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Samsung Notebook 9 Pen review: Samsung's note-taking PC can't quite justify its price

The Pocket book nine Pen aspires to be Samsung’s model of a MacBook, with an expensive, potent mixture of elements powering some distinctive app reviews. However its bland, plasticky external will more than likely counsel a Chromebook as an alternative, even though with an iconic S-Pen stylus that is at all times able to jot a handy guide a rough notice.

It is a tough dichotomy for this 13.Three-inch, 360-degree convertible to reconcile, made much more difficult via the Pocket book nine Pen’s MSRP: $1,400. To be honest, we have lately noticed it for $100 or so much less on some websites. Except you’re keen on Samsung’s S-Pen, even though, the Pocket book nine Pen is susceptible to like-priced (or less expensive) pageant.

Nonetheless, you could imagine a few of its weaknesses to be strengths. As an example, Samsung manufactured all the chassis out of a unique customized magnesium alloy, with the glance, weight and really feel of plastic. But the sunshine 2.14-pound weight (slightly below 2.five kilos with the charger) is one thing your shoulders will recognize whilst you lift this pc on your bag. Likewise, we do not imagine its a large number of customizable settings and apps to be really helpful, even though they provide a point of configurability its pageant lacks. 

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen back Mark Hachman / IDG

Samsung’s Pocket book nine Pen is Samsung’s model of a MacBook: easy and unadorned.

Pocket book nine Pen specifications and contours

When a pc is solely zero.65-inch skinny, you’re going to sacrifice a couple of issues within the specifications. This is the listing, which we’ll have a look at extra carefully within the hands-on portion of our evaluate:

  • Show: 13.Three-inch FHD (1920×1080) LED touchscreen 
  • Processor: 1.8GHz Core i7-8550U (Kaby Lake-R)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD 620 (built-in)
  • Reminiscence: 8GB DDR4
  • Garage: 256GB PCIe SSD
  • Digicam: Entrance-facing, 1280×720
  • Wi-fi: 802.11ac (2×2 MIMO), Bluetooth four.1
  • Ports: One USB Three.1 Kind A; one USB Three.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) Kind C (supporting 4K show out and charging); microSD (micro SDXC usual), HDMI, headphone jack/mic in, fingerprint reader
  • Battery: 39Wh
  • Running machine: Home windows 10 House
  • Dimensions: 12.22 x eight.13 x zero.65 inches
  • Weight: 2.14 kilos, 2.five with AC adapter
  • Worth: $1,399 (MSRP)

Of the ones specifications, it is value noting that the 256GB SSD in our take a look at unit had most effective about 83GB loose. That might begin to really feel tight.

However our greatest sadness was once the show. At 308 nits (measured), it is indisputably brilliant sufficient. For the associated fee, alternatively, it’s possible you’ll be expecting Samsung to ship a little greater than the usual 1920×1080 (FHD) decision that accompanies maximum low cost notebooks. To be honest, higher-resolution displays convey their very own compromises, as they consume at your battery lifestyles and different sources. 

The opposite downside with the show was once different presentations. The shiny display displays Samsung’s conventional high quality—till you hook up an exterior observe: The Intel HD 620 built-in graphics washed out my 2nd display greater than different laptops do. Samsung supplies a sequence of supplemental settings to regulate the colour mode, however tweaking them made no distinction for me.

Samsung Notebook 9 S-Pen slot 2 Mark Hachman / IDG

One of the crucial strengths of Samsung’s design is solely how neatly the Pocket book nine Pen retail outlets its S-Pen.

Samsung S-Pen: The gateway to its app ecosystem

One of the crucial absolute best issues concerning the Samsung Pocket book nine Pen is the S-Pen—no longer most effective that it’s incorporated, however that it’s saved in its personal, inner slot beneath the keyboard. The garage slot is spring-loaded, so pushing the pen in pops it out to be used. Why different producers haven’t followed this easy, efficient answer is past me. 

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen S pen shot 2 Mark Hachman / IDG

Samsung’s iconic S-Pen, got rid of from the chassis.

And but…a lot has been made concerning the S-Pen’s talent to get caught inside Samsung’s Word five smartphone, sufficient that the corporate redesigned its . I discovered it’s tough, if no longer inconceivable, to wedge the S-Pen throughout the Pocket book nine Pen, tip out. However I did get it caught rapid. After a couple of days of angst, I threw warning to the wind and wiggled it loose—phew!—with none obvious hurt.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen stuck S-pen Mark Hachman / IDG

Insert the S-Pen incorrectly, alternatively, and it will occur. The S-Pen changed into caught, and I by chance depressed it whilst making an attempt to take away it. There’s no lip to achieve any leverage, and the Pocket book nine Pen isn’t user-serviceable.

…after which wedged it in once more, reputedly completely. Believe the uproar for those who completely incapacitated a USB stick after placing it the incorrect means. Placing a pen must no longer require this quantity of care.

As soon as the S-Pen pops loose, the S-Pen’s Air Command apps seem: a sequence of 5 choices to jot down notes, write at the display, and undertaking a portion of the display onto an exterior show. Not anything has modified for the reason that Air Command apps debuted at the Samsung Galaxy Ebook: Good Choose mimics Home windows 10’s personal Snipping Instrument, and Home windows has allowed you to jot down at the display for a while. Good Choose allows you to lasso and save a couple of seconds of video as a GIF, and that’s a amusing and useful gizmo for social media.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen air command Mark Hachman / IDG

Come out the S-Pen, and the Air Command overlay seems.The sof

Samsung’s tool: Every now and then superfluous 

Stray from the Air Command apps, alternatively, and the opposite bundled tool is much less compelling. Along with the standard Microsoft Home windows crapware—hi once more, Sweet Overwhelm Soda Saga—Samsung has loaded quite a few its personal, self-explanatory apps and utilities onto the Pocket book nine Pen: Recorder Plus, Samsung Safety, Person Guide, Wi-Fi Digicam, Samsung Gallery, Samsung Messages, Samsung Notes, Samsung PC Cleaner, Samsung Restoration, Samsung Settings and Samsung Replace. TeamPL, a screen-sharing app, is incorporated, as is LittleArtist, a drawing app, plus a gateway to quite a few WildTangent video games.

What you’ll briefly realize is that lots of Samsung’s apps are branded choices to current apps. Some, like Samsung Notes, appear superfluous when Microsoft’s OneNote is awesome and constructed correct into Home windows 10. Others appear abnormal because of their specific ties to smartphones (Wi-Fi Digicam, which permits the Pocket book nine Pen to pair and use your smartphone’s digital camera as a webcam.) 

Alternatively, you will want to dive into Samsung Settings, which lives on your taskbar via default and lets you tinker a little with the Pocket book nine Pen even past what Home windows lets in. One at hand adjustment, as an example, is the toggle that places the pocket book in “Quiet Mode” and shuts off the differently chronic fan. (Consider: Regardless that Quiet Mode sounds handy, efficiency dropped via a few 3rd once I spot-tested it.)

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen samsung s settings Mark Hachman / IDG

Samsung’s personal Settings app gives a ton of configurability.

Different helpful Samsung Settings come with controls to configure the pc to rate most effective as much as 85 p.c of max capability, which is more straightforward at the battery. In a crowded atmosphere, you’ll configure the pocket book to turn most effective the highest 3 get entry to issues, just right for whilst you’re on the lookout for a wirelessly tethered telephone.

A couple of settings are extra puzzling. I heard no distinction after adjusting the “audio results.” A “battery plus” mode that trims CPU utilization even additional in truth grew to become off the Quiet Mode discussed above, which grew to become at the fan once more. In the meantime, toggling at the Attractiveness Digicam serve as inside the Digicam app did not anything for me. (Don’t even suppose it, reader.)

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen vent Mark Hachman / IDG

Whilst you’ll flip off the fan inside the Samsung Settings menu, it’s possible you’ll no longer wish to. The fan is quiet, and pushes air out those vents within the hinge house.

Beware the Samsung Surroundings that guarantees to ramp up the brightness for “outside mode:” It will get nowhere with reference to being usable in brilliant daylight, even though it manages neatly sufficient within the color. A an identical surroundings applies HDR results to regulate movies, fairly lightening movies that you’ll play again at the pocket book’s non-HDR show.

Palms on: The keyboard and trackpad

Samsung’s keyboard isn’t particularly comfy to sort upon. The keys are pleasingly springy (and spill-resistant, too) however a little smaller and shallower than I’d choose. An extended bout of typing leaves my arms feeling a little like I’d long past jogging within the incorrect more or less sneakers. In all probability Samsung is implicitly nudging us to make use of its onboard stylus as an alternative?

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen keyboard Mark Hachman / IDG

Samsung’s keyboard is a little too shallow for comfy use.

Samsung maintains final keep an eye on over the backlight, which activates when the Pocket book nine’s ambient gentle sensor makes a decision it’s wanted. A serve as key controls this as neatly, however Samsung’s Settings tool additionally allows you to to regulate the brightness of the backlight by way of a slider, even though in coarse 30% increments.

The scale of the trackpad is set common, constrained via the reasonably quick intensity between the entrance and the again of the keyboard. Alternatively, it’s responsive throughout virtually its whole floor house, and the shiny floor lets in for simple navigation. 

Certainly one of my favourite options inside Home windows 10 is Home windows Hi, which briefly identifies you with both a fingerprint reader or intensity digital camera. (Thankfully, Samsung did away with Samsung Float, the Rube Goldbergian-scheme it used at the Galaxy Ebook, which required a Samsung Galaxy telephone for authentication.) The Samsung Pocket book nine is the primary pc I’ve noticed that provides each—and if one can’t determine you, the opposite must. It can be overkill, nevertheless it’s the kind that’s value applause. 

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen fingerprint Mark Hachman / IDG

Samsung’s Pocket book nine Pen supplies each a fingerprint reader (above) and Home windows Hi cameras for additonal safety.

The audio output from the Pocket book nine Pen audio system sounds each faint and flat, with none of the enhancement applied sciences different producers come with. As with maximum laptops, headphones are really useful. (The Pocket book nine Pen Home windows Sonic digital encompass sound enhancement for headphones continues to be incorporated as a part of Home windows 10.)

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen side Mark Hachman / IDG

The left aspect of the Pocket book nine Pen appears to be like ahead, with a USB-C slot…

Samsung’s number of ports feels suitable for the transition between USB-A and USB-C: There’s merely one in all every. In my opinion, I’ve come to love how a charging-capable USB-C port allows you to energy your pc with a telephone charger in a pinch, and Samsung’s port comprises this capacity. A (user-supplied) dongle can be utilized to attach an exterior show, or you could use the HDMI port. 

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen side Mark Hachman / IDG

Whilst the right-hand aspect appears to be like backwards, with beef up for USB-A legacy gadgets and a microSD card slot..

Efficiency: Superb, save for battery lifestyles

Beneath the Samsung’s Pocket book nine Pen mild-mannered external is a beautiful tough mainstream pc. In comparison towards quite a few midrange notebooks at in most cases similar costs, the Pocket book nine Pen’s Eighth-gen Kaby Lake-R Core chip is helping carry it to the highest of our efficiency chart—with an exception for graphics, the place its built-in Intel UHD 620 hits the wall. And whilst the battery lifestyles doesn’t outshine the contest, the Pocket book nine Pen yielded with reference to 10 hours in our rundown checks, which must suffice till you’ll observe down a charging outlet. 

Even though lots of our opinions are performed with simply PCMark’s Paintings take a look at as a measure of place of job efficiency, I love so as to add the House and Ingenious checks as neatly. PCMark’s Paintings ratings measure the efficiency on conventional place of job duties: phrase processing, spreadsheet paintings, and the like. Any pc scoring over 2,000 will deal with mainstream programs simply nice, and it is a cake stroll for a quad-core CPU like the only within the Pocket book nine Pen. However, here is its above-average efficiency.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen pcmark work Mark Hachman / IDG

The Samsung Pocket book nine Pen comes out prime in our scores of place of job paintings, as measured via the PCMark Paintings benchmark.

PCMark’s House checks rigidity the pc a little extra, combining internet surfing and lightweight gaming. (Even though we don’t damage it out, the gaming ratings reported about 6 frames in line with 2nd, so don’t be expecting to be enjoying too many first-person shooters.) 

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen pcmark home Mark Hachman / IDG

The Ingenious checks are aimed extra at content material advent, which nowadays comprises picture manipulation and video modifying. Right here, the Pocket book nine Pen tops all of them.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen pcmark creative Mark Hachman / IDG

The Pocket book nine Pen isn’t a gaming PC, nevertheless it’s indisputably enough for surfing and videoconferencing at complete body charges, as our PCMark House and Ingenious ratings point out.

Maxon’s Cinebench benchmark is in response to its Cinema 4D skilled animation tool, boiled all the way down to a take a look at which renders a particular 3-d scene throughout one or the entire processor cores. (We’ve tasked the benchmark to worry all 4 cores.) That makes it a very good take a look at of the way neatly the Pocket book nine Pen will fare in multi-threaded apps. Amongst our comparability of notebooks, the Samsung Pocket book nine Pen plays neatly—helped partly via Intel’s transition from two to 4 processor cores in its Eighth-gen portions. Whilst no person expects the Pocket book nine Pen for use for pro animation, it’s a just right comparability.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen cinebench Mark Hachman / IDG

Cinebench is a well-liked take a look at to guage the whole lot from gaming PCs to less expensive drugs and notebooks. 

Any other rigidity take a look at is HandBrake, an open-source software we use to transform a Hollywood film right into a layout that may be performed again on an Android pill. Whilst Cinebench is extra of a dash, the HandBrake analysis is nearer to a marathon, measuring efficiency through the years. The Pocket book nine Pen posted one of the crucial higher ratings.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen handbrake Mark Hachman / IDG

The Pocket book nine Pen holds up over extended rigidity, as our Handbrake take a look at displays.

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