Laptops like the 2018 15-inch Samsung Notebook 9 make for interesting reviews, because this is one of those devices with nagging flaws that are arguably outweighed by immense benefits.
For example, the new 15-inch Notebook 9 is a fantastic performer with a long-lasting battery – perhaps the longest battery life we’ve seen yet – but it’s held back by a squishy keyboard and a relatively small amount of storage – neither of which you often find on most laptops at this price point.
The result is a laptop that is frankly fantastic enough in some areas that it may just be the right laptop for a specific person: one that prioritizes lasting power and performance above everything else … and can get used to a squishy keyboard.
Price and availability
Configured as you see to the right, the Samsung Notebook 9 15 is priced at $1,499 (about £1,069, AU$1,959). However, a starting model with half as much memory and lacking the Nvidia MX150 graphics costs a cool $1,299 (about £929, AU$1,699).
Both models come housing Full HD (1080p) displays, as well as Thunderbolt 3 ports and fingerprint sensors for secure Windows Hello login via Windows 10. And, the only color option available for both models is the silvery Light Titan. So, not much has changed since last year save for graphics and processing power.
While it lacks the Touch Bar and super-sharp Retina display, this laptop far out-prices the $2,399 (£1,719, AU$3,129) 15-inch MacBook Pro for more computational power. Having said that, the MacBook Pro’s AMD Radeon Pro 555 graphics might outclass the Nvidia MX150 chip by a hair.
Starting at $999 (about £719, AU$1,299) the brand-new Dell XPS 15 handily outshines the Samsung Notebook 9 when it comes to value, putting forth half as much RAM but far stronger Nvidia GTX 1050 graphics and a 128GB SSD- plus-1TB HDD combo storage solution behind an FHD display. So, where does that leave the Notebook 9?
Seeing as how the Notebook 9 relies quite a bit on its stylings and features to prop up its pricing, it’s good that the Notebook 9 is quite stylish and packed with features. Compared to last year, though, there isn’t much at all different about the Notebook 9 design.
That turns out to be a rather good thing, as we’ve always appreciated Samsung’s approach to laptop design. Flat where it needs to be and only with a small amount of curves, the Notebook 9 exudes subtle luxury through its silvery aluminum frame.
The laptop weighs just under three pounds and is merely 0.61 inches thick, making it one of the most portable 15-inch laptops we’ve ever tested. That said, there is one element of the chassis we’d have wished were a little tighter.
The keyboard, while spacious and deep in travel, is awfully squishy feeling when it comes to feedback. While it’s certainly not the crisp, punchy experience we’re used to on laptops in this price range, it doesn’t impact your time using it – just anticipate a learning curve. It’s up to you whether some of the laptop’s other major benefits outweigh this flaw.
Also, we found the keyboard backlighting to be awfully faint, not appearing much brighter than a glow-in-the-dark sticker and similar in hue. At the very least, the keys are well-spaced and leave room for a fantastic fingerprint sensor and touchpad.
The touchpad on this laptop is coated in glass like before and offers up supreme palm rejection in that it not once triggered mouse movements while typing. Meanwhile, the fingerprint sensor is snappy to set up and speedy in action – all laptops should feature this standard.
Display and audio
Unsurprisingly, Samsung’s FHD display in use here is fantastic, offering excellent color reproduction through its LED panel. Reds absolutely pop while blacks all but disappear into the screen’s bonding.
However, the laptop display’s true brightness potential is hidden behind an Outdoor Mode within the Samsung Settings app. This increases the screen’s maximum brightness of 350 nits by another 150 nits.
At any rate, this display is first-rate, which should come as no surprise given its maker – just turn on that Outdoor Mode when watching Netflix, and you’ll be fine. Take solace in knowing, then, that this settings app also features a blue light reduction mode when those 500 nits get to be too much.
As for the audio, we’re sad to say that it sounds about as thin and tinny as you’d expect from tiny, down-firing speakers. This is one place worth looking at for Samsung in terms of improving the 2019 model.
First reviewed April 2018
Running off of an 8th-generation Intel Kaby Lake Core i7 processor and Nvidia MX150 graphics, it’s not a surprise that the Samsung Notebook 9 absolutely aced our benchmarks. What’s more surprising is the massive amount of battery life that this laptop is good for.
During our benchmark tests, the Notebook 9 proved that it’s able to handle just about any computing task you throw at it within the scope of the average user. Without a 4K display, don’t expect to edit 4K media on this machine, but it should render 1080p video and image files without issue.
The laptop’s graphical performance is awfully impressive, and indicates you should be able to get some casual, basic gaming out of this device and fantastic video playback.
That said, we were a bit disappointed by the storage on offer. If a professional or prosumer were to pick up this laptop, they’d fill up that 256GB SSD in no time. Especially for the price, Samsung should offer at least 512GB or a hybrid solution – Apple might not, but Dell sure does.
In spite of our qualms with the Notebook 9, we’re in awe of one key advantage of Samsung’s latest 15-inch laptop: insane battery life. This might well be the longest-lasting laptop we’ve tested yet, crushing both of our benchmarks and outlasting the most power-packed laptops we’ve seen.
At nearly 8 hours in our PCMark 8 battery test and more than 12 and a half hours in our local video rundown test, the Notebook 9 handily outclasses the Dell XPS 15 of last year, though we can’t speak for the 15-inch MacBook Pro.
How did the laptop achieve these numbers? Well, Samsung boosted the battery capacity of its 15-inch laptop by nearly 10Wh to 75Wh this time around. At the same time, sporting just a 1080p display while adding more battery only saw net gains in battery life.
If your needs focus more on general performance and reliability, then the Notebook 9 might be an excellent choice, knowing how long it can last you on a charge. Those figures, not even accounting for Windows 10 Battery Saver Mode and tuning brightness below 50%, would see you through cross-country, and even intercontinental, flights.
Features and software
While guilty of slapping McAfee antivirus software onto this laptop at launch, Samsung at least developed some fantastic settings control software for its unique features. For instance, this Samsung Settings app can send the laptop into a silent mode that turns on power saving features to reduce fan noise.
Better yet, this is where you activate Outdoor Mode, which boosts the screen brightness to 500 nits rather than 350. You can also toggle maximum performance modes as well as additional battery saver modes that could see you gain even more hours of longevity.
The software even features an HDR mode that makes colors pop more in photos and videos, though to our untrained eyes it seems to just make scenes darker and colors a bit more pronounced. You can finally control keyboard backlighting from here – but, you can’t make it any stronger or a nicer color.
At any rate, the Samsung Settings app is one of the most useful pieces of software we’ve seen pre-loaded onto a laptop in a long time.
In spite of a keyboard that isn’t quite punchy enough for our tastes and dimly backlit, and some lackluster audio performance as well as a small amount of storage, we found that the 15-inch Samsung Notebook 9’s benefits far outweigh its flaws.
You will absolutely be hard-pressed to find a laptop that performs this well, and which also lasts this long. Sure, that’s thanks in large part to a 1080p display in a time when high-resolution options are all but required, but depending on your specific needs this could be an incredible laptop for you.
In the name of immense battery life and versatility in performance, not to mention all the ports we could ever need in a laptop, we can easily recommend the Samsung Notebook 9 to most students and general users. You can expect to go far with this laptop – and for longer between charges.