Screen & Audio Quality / Included Software
Samsung has equipped their Series-9 notebooks with an ultra bright 400-nit LED backlit display which is has a matte finish. To our eyes, the colour reproduction was absolutely spot on, viewing angles were excellent and the contrast ratio was actually quite decent. Backlight bleed was also slim to none which is a major achievement considering the distinct lack of screen depth and the huge amount of light it can push out.
During testing, we did notice –when used at default settings- this panel tended to overly compensate white balance which led to vivid, eye-burning scenes in some games and movies. A few modifications with the built in colour modification tools helped even things out so if you are willing to tweak things a bit, the Series 9 can really put on a visual show.
There is one major issue here though: resolution. Granted, 1366x768 is decent for a 13.3” notebook but even on such a small canvas, icons will be overly large, the tools within programs like Photoshop and Word will eat up far too much valuable real estate and internet browsing will be vertically constrained. This is particularly troubling when you consider most of the competition like Sony’s Vaio Z and the Macbook Air boast screens with higher resolution.
Samsung has also included an automatic backlight dimming feature which works quite well and can be disabled in the advanced power options.
Are you ready for a shock? This tiny ultra portable notebook actually puts on an impressive audio show through its seemingly meager 3W (2x 1.5W) speaker system. The speakers are very small so the quality we’re talking about doesn’t come close to touching a dedicated sound system but this is by far the best sounding ultra portable we’ve used. The highs are a bit harsh and the low end was non-existent but the mid range came across as clear. However, the most surprising thing about these speakers is how they can pump out sound at high volumes without much distortion.
Headphone output quality is also quite good but we found ourselves wishing for a dedicated headphone equalizer. In addition, there have been some reports from end users complaining about the jack intermittently failing, although we didn’t experience this particular issue.
Our particular unit came with Windows 7 x64 Professional while some other Series 9 notebooks use Windows 7 Home Premium. So, if you need features like the handy XP Mode and incorporated network backup, be sure to do your research.
Samsung’s default software package isn’t huge but there is a fair amount of bloatware included. One of the most annoying inclusions is a trial of Norton Internet Security which ironically acts just like malware with constantly pops ups requesting you buy their over-priced software. Norton runs in the background even when disabled so it greatly contributes to the Series 9’s bulky 1.44GB of memory use when Windows is sitting idle. We recommend you delete Norton and replace it with free software like Microsoft’s excellent Security Essentials.
The first bit of unnecessary software installed is an application called Wildtangent Games which is a very basic game download service that has a limited selection. There are a few free trials which could distract you for a few minutes but there isn’t anything here which hasn’t already been surpassed by services like Steam, Origin, Good Old Games and Direct2Drive.
Aside from a few other programs for the integrated webcam and WiFi pairing, Samsung has included a boatload of their own software. Much of it is named easy this and easy that but its usefulness is dubious at best considering most of these programs repeat features that already exist within Windows 7 Pro. In addition, the two which looked the most interesting (Easy Display Manager and Movie Color Manager) flat out refused to run on our system even after an update through Easy Update. The other Samsung-branded applications cover everything from network file transfers to WiFi access to startup optimization. There’s even a complete product manual with dynamic searches and plenty of useful information.
In our testing, we usually go through every notebook with a fine toothed comb in order to insure full system stability. The Series 9 worked exceedingly well but we did notice some major software issues of which Easy Display Manager’s refusal to boot was just the tip of the iceberg.
As you can see above, certain full screen applications that override the desktop (Photo Viewer’s full screen mode, PowerPoint, etc) cause past versions of the desktop to pop up. In the video, we open Photo Viewer, extend the image to full screen mode and in a few seconds it automatically minimizes, only to be replaced with the image of a desktop state from hours previously. This is followed by a full screen shot of Wildtangent Games and then back to Photo Viewer.
Unfortunately we haven’t been able to find a solution for this but it looks to be that a software issue is preventing the proper segregation of information within the system’s cache. Old blocks of system memory seem to be sticking around like little Gremlins and end up causing these overrides.
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