For a long time, Apple has dominated the design-minded laptop sphere. When you think resale value, a solid chassis and polish — you think MacBook. However, Samsung caught wise to the appeal of great design.
Enter the Samsung ATIV Book 9 (2014 Edition) ($1,499 MSRP): a well-oiled machine without all the rough edges that typically define a laptop in this price bracket.
If you’re OK not having a battery-killing processor or a super-high capacity hard drive, this laptop is worth a look. If design doesn’t really matter to you, and you need horsepower — look elsewhere.
Though Windows laptops typically eschew high design for the best specs, Samsung has taken a page out of Apple’s (Mac) book and given their ATIV Book some extra polish. Built with a metal chassis and designed to cram everything you need into a tight space, this laptop has a lot of goodies in an attractive, yet durable, package.
Laptops that have a 15.6-inch screen like the ATIV Book 9 aren’t generally very portable, but this one is an exception. Because it’s only 14.74 x 9.84 inches and only 0.63 inches thick, this computer is a little more forgiving with messenger bags. But don’t let that svelte package fool you — the ATIV Book 9 is hefty, weighing in at 4.4 pounds.
On the plus side, a 128GB solid-state drive means you can start up and shut down almost as fast as you’d normally put a computer to sleep, and read/write speeds are lightning fast. And if you take a break from spreadsheets and documents, the screen is good enough to display a decent picture on its 1080p LCD.
For all its polish, there are some obvious shortcomings. First up is the cost — it’s quite expensive for a computer that has a lower-end processor. A Core i5 will be a bit better for battery life, but you won’t be getting top-of-the-line performance out of this laptop.
The ATIV Book 9’s screen looks great, even if its spec sheet isn’t that impressive. The biggest frustration with using this laptop during the day or in-flight is the reflectivity. It’s understandable that capacitive touch-screens are often terrible when it comes to dispelling glare, but this laptop has extreme issues in this regard.
Because it uses a big battery and a somewhat underpowered processor, we were able to drain the power in just less than five hours. Keep in mind, however, that we put that power cell through the wringer in our tests, so that result is actually quite good in comparison to many other models.
Perhaps the best thing about this computer is its overall design. Much like the MacBook Air, this laptop crams a considerable amount of computer into a small space — all the while making sure its exterior is similarly well-polished.
However, it’s not exactly a top-of-the-line model, and most options out there offer more for less money. To wit, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 can give you the exact same specs in a hybrid model for $400 less, the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro offers top-of-the-line hardware for $200 less, and the 13-inch MacBook Air with better specs (and battery life) is also $200 less than the ATIV Book 9 2014 Edition.
The fact of the matter is you’re paying more for the polish of the product, and not merely the sum of its parts. But if design quality is at the top of your priority list in shopping for a new PC, the Samsung Book 9 series is a great place to start. This particular i5 version is a little heavier than we’d like and doesn’t have top-tier performance, but it’s as sharp as a well-tailored suit, with a price to match.