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Intel might have written the Ultrabook spec, but Samsung is making it sing. For the latest case in point, look no further than the Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook, a thin, lightweight powerhouse that's about as stylish and feature-rich as an ultraportable can be.
The sleek-looking Series 9 is chiseled from solid aluminum. The unit's silver borders and flat-charcoal case are attractive, but the dark-colored cover tends to retain fingerprints.
Inside is a comfortable chiclet-style backlit keyboard with dedicated function keys for screen and keyboard brightness, video output, speaker, fan and Wi-Fi. There's also a key to bring up Samsung's Easy Settings screen, which puts eight major control panels and other system functions in a single place. We're glad someone had finally done this; it simplifies Windows configuration and troubleshooting for IT departments as well as consumers.
Easy Settings also provides several Samsung-only functions, including Fast Boot mode, which in our tests reduced cold boot time from an already amazing 11.2 seconds to 10 seconds flat. With a boot time that quick, you might be tempted to shut down Windows all the time. But then you'd be missing out on Samsung's instant-on from sleep feature, which works in about one second. Incidentally, the Series 9 Ultrabook also speeds up Windows shutdown to about five seconds.
Then there are the little things. While we liked Dell's XPS 13 Ultrabook very much, its over-zealous lid spring requires two hands to open: one to open the lid and the other to hold down the base. The Series 9 can be opened with one hand; its spring is just right and the base stays put. And like the unit itself, the Series 9's power supply is thin and light too. The right-angle power connector is less susceptible to accidental damage, but we'd still prefer a magnetic connector like Apple's MagSafe to protect the cord, which gets kicked around like an Olympic soccer ball.
On the subject of Apple notebooks, the 13.3-inch Series 9 is on par physically with the 13.3-inch MacBook Air. Samsung's unit weighs in at 2.55 pounds. That's almost a half-pound (0.41 lbs.) lighter than Apple's 2.96 pounds. The Series 9 is a trivial 0.04 inches thinner than Apple's at its thickest point of 0.64 inches. The large touchpad is as responsive as that of a Mac, and supports multifinger gestures, which are documented in its control panel a la Mac OS X.