A Closer Look
The first thing that anyone will note before they open the notebook up and start using it is the remarkably lightweight build. As mentioned through the introduction, one of e key focus points for Ultrabooks and their AMD counterparts is the overall weight and this needs to be kept as low as possible. If I were to take my Dell XPS15 laptop, which weighs around 2.5x the amount that this does, I’d soon start to feel the weight on my back and when you’re on the train and then walking to meetings, this is the last thing that I want to have. The Book 9 Lite is a shade over 1.5kg and for this type of system this is around the average that we are starting to see.
When lifting the lid up on the Book 9 Lite, it is worth noting that this is not really a one-handed operation. Due to the fact that this unit is so light, when you try to lift the screen up, there is no bulk in the base to hold it down. This not really a problem, it’s just something worth noting.
As we will see as I go further into the notebook, Samsung have tried as much as they can to keep the overall appearance clean and free of any clutter. On the underside we typically see a ton of stickers and removable covers for storage and memory upgrades, but with this system, the base is made up of a single piece of plastic. Not only does this make the manufacturing process much easier, but it also saves on a little bit of weight with less screws and plastics needed. It may only be a small amount of weight, but when you’re working on this end of the notebook scale, every gram counts.
Like the underside, the lid of the Book 9 Lite is also very clean and crisp with a gloss effect to the Marble White coloured plastic. To the left hand side of the cover is a chrome effect Samsung badge which gives just enough contrast to break up the pure white finish a little and to make the system look a little less than a white box product.
Lifting the lid and looking at the keyboard, Samsung have provided a compact 81-key chiclet keyboard with the same off-white finish that the rest of the casing uses. The printing on the keys has not been made to bold and in between the keys is a comfortable amount of spacing, so there is no worry when it comes to typing long articles or documents when it comes to hitting the wrong key.
The keys themselves may only be slightly raised above the surface of the chassis, but there is just enough travel and resistance on the keys to get a good response from the board as well as the ability to type on the board for a long period before the tips of your fingers start to ache from the pressure – unlike some mechanical keyboards for example which I find too noisy and which also tend to make my fingers ache after a relatively short period of typing.
In front of the keyboard is a large touch pad with left and right-click buttons on the two lower corners in a one piece design. The surface of the touch pad is not too smooth, nor is it too rough. There is enough of a texture to get a good feedback and to give a smooth operation on-screen.
Around the notebook there is little branding in terms of features, although in the bottom corner to the right of the touchpad, there are two light grey features mentioned which are included with the system. SideSync is one of Samsung’s own technologies which allows for a seamless integration with one of Samsung’s own Android smartphones. More on this technology can be found over on Samsung’s website here. The second second feature that is highlighted is HomeSync Lite which allows this system to act as a cloud hub for up to 6 other Samsung devices such as smartphones and tablets, where they can simply back up their data to the notebooks internal storage – which can also be accessed remotely if needed.
Towards the left hand side of the space between the keyboard and the screen we find a row of four LEDs to indicate system power and charging status to the left and caps / Fn lock to the right. The LEDs themselves are small and discrete and are just bright enough to see, but not too bright as to distract your attention.
On the opposite end, again above the keyboard is a slim power button.
Like the outside of the Book 9 Lite’s chassis, the inside of the system features very little in the way of branding. The only thing that we see that breaks up the white surface is a reflective Samsung logo that is set into the lid beneath the front of the screen. Below this branding we can see a rubber strip which is set into the lid around the outside of the touch-screen panel. Having a rubber strip run around the entire perimeter of the screen is a little unusual and typically we see two or four rubber feet on the corners of the screen to protect both parts of the notebook from damaging each other, but with the Book 9 Lite, this strip also acts to stop any dirt getting in-between the screen and keyboard when the system is in a rucksack for example, keeping it nice and clean for when you come to next use it.
Above the screen the Book 9 Lite features a small 720p quality web cam with a microphone positioned to either side. It would have been nice to see this finished in white to make it blend in, but the little bit of black doesn’t intrude the bezel too much and does not ruin the style of the unit.
With the notebook closed and looking at it from the side we can get a look at the low profile and form factor that makes units like this so unique. Typically mainstream notebooks and laptops are rather thick as they pack in a wide array of components, but with Ultrabooks and their equivalents, the motherboard and additional components have been made as thin as possible and this is, to a degree, restricted by ports as an example as these have to follow a set standard. From the front to the back, the Ativ Book 9 Lite has a tear drop shape to it, with the system measuring little more than 17.4mm thick at most. Comparing this to my Dell laptop once again, we are looking at something here that is at least half the thickness.
On the left hand side of the base Samsung have packed in a DC power jack, SuperSpeed USB3.0 port, micro-HDMI port and instead of an RJ45 Ethernet port which would interfere with the dimensions of the chassis a mini-Ethernet port is found instead. The included RJ45 to mini-Ethernet adaptor connects here and this gives the notebook a standard Gigabit Ethernet connection option.
On the other side, the array of ports on offer is also minimal, with a USB2.0 port, 3.5mm combo port for both microphone and headphone connections, a micro-VGA port (adaptor sold separately) and a Kensington lock point.
Turning the notebook back over and look at the underside, there are four large rubber feet which slightly protrude from the base of the unit and on either side towards the front of the case are two square grills behind which lie two small 1.5w speakers.
Also on the left had side is a full-sized SD / SDHC / SDXC card reader with a spring-loaded cover for when a card is not inserted.
Whilst the laptop is relatively low powered, there is still the need to have active cooling in place and towards the back of the underside is a small intake grill, with an exhaust vent found on the rear of the system.
Delving into the insides of the Book 9 Lite, we can get a look at exactly what makes this system tick. As we can see, the motherboard takes up little more than half of the systems footprint, with the ultra-slim battery taking up the front half of the space available.
One of the key features that sets Ultrabooks and their equivalents apart from other laptop systems is the astonishing battery life that they have in comparison to a full fat laptop system. Packed in to the Book 9 Lite is a 2 cell 30Wh batter, offering 4080mAh of capacity. Unlike most systems, the battery here is not a user serviceable part and will require the system to be sent to Samsung for replacement when its health diminishes.
As highlighted in the introduction, Samsung don’t state too clearly so what CPU is used in this system and after some digging around we find that its one of AMD’s A4/A6 socket FT3 (BGA769) Quad-core chips, offering up to 1.4GHz clock speeds. What we will also note here is that the CPU is directly attached to the motherboard and consequently is not replaceable. The slim blower-type fan to the right keeps the CPU cool, although this can bet changed within the system settings to run in passive mode for a totally quiet operation.
Like the processor, the system’s memory is directly soldered to the motherboard and this also means that there is no room for upgrades in the future. The Ativ Book 9 Lite comes with one option of 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 memory and is made up of Samsung’s own DRAM packages.
Towards the left hand side of the notebook is the only upgradeable component that is to be found. Whilst the system only comes with the option for 128GB of mSATA based SSD storage, Samsung’s mSATA drive can be taken out and replaced with a 256GB drive if wanted in the future.
The last major component that we can find on the rather small motherboard is the wireless adaptor which is provided by Lite-On technology to give this system 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth v4.0 connectivity.