This year's Series 9 is even simpler and more minimalist than last year's design. It's housed in a solid black aluminum chassis, which has none of the plastic accents from last year's model. Its cover is a soft matte-black, with a small silver Samsung logo on the left side. The interior is also simple, with a solid aluminum keyboard deck, four pinprick-sized blue LEDs (including one on the Wi-Fi toggle function key and one on the power button), and a small rectangular power button. There are no additional buttons on the keyboard deck, though the keyboard has several function keys for adjusting screen brightness, volume, keyboard backlight, etc.
There aren't a ton of ports on the Series 9, but Samsung gives you a nice selection with what little space it has. On the left side of the machine there's a Sleep-and-Charge USB 2.0 port, as well as a combination headphone/microphone jack, a mini-HDMI output port, and a small proprietary port for plugging in an included port-to-ethernet dongle. On the right side you get two USB 3.0 ports, a micro-USB port, and a barely-noticeable SD card slot under a little door.
The keyboard and trackpad on the Series 9 are disappointing. The keyboard has island-style keys that are large and widely-spaced, but that are very, very shallow. Thanks to this lack of key travel, the keys offer weak tactile feedback, which makes it difficult to type accurately over long periods of time.
The touchpad is large and soft, and looks and feels like Apple's glass touchpad. It has a thin silver outline and no distinguishable buttons. Unlike the touchpad on last year's model, I didn't find this touchpad to be too sensitive; I found it to be not sensitive enough. Even after installing a driver update, the touchpad didn't always respond when I wanted it to, and multitouch gestures were jerky and inaccurate.
Screen and Speakers
One of the Series 9's most impressive features is its big, bright, matte LED-backlit screen. We were impressed with the previous model's screen, and this model's screen is essentially the same, just with a higher resolution (1600 by 900 pixels instead of 1366 by 768 pixels). It is incredibly bright at the highest brightness setting, which means it's perfect for working on in bright or direct sunlight. It also offers excellent viewing angles, vivid colors, and an anti-glare matte finish.
Audio is another story. Though I don't expect studio-quality from laptop speakers, especially one as this as the Series 9, the speakers here are even worse than average. Sound is not just tinny, strung-out, and bass-less, it's also fuzzy at higher levels. For example: I tried watching a Saturday Night Live clip and I could barely make out the announcer's words over the audience's applause, because the different sounds kept running into each other.
The Bottom Line