I've been using the Samsung NP900X3B since the end of February, and the last three months haven't disappointed. I use it for Microsoft Office programs, heavy graphics in PowerPoint, hosting online meetings, and watching movies. Essentially most of the tasks that most prospective owners will be using it for.
The build quality is superb, with everything feeling incredibly solid, particularly for such a thin machine. Despite that, it really is very light. I have an iPad 2, and although it is heavier (1100g vs 650g), it doesn't really feel very different - something that a number of others have commented on. Unlike it's predecessor, which had uncomfortably 'sharp' edges, the edging on this new version looks great and is far more comfortable to hold. One thing that I love about the build quality is that despite being so light, you can move the screen up and down without needing to hold down the main body of the machine - something that even much heavier laptops have failed to achieve. It's a small point, but for me demonstrates the attention to detail that has gone into the design.
The screen is the thing that you notice first when looking at this laptop. The really very tiny bezel (about 1cm all around) means that you get a full screen experience. Having come from laptops with much wider bezels, this screen means that you can see so much more for the size of machine that you have. Coupled with the 1600x900 screen resolution, this means that you get an awful lot of screen real estate to work with. I find this particularly useful in Office programs, as I have access to more tools and functions around the main working area. Movies also look great on it. The screen is really bright (brightness can be easily changed using keyboard keys) and also matte, which means that you can view it in any lighting conditions without glare or reflections. Despite the matte screen, I think that the colour looks wonderful and the clarity of image superb, but I can't provide any quantitative findings, just that I like it.
The core components mean that this isn't going to be playing the latest games at the highest resolution. I haven't tried any games, but it runs graphic heavy PowerPoint files pretty well, with only a couple of judders on slides with a couple of really high resolution TIF image files on. It run movies with no problems, and the WiFi streaming issues of the first generation model appear to have been solved, with great connection to my home network over wireless. Using a Netgear 3700 router, I have been getting transfer speeds from a HDD of 5MB/second over G-band WiFi, which is the same as a slightly older, larger laptop. The key feature in performance terms is the start up and resume times. Start up from cold takes about 10-15 seconds. Closing the lid suspends the machine, using minimal battery, which is back up and running within 2-3 seconds when you open the lid. I know that Apples have done this for years, but it's great that a Windows machine is finally able to compete.
It looks great, feels sturdy, and fits in any bag without taking up any space. When you open it up, the huge screen with such a small bezel is a joy and makes you wonder why all laptops and screens don't use this technology/approach. The colour is a dark blue/grey, which actually looks really good, compared to most of the black, silver or laptops available, and with a full metal body, it has a great feel to it. These are all fairly subjective points though. There is a slight element of form over function in some cases. Having improved upon the first generation series 9 with ports that are always available (and not accessed by a flap), there are still issues. On the left hand side, the USB 3 port is flanked by the power cable and mini HDMI out. As I use these all the time, it means that only slim USB sticks will fit into the port - there isn't room for anything thicker than the width of the actual USB port itself. The right hand side USB 2 port is more easily accessible however. On the right hand side you will also find the internal microphone opening. On the Series 5 Ultrabook this opening is on the top of the laptop case, next to the keyboard, but someone clearly decided that they didn't want an 'ugly' hole and mic icon printed on the front case, so moved it to the side. They were right that it looks better, but does mean that audio quality on the mic is slightly worse. However, the combined mic/speaker audio port works brilliantly when using an appropriate four pole splitter - [...] 3.5mm 4 Pin to 2x 3 Pin 3.5mm Headset Splitter Adapter - M/F
- (something that the first generation series 9 didn't seem to do).
The keyboard is the main reason that I bought this over other alternatives. I do a reasonable amount of typing, and find it to be well laid out, clear, and responsive. Full size keys are great, and the main keys aren't cluttered with additional functions, meaning that the whole thing looks great. The backlighting is good, with four different settings, although none of them are very bright. A light sensor is used to control whether the backlight is turned on or off. In dark conditions, it works really well, but there is a point, when there is a little light, that I wish the backlight could be just a tad brighter to enhance contrast. The omission of dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys is a shame, and I do wonder whether they could have but an extra column of keys on the right hand side in (like they have for the larger version), but once you get used to using the function key, it becomes pretty quick and easy.
Mouse track pad:
The mouse track pad is large and friendly. It offers all sorts of multi-functions with one, two, three, and four finger commands. All the reviews complain that it's 'not as good as Apple's version', but having never used an Apple computer, I can't comment. I've found it to work extremely well. On the first generation series 9, I had real problems with the track pad with random jumps and failures, but three months in, this has worked really well with no trouble at all. Although the track pad is a single piece, and you can use all of it to track the cursor, there are two 'physical' buttons on the bottom left and right which you can press. You can also use one or two finger tapping anywhere to achieve a left or right mouse click. Zooming, scrolling left and right, and cycling between programs are all also performed by the track pad, and you can specify that particular programs start up with certain gestures. Overall, I really like it, finding it useful and easy to use.
SD card slot:
For those hoping to boost the storage capacity by using the SD card slot, although you get a full sized SD card slot with this laptop, the SD card sticks out from the slot by about 1cm, so that you can pull it out again. Clearly too thin for a push spring, which sadly means that it's not a quick and easy way of increasing the 128GB SSD.
I had tried a Toshiba 830 before this and it had to go back because of the awful fan noise. I am happy to report that the Samsung is either silent, or near silent when the fan does start. The fan noise is very smooth and low level, so you don't really notice it at all. Interestingly, if it does start to annoy you, you can turn it off with a key on the keyboard - although I have no idea what this will do in terms of performance or life if things start to overheat. So far, running it all day, and even during some periods of moderate activity, it's never really been very warm at all, which was something of a surprise in a machine so thin. Everything else is silent running, with no hard drive noise due to the SSD. The keyboard is no noisier than anything else that I've tried
For such a well-designed laptop, the power supply is nothing special. A small transformer unit has about 1.5-2m of cable with a port on the end to plug into the laptop. A 1m long kettle lead plugs into the other end and the wall socket. I thought that the first generation Series 9 PSU was nicer (just a single plug and a long power lead into the laptop), but they appear to have changed direction on this. The Asus Zenbook has a similar single plug PSU, which also works with this laptop, so you might be able to get one of those instead, if you can find one.
For such a premium laptop, you get remarkably few accessories. A Windows DVD and ethernet adapter (from mini ethernet to the regular patch lead socket) is all that you can expect to find. Given that the Samsung Series 7 and 5 laptops all come with a converter for mini VGA to VGA, so that you can connect to a standard monitor, I was disappointed to find no such accessory with the Series 9 - particularly given that you don't seem to be able to buy them individually anywhere. The only way that I've been able to connect to VGA was using a Samsung mini HDMI to VGA adapter, created for the first generation series 9. I struggled to find this in the UK and had to go to Amazon.de (Germany) for one! Other laptops, such as the Asus Zenbook also come with a specially designed carry case, and ALL the adapters that you need. It's a shame really that such a fantastic product is not completed as fully as it should be.
Having moaned a bit at the end, I still think that this is a five star product. It's slim and light, performs well and is a perfect tool for almost any 'business' or 'office' type user.