Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite: Budget AMD Ultrabook

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AUDIO RECORDINGS

These recordings were made with a high resolution, lab quality, digital recording system inside SPCR's own 11 dBA ambient anechoic chamber, then converted to LAME 128kbps encoded MP3s. We've listened long and hard to ensure there is no audible degradation from the original WAV files to these MP3s. They represent a quick snapshot of what we heard during the review.

Each recording starts with ambient noise, then 5~10 second segments of product at various states. For the most realistic results, set the volume so that the starting ambient level is just barely audible, then don't change the volume setting again while comparing all the sound files.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Though there are a few caveats, I have to describe my two weeks with the Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite as pleasant. The machine is sleek and light such that I never felt like it was burden to lug around anywhere. I do wish it were a bit smaller though, a personal preference, as I feel that 11~12 inches is really the sweet spot for an ultra-portable device. This notebook feels somewhat unbalanced, its footprint overly large for its weight and thickness. Also when you lift up the screen to open it, the base has to be held down or it will try to come along for the ride. You want something with solid hinges but with these machines getting so light, this problem is almost unavoidable.

This is a budget notebook but build quality is certainly not an area they skimped out on — every bit of its exterior feels solid. Plastic is obviously par for the course in this price range but it's certainly not a negative, at least in this case. A couple of the peripherals impressed me as well. The keyboard is comfortable and responsive, and the speakers are surprisingly capable. I've never had the compulsion to listen to music through notebook speakers, but with the Book 9 Lite, I found myself sampling a healthy chunk of my personal catalog, at first to detect weaknesses, but later just in awe that speakers so small could sound good.

A budget AMD APU drives this notebook but even though it lacks the single-threaded performance and snappiness of a current/last generation Pentium or Core i3, it has enough horsepower for perhaps 90% of consumers. I felt fairly satisfied going about my daily business (keep in mind I didn't use any demanding applications) though the odd hiccups here and there were annoying reminders that I was using a cut-rate processor. The Samsung SSD inside likely makes up for many of the A6-1450's shortcomings — the system boots up fully in a mere 8 seconds and wakes up from sleep almost immediately. The integrated HD 8250 graphics won't win any awards but it can handle any video file you throw at it, and older PC titles and casual games run fairly well.

The performance sacrifices might be worth it for its 8W TDP, and the subsequent effects on the heat and noise output. Bare laps can rejoice as the Book 9 Lite runs very cool, and sensitive ears can relax as the system is barely audible when idle and very quiet on load. Despite this seemingly ultra low power chip, the battery life is below average, lasting about 5 hours of light use.

The screen is undoubtedly the Book 9 Lite's biggest drawback. Perhaps I am spoiled by the high resolution IPS screens on pretty much any current Android/iOS tablet of note, but I'm really tired of the ubiquitous low resolution TN panel. A lot of users can't stand the 1366x768 resolution, and while I too prefer more pixels, I resent the washed out colors and poor viewing angles much more. It's also comical that the touchscreen registers taps and swipes with precision and speed but is attached to a chassis that wobbles at the faintest touch. I had little inclination to use the Metro interface to begin with and this flaw just about snuffed it out completely.

I believe that Samsung would have been better off leaving touch off this system, though at the same time it's difficult to put out a notebook without one given the nature of Windows 8. Ultimately I feel the extra cost of adding touch could have gone elsewhere to make a more well-rounded machine. Still, priced at around US$650, the ATIV Book 9 Lite is the most affordable ultrabook on the market in this size and weight class which helps overcome its various deficiencies.

Our thanks to Samsung for the ATIV Book 9 Lite sample.

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