Ultrabook Reviews: Dell XPS 13, HP Envy 14 Spectre, and Samsung Series 9


The Envy might knock the others out of the park in design and creativity, but it simply isn't as thin and light as the competition. It weighs 3.79 pounds and I noticed the extra pounds in my bag. However, the extra thickness does allow it to accommodate more ports than the others; you get two USB ports, an Ethernet jack, and a full HDMI socket. It also has a beautiful 14-inch, 1600 x 900 resolution Radience screen, which displays very crisp and bright images and video. The keyboard is comfortable, but unfortunately the trackpad is very stiff and hard to operate. Noticing a pattern with these touchpads?

Verdict: The Envy 14 Spectre is a beautiful laptop, but it is thicker than the other ultrabooks. It would be an even better laptop if it were a bit cheaper, which is why I say wait until it drops a bit in price. But even then you have to be okay shining your laptop to keep the fingerprints off.

Samsung Series 9 ($1,500)

Stats: 0.60-inches thick, 3.5-pounds, lasts five hours and 34 minutes on battery test

The Samsung Series 9 is the thinnest and lightest of the bunch, even though it has the largest screen. In fact, at .60-inches thick, it is now the thinnest 15-inch laptop on the market. And thin, is exactly what you notice about this laptop – it slides into a very narrow bag and can easily hide under a stack of papers on your desk. The dark grey aluminum also gives the machine a very good build and gives it a minimalistic look.

The keyboard is very spacious, and like the others, has a backlight for when you have to type in the dark. I particularly like how this one glows green. The touchpad is the best one out of the bunch since it is wider; however, while scrolling with two fingers is smooth, it's not as smooth as the experience on the MacBook Air. The 15-inch, 1600 x 900-resolution display is matte, or not glossy, which helps with outdoor use, but it looks a bit washed out from some angles.

Even more impressive, is that the Series 9 lasted the longest on my battery test – at five hours and 34 minutes. That is the longest out of the new ultrabooks featured in this article, but still not as long as the Air's six and a half hours.

Verdict: The Samsung Series 9 really is the most well-rounded ultrabook – it's insanely thin and light, has a frustration-free trackpad, while providing the same performance as the others but with longer battery life. However, at $1,500 it is also the most expensive.

If you're in the market for the best Windows 7 ultrabook, the Series 9 is a great choice and worth the cash, but the $1,300 MacBook Air's better battery life, display, and touchpad keep it at the top of the pack.

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