The Samsung Series 9 runs on a low voltage Intel Core i5-2537M, 1.4GHz processor which is good for a number of reasons. Performance-wise, this choice of processor isn’t exactly going to make the machine run like a F1 car, but regular office programs, light photo and video editing wouldn’t pose much of a problem. Coupled with a 128GB SSD, that helps tremendously in the speed department to complement the processing platform. As a comparison, we selected the Apple MacBook Air (tests were run in a Windows environment using BootCamp) which the Series 9 is closely modeled after in terms of looks and specs, and one other somewhat similarly configured business machine, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1. As you can see from the specifications below, the comparison notebooks have higher speed processors and would likely outrun the Samsung Series 9. More details to follow in our test results below.
|Specifications/Notebook||Samsung Series 9 900X3A||Apple MacBook Air (2011)||Lenovo ThinkPad X1|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-2537M (1.4GHz)||Intel Core i5-2557M (1.7GHz)||Intel Core i5-2520M (2.5GHz)|
|Chipset||Intel HM65||Intel QS67||Intel HM65|
|Memory||4GB DDR3||4GB DDR3||4GB DDR3|
|HDD||128GB SSD||256GB SSD||160GB SSD|
|Video||Intel HD 3000||Intel HD 3000||Intel HD 3000|
Just as we surmised earlier, out actual testing found that the MacBook Air (MBA) and ThinkPad X1 both performed better than the Series 9. This performance edge of the Series 9 can simply be explained by looking at the components they sport. The MBA has a larger SSD drive than either the ThinkPad, or the Series 9, thus allowing for a larger I/O throughput which no doubt contributed to its higher HDD scores. This is already not factoring in the different controller and flash chips used in all the SSDs that would further affect this outcome. Graphics performance wise, although they were using the same Graphics accelerator, the MBA also had newer drivers (from the Apple servers), while the Samsung Series 9 or Thinkpad X1 were limited to older drivers thanks to lack of prompt manufacturer support. Additionally, the graphics engine on the Intel Core i5-2537M is slower than the other two processor SKUs and that accounted for the difference again.
Lastly but the most influential aspect is the clock speeds of the processors across all three notebooks. As found in the detailed performance analysis of the MacBook Air, despite its processor's low base clock speeds, its normal thermal design power of the chip allows it to hit higher turbo clock speeds and thus match up well against the Lenovo X1's higher-end processor that might not have been turbo boosting as much. For Samsung to meet its sexy notebook design, they had to settle for an ultra low voltage processor that could meet the designed power requirements, which limited its overall performance potential. And unfortunately, coupled with the lower clocked graphics engine and smaller SSD size, the overall performance standing is lower than the compared two notebooks.
The Samsung Series 9 is still the lighter machine however, but we'll touch more on mobility on the next page. Clearly, the point to understand here is the form over raw performance that Samsung chose for its Series 9 notebook. In normal usage, outside of benchmarking, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference since all three notebooks are running on an SSD, general usage is snappy too.
In our 3DMark06 tests, the MacBook Air overwhelmed the Samsung Series 9 significantly, with scores almost double that of the hapless Series 9. As mentioned in our MBA review, the updated graphics drivers and other custom driver on the MBA play a large part towards the final scores, even ousting the Lenovo X1. Of course not to forget that the 3DMark score also consists of the CPU quotient, which the beautiful Series 9 is unfortunately at a disadvantage again. Hopefully, future iterations of the Samsung Series 9 (should they see fit to continue this series) will better its raw performance when the next generation Ivy Bridge processors appear on the market to replace the current Sandy Bridge processors.
The one true test of a machine’s gaming performance is to see if it can churn out frames fast enough. Sadly, the Series 9 falters badly here, whether in Medium or Very High quality settings of Far Cry 2. But remember, if you’re looking for a gaming capable machine, you are looking at the wrong notebook segment - unless of course you only do hardcore 'farming' on Facebook at a cafe, in which case it will do just fine with web games. The ultra-thin and light Samsung Series 9 is not at all targeted at traditional gamers. It is actually targeted at business users who constantly need to travel about and so require something light, sturdy and fast.