Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite: Budget AMD Ultrabook

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Battery Life

My battery life tests involve setting the screen to a reasonable brightness (30% in this case) and timing how long it takes to run down the notebook's charge from 100% to 5% (when Windows 8 shuts itself down) with two different use cases. For my first test, I performed a web browsing simulation by loading three different pages (some with Flash content) in Chrome and using the Refresh Monkey extension to reload each page once a minute at staggered intervals. Secondly is playback of a 720p x264/DTS-encoded MKV in a loop using MPC-HC. After exhausting the battery, I also recoredd the time it took to bring the notebook back to a full charge.

The Book 9 Lite lasted just over 5 hours in my battery life tests and pulled in an extra 19 minutes during web browser over video playback. This is enough time to watch a couple of full-length feature films or to get a decent amount of work done but unfortunately it isn't enough to make it through an entire business day off the juice. Time to charge was 2 hours and 25 minutes.

Thermals & Acoustics

System Measurements
System State
Idle
H.264 Playback
TMPGEnc Encoding
CPU Temp
43°C
57°C
63°C
SSD Temp
24°C
27°C
29°C
Keyboard Temp
27°C
32°C
33°C
Underside Temp
30°C
36°C
41°C
SPL@0.6m
14 dBA
16~17 dBA
Ambient temperature: 20°C.

What the Book 9 Lite lacks in processing power, it makes up for thermal and acoustic performance. The CPU temperature topped out at 63°C during my video encoding test, which is perfectly acceptable. More importantly, the external temperatures were very low. The hottest point on the keyboard (between the "5" and "6" keys) did not exceed 33°C and the underside (the area between the serial number sticker and middle intake vent) maxed out at a lukewarm 41°C.

More impressive was the noise or rather the lack thereof. At the ISO 7779 computer noise standard's defined "Seated User Position" of 0.6 meters, the system was barely audible, with the exhaust fan generating just 14 dBA. For reference, 14 dBA at one meter's distance is almost unheard of for any desktop PC, so to achieve this at 0.6 meters was simply superb. It didn't take a lot of activity to cause the fan to ramp up though, as simply HD video playback was enough to push the SPL to 16~17 dBA, but there was no response to further load (video encoding). At 14 dBA, the fan had a gentle, soft, inoffensive sound. At 16~17 dBA, a faint whine developed but the noise was still mostly inconspicuous.

Samsung's "Settings" application has a "Silent Mode" to reduce the fan noise but what it did was change the power profile to keep the CPU in its lowest 600 MHz state rather than change how the fan reacted to temperature, so I found it to be of little value.

Software

You can't really review a Windows 8 notebook without talking about Windows 8. I have to admit, I've been avoiding the latest version of Windows whenever possible, just as I had avoided Vista during the lengthy heyday of XP. This was the first time I used a Windows 8 machine for a lengthy period of time and while the presence of a touchscreen should have mitigated some of the hate people have for the new O/S and the Modern/Metro Tile interface in particular, the implementation doesn't quite work on the Book 9 Lite.

I enjoyed playing touchscreen games like Plants vs. Zombies, swiping through pictures, and having a go with drawing, but aside from that, I never felt the touchscreen added anything to the experience. The only other time I used regularly used touch was to get to the charms on the right side, but only because it felt alien to hover the mouse on the bottom-right corner to pull up a menu. My experience would have been more positive if the screen didn't wobble whenever I touched it. Any kind of love I could have developed for touch on this notebook was poisoned from the start.

Running in desktop mode most of the time wasn't problem free, even after I installed Classic Shell to bring back the Vista/Windows 7 style start menu and UI. A lot of the default programs were full-screen Metro apps which often was inappropriate. Opening up a PDF file in a full-screen reader on a widescreen display makes absolutely no sense. At 13.3 inches, the screen is just big enough to perform some multitasking but in its stock condition, the ATIV is just not set up properly to facilitate this. It's easy enough to change but for neophytes it presents an unpleasant out-of-the-box experience. Also of note was Samsung's replacement default media player, S Player+, a truly awful and completely unnecessary alternative to Windows Media Player. Not only is it full screen only, I discovered it can't navigate to network folders, is incapable of playing simple MPEG files, and its video compatibility cannot be augmented with third party codecs.

The notebook ships with the usual utilities that PC manufacturers include, a handy software update utility that keeps the BIOS and all drivers up to date, a recovery tool, and "Support Center" which is essentially a more detailed version of Window's Action Center. If you have other Samsung hardware, you get a little extra value from HomeSync Lite, which allows you to share content between all your Samsung devices. There's also the SideSync app that allows you screen share and use your mouse and keyboard to control a USB-connected Samsung phone/tablet.

The third party software included Bitcasa (a cloud storage service), Skype, Evernote, Netflix, Plants vs. Zombies, and trial versions of Norton Studio, Office, and Photoshop Elements.



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