft’s OS is equally comfortable on touchscreens and non-touchscreens. Samsung’s added a bit of branded software to this laptop, but nothing irritating or bloated.

Form factor and design

Samsung Notebook 9Rafi Letzter/Tech Insider

Again, it’s hard to overstate how thin and light this laptop is. Its 2.9-pound weigh-in makes this 15-inch aluminum-and-magnesium alloy computer even lighter than the 13-inch MacBook Air. When it showed up in the Tech Insider newsroom we took turns lifting it up, marveling that such a solid, wide, metal computer could weigh so freaking little.

Despite its 15 inches, the Notebook 9 stowed easily in my small backpack due to its thin frame, minimal bezel, and wide, short 16:9-inch aspect ratio. And its sleek silhouette manages to pack in two USB 3.0 ports, a USB-C port, a mini-HDMI port, a mircoSD slot and an audio jack.

The only area of concern we found was a bit of flex around the edges of the keyboard while typing. It didn’t appear to do any harm, but the lower edges of the keyboard warp visibly under the weight of my hands — or even a firm press of the thumb. The bend doesn’t seem to take at all, meaning the laptop instantly pops back into its original shape after the pressure is released. And the laptop otherwise feels quite solid. But this does raise a durability question. A Samsung representative did not return a request for comment.


Samsung Notebook 9Rafi Letzter/Tech InsiderThe 16:9 aspect ration is great for streaming.

Unsurprisingly on a Samsung, the screen is one of the best parts of the device. Rather than waste resources on the resolution wars, Samsung went for quality. Its 1920×1080 pixels are more than enough for a display that stows away in your bag, and that 16:9 aspect ratio is the perfect shape for video streaming. Your Netflix and Hulu shows will look big and beautiful without any letterboxing.

More importantly, it looks bright with bold, contrasty colors in just about any setting. There’s very little shine to be found here, and I was able to do color-accurate Photoshop work in just about any setting.

Power and interface

Samsung Notebook 9 keyboardRafi Letzter/Tech InsiderThe keyboard creates a “black dot illusion.”

The first thing I notice about a laptop is its keyboard. No matter how powerful a computer is, if I don’t like the feel of typing on it I’m not going to like it. And this keyboard is great. Yeah, it looks almost exactly like a MacBook Pro keyboard, but that doesn’t mean it’s not great to type on. Deep keypresses, nicely spaced keys, and plenty of room make for a great writing experience. On weird thing I noticed: this keyboard produces something called the “black dot illusion.” When you look at the corners between some of the keys, your brain gets tricked into seeing floating circles that aren’t there.

There’s no touchscreen on this laptop, which again I think is a boon. The touchpad is wide and responsive, and makes smearing your greasy fingers all over the beautiful display pretty unnecessary.

And with its 8 GB of RAM and i7 processor, I found this computer able to handle heavy-duty Adobe Lightroom work and light gaming without any hiccups.


Physically, this is a very portable big laptop. Its thin silhouette and wide, squat aspect ratio allowed it to stow easily in my small backpack. And the battery life is fantastic. I got about eight or nine writing and photo editing hours in, interspersed with long sleeps, over the course of 36 hours without a charge.

Overall, this is a great laptop for anyone with $1,200 to spend who values smart, solid design and power over eye-catching bonus features.