Samsung's Effort to Build the Ultimate Ultrabook Falls a Tad Short

REVIEW: There’s a lot to like about the Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook, but that doesn’t mean everything turned out as well as we'd like.

Samsung bills its new Series 9 Ultrabook computer as being as good as any notebook computer out there, while also being visually stunning, blazingly fast and more useful.

While it’s a very nice computer, Samsung made some compromises either to meet its physical design goals or to make it really thin, and those compromises may impact how you use your computer.

The Samsung Series 9 is a very thin notebook and it’s really light. The company says the device is a half inch thick and that it weighs 2.55 pounds. The company also says the LED-backlit screen is at least twice as bright as ordinary laptops. These facts should be accompanied with an asterisk, because they’re both overly broad or are only true in some circumstances.

The version of the Series 9 we received for testing is technically the NP900X3C-A04US. This means it comes with an Intel Core i7-3517U processor, 4GB of memory that’s shared for video, a 128GB solid state drive, built in WiFi that supports 2.4 and 5 GHz. It also comes with a dongle for use with wired Gigabit Ethernet. You can get dongles for VGA and HDMI as options. Samsung claims that the battery life is up to 9 hours. Windows 7 Professional is pre-loaded.

Overall, this seems to be a pretty nice computer. It’s attractive with its metallic cover that looks like titanium, the screen is large enough to be useful, and you have actual keys for typing—something that normally isn’t included with the tablet computers with which the Series 9 competes. But then you start to run into the consequences of Samsung’s choices that were required to make this ultrabook thin and stylish.

The biggest single (and most annoying) compromise is that the touchpad lacks any means of performing a right-click. Were the right-click action only rarely used with Windows 7, this might not matter. But it’s an important part of how you control Windows 7 and not having it available is a real problem. Fortunately, you kind of get a solution that requires multiple steps. Here’s how it goes:

To achieve a right-click in Windows, either within the Desktop or within an application, first you position the mouse pointer over the place you want to right click. If you’re opening up the video menu, you put the pointer over an empty part of the screen. Then you click the touchpad once. Then you put one finger on the Fn key, and while you’re doing that you press the right-side Control key (which has a tiny image of a right click menu) and that usually produces the menu. This is far too many steps for a fairly common action in Windows.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...