Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite: Budget AMD Ultrabook

Complete|Mobile Systems
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The hardware inside a PC is certainly an important aspect but for a notebook, the peripherals can be equally vital. Inside, these systems are mostly the same from one model to the next, but what you use to interact with the machine inside varies greatly and can frame and tint the overall experience.

The screen is 13.3 inches with a low resolution of 1366x768, but that isn't my main complaint. The display is slightly washed out and has awful viewing angles. Push the screen back and the colors turn negative. Tilt it forward and it turns white as a ghost. There is only about a five degree arc where the picture quality is optimal, and even then it's just adequate. Like most notebook displays, the brightness is enough to hold up outdoors but direct sunlight is overpowering. The surface has a moderate amount of reflection.

The display can be pushed down to an almost completely horizontal position, ostensibly to make it more touch-friendly. The touch screen is quite nice, responsive, and accurate, but even a slight tap causes it to wobble no matter what angle the hing is positioned. The only time I felt comfortable using touch was with my other hand bracing the screen. It's a cumbersome experience especially with a hardware keyboard permanently attached to it. I can see why so many manufacturers are experimenting with convertible designs.

Centered on the top bezel of the LCD is the webcam, straddled by an LED indicator on one side and a mic on the other. The camera produces a somewhat hazy image but it performs adequately in low light and the color temperature isn't off by much. The mic is a bit better, picking up my non-raised voice easily at short distances clearly.

The speakers are surprisingly punchy. They're capable of filling a room easily and at maximum volume there is little distortion. You can tell they are notebook speakers as they sound slightly hollow and tinny side but that's unavoidable for their size. Despite this, the sound quality is phenomenal, at least compared to most notebooks and tablets I've used.

The ATIV Book 9 Lite has a full-sized unlit chiclet keyboard (minus the numpad) that's as good as any I've used. The shallow keys are responsive and springy and just have an altogether solid feel. Keyboard flex is also nonexistent, at least with normal pressure — if you push hard it will give a bit. As a Canadian model, my sample is cursed with the dreaded bilingual keyboard with miniaturized Enter and Left Shift keys but those south of the border can expect the usual US layout.

The trackpad is fairly large and is sloped downward so the left/right click pads are deeper. The left side is also separated from the chassis more than the left, though this didn't affect operation. The surface has a close to optimal level of friction but the pad clicks too much for my tastes though I really didn't notice it after awhile. Some may consider this a compliment.

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