Samsung Series 9 NP900X3D £850
8th May 2013 | 08:30
The Windows Ultrabook to beat?
The Samsung Series 9 NP900X3D is an extremely portable 13-inch laptop that goes right up against the likes of the Asus Zenbook and Acer's Aspire S7.
This is the latest version of the Series 9, though the name has been around for a while now. As you'd expect, it includes Windows 8, an Intel Core i5 processor and a now standard 4GB of memory.
You'll be amazed at how thin the NP900X3D actually is when you hold it - just 13.2mm at its thickest point. It looks every bit as stylish as rivals such as the MacBook Air, and competes favourably on price.
The Series 9 isn't a cheap laptop though, and has the specs you'd expect from a premium machine. It used to be the case that ultraportable laptops were somewhat underpowered, but thanks to processors that use less power but offer higher performance, this is no longer an issue.
Full HD screen
One area where Ultrabook laptops still lag behind larger machines is storage capacity - mainly because they use SSDs rather than hard disks for faster boot times and data retrieval. The Series 9 is equipped with a 128GB SSD, which is sufficient for most people's files and photos, but won't be enough if you need space for a lot of videos. The solution here is to add an external hard drive for use at home.
The screen on this model is delightfully bright for something so thin, although the 1,600 x 900 resolution is nothing special. We're starting to see more and more laptops coming onto the market with Full HD resolutions, but they tend to cost a good deal more than this.
The laptop's slim profile means that you'll need an external dongle to connect it to a wired network. There are only two USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0), a headphone jack, a memory card reader (hidden underneath the laptop) and a micro HDMI port for connecting the Series 9 to a desktop monitor.
In terms of battery life, we saw about six hours in normal use, compared to the seven and a half hours cited by the manufacturer.
The only bum note in the Series 9's specification is in the choice of the processor. The NP900X3D features the Core i5-2537M, which is a powerful dual-core chip, but has been overtaken by later models.
It's also crucial to note that the HD 3000 graphics card has been replaced by the HD 4000. This won't cause an issue in use, but it's worth remembering when comparing it to models with newer Core i5 or Core i7 processors - the cheaper Toshiba Satellite Z930 is lighter and features the newer Core i5-3317UM chip.
You're definitely paying a premium for the design, but the Series 9 is really very aesthetically pleasing, making it a joy to use and carry. The keyboard and trackpad are very comfortable and you'll hardly notice it in a bag or case.
A 256GB black version, the NP900X3E, is also available, as is a 15-inch silver version, the NP900X4D.
Despite some issues, we believe the NP900X4D is a good buy, if not a truly excellent one. You won't walk out of the shop feeling like you've been ripped off, but you certainly won't feel like you've got the steal of the century, either.
We'd advise you to consider carefully whether you really need a highly portable and deliberately design-led laptop such as this. While we don't think you'll be disappointed in terms of quality, you may decide you're better off spending a lower price on a heavier laptop with more processor power, more storage and more memory.