So I had a chance to see Samsung’s 2013 ultrabook offerings. As you can probably guess, the larger the number, the higher specs the computer will have. However given some of the new “ultrabook” designations by Intel for fourth gen ultrabooks, things have gotten a little interesting.
For example, the Series 5 and 7 devices feature touch screens (to comply with Intel). However the Series 9 (which may not even bear the “ultrabook” designation) does not. I bring this up because while I was in the booth, reps for the 5 and 7 told me how Samsung (as a company) was focusing on using touch screens as it works great with Windows 8 (which all three of these ship with). But then a different Samsung rep at the Series 9 table was telling how using the multitouch trackpad was just as good as a touch screen, if not better, as you can still use gestures but won’t get your screen covered in fingerprints. I totally understand that each rep was just trying to sell me on the product they were responsible for but if the Series 9 is supposed to be the highest end notebook offering, why doesn’t it pack the most features. Is it because Samsung believes power users that would be willing to pay the high price for the unit would not be interested in touch? Perhaps. Last year the Series 9 15″ was one of my favorite things I saw at the show and again this year, it looked great. Yet, if I were to buy one, they’re probably right in that I would not want/need a touch screen (or at least wouldn’t want to pay even more to have one available). The Series 9 rep did tell me that a touchscreen was probably in the works though given that the other two models have them, so I’m thinking it’s just not cost effective for Samsung to put one in yet.
Getting to the ultrabooks themselves, the Series 5 midrange device comes in two varieties: one with an i3 and 4GB of RAM and the other with an i5 and 8GB of RAM ($749 and $899, respectively). Now to confuse you even more on the subject of touchscreens, overseas a matte screened non-touch version will be available along with the option to add a Radeon HD 8750M discrete GPU. In the US, just the touch screen integrated graphics versions will be available. Regarlyeless of which model you pick, the screen 14″ screen packs a resolution limited to 1366×768, which is certainly disappointing. One of the reasons I loved the Series 9 last year was it packed a 1600×900 resolution screen, around where most computers of the same slimness topped out. With the launch of the Macbook Pros with Retina Displays last summer, it would have been nice to see the Series 5 get bumped up slightly and the Series 9 at something closer to the 2880×1800 of the RMBP. It did pack a full array of ports including ethernet, HDMI, and 3 USB ports, if that helps. Also, includes JBL speakers, and while I couldn’t tell their quality at the show (too much background noise on the show floor), my guess is that like most laptop speakers, you’re better off just wearing headphones.
The Series 7 does pack a nice screen on the other hand though. Loaded with a 13.3″ 1080p PLS touchscreen and a Radeon HD 8570M, the Series 7 comes in i5 and i7 varieties. With solid state memory only, 9 hour claimed battery life, and a full aluminium body, all at 3.25 pounds, this could definitely be a great device for anyone needing something very portable. Disappointingly it, like the Series 5, only comes with one USB 3.0 port, but if you’re like me and still don’t have many (if any) USB 3.0 peripherals, it probably doesn’t make much of a difference.
The Series 9 still looks sexy as ever, and also rocking solid state memory, has some incredible boot times (see video). It also packs a 1080p PLS display, which is a nice upgrade from last year’s version. Like I mentioned above, no touch screen to be found here but that probably doesn’t matter for the people willing to shell out this kind of money for a notebook. As noted in the video, the Samsung rep demoing the Series 9 for me seemed rather proud of the viewing angles on the 13″ model. Great, but I doubt I’m ever going to need such wide angles for a screen of that size (ie: not going to be using it as a movie watching device for a bunch of people). Nevertheless, never a bad thing to have… unless you’re on an airplane and the guy next to you has his eyes glued to your screen the whole flight.