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Most impressive out of the box is the ATIV Book 9's slender look and feel; its metallic finish is cool to the touch and resistant to smudges. It's also got an 8.2-square-inch smaller footprint and is almost a half-pound lighter than king-daddy Apple's MacBook Air. The full-sized keyboard is comfortable and comfortably backlit, with five levels of brightness controlled by dedicated FN keys.
A lighted function lock key along the top row means that Samsung has finally realized that people adjust brightness and speaker volume more often than, say, they print docs or quit apps. With FN lock-enabled, these are one-finger ops as on a Mac. And why not? The Ultrabook spec was modeled after MacBook Air. We were surprised to see that when the function lock key is enabled, normal F-key operations are inoperable. We expected the function-lock to be reversed when pressing the FN key, similar to shift-lock operation.
Additional FN keys are dedicated to enabling an external monitor (using an optional mini-HDMI connector), toggling the touch-pad and system fan and invoking Samsung's Easy Settings panel. Visual on-screen indicators appear only when adjusting volume and screen brightness.
The Easy Settings panel unites power management, network, display sound, touchpad and some general controls in a single place, making Windows configuration and troubleshooting more convenient. This is especially helpful for Windows 8, which spreads out Control-Panel functions more than in prior versions.
For charging, there's a 40-watt AC adapter with detachable IEC C5 "Mickey Mouse" power cord and cylindrical right-angle power connector for the DC power. The connector is thinner than most and tended to slip out of its socket during tests. With the lid closed, there's no way to know if the battery is charging. An LED above the ESC key indicates AC power and charging status. The battery is not user-replaceable.
NEXT: The Bottom Line