Samsung AITV Book 9 Lite Review

Does Samsung's laptop deliver on its promise of lightning fast performance?

by Greg Hook
Tech Review

Samsung AITV Book 9 Lite Review
SRP: £599.99

Introduction

With the release of Windows 8 and advances in technology, the touchscreen is no longer just the domain of the tablet and nor is it reserved for those with deep pockets. We now find a multitude of manufacturers offering their latest laptops with touchscreens from small netbook style devices with 11” screens right up to 17” high performance laptops and suiting most budgets. Windows 8 has helped of course, despite being the worst received of Microsoft’s operating systems since the delightful Windows Vista, it has pushed the touchscreen to the forefront and made it (almost) possible to use Windows by touch alone.

The AITV Book 9 Lite laptop we have in for review is from technology giant Samsung and given their pedigree in the Smartphone and Tablet market, our expectations are set reasonably high. The laptop offers a 13.3” HD Touchscreen display with Windows 8, an AMD A6-1450 CPU with integrated Radeon 8250 graphics, 128GB SSD, 4GB RAM and in a lightweight and very thin design. Promising ‘lightning-fast’ performance and an array of other features to improve our ‘productivity and freedom’, let’s see how it stands up....

Design and Connectivity

Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite

The 13.3” Book 9 Lite is available in glossy black or white versions and our review copy is the latter which we much prefer. It’s got a very sleek look about it, almost Apple-esque in its design and presumably a market that Samsung are keen to target. Although if the recent highly publicised court cases are anything to go perhaps they are getting a little too close! It’s an all over white affair with a glossy look to the top and a matt finish to the keyboard and base. I’d almost go as far as saying it’s a little too clinical in the looks department, perhaps due to the uniform white finish. The keyboard is a standard setup, no Num pad due to the size, but you do get the usual function keys offering quick access to the system settings, such as Wi-Fi and power options. The touchpad seems to be fairly responsive and doesn’t have the issues we’ve found in previous Windows 8 laptops where the Charms bar is too easily activated when you finger strays to the right of the touchpad.

The overall build quality is reasonably impressive. There is no noticeable flexing of the 13.3” screen and the hinges feel strong when you open and close the screen. The island style keyboard is comfortable to use, although no back lighting here and the USB ports and various connections seem like the type that won’t fall out at any moment. The power connector fits in tightly and whilst it wont fall out easily, it does have a noticeable amount of side to side movement when in place. This is possibly a design feature to prevent long term damage when you move the laptop about with the power cable connected but we cannot be sure on that point. The overall size and weight is impressive coming in at 324mm wide, 224mm deep and only 17.4mm thick with a weight of just 1.56Kg.

The size and weight is impressive at only 17.4mm thick and with a weight of just 1.56Kg.

Due to this small size you may be thinking that Samsung have skimped on the connections and whilst you won’t find the breadth of connections that you would expect on a larger laptop there is still enough offered here to cover most bases. Firstly to the left we get the power jack, a Chargeable USB 3.0 port (which allows you to charge up a USB device and works even when the Book 9 Lite is powered off), a Micro HDMI port and a 3-in-1 SD, SDHC and SDXC card slot reader. Lastly on the left we have Samsung’s proprietary mini Gigabit Ethernet connection which is used in conjunction with their supplied LAN adaptor . To the right we have another proprietary port, this time a VGA monitor port, which is sadly useless out of the box as you need to shell out £20 on a VGA dongle to take advantage of it. Also on the right is the headset jack, USB 2.0 port and the security slot. There are no further ports or connections the front or rear.
Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite
Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite

Specification

Coming in with an SRP of £599 and available for around £550 if you shop around, the Book 9 Lite does have a lot of competition in this 13-14” Laptop market and therefore the specification needs to stand out from the crowd. So does it? Well, we get a 13.3” HD LED Touch screen Display with a resolution of 1366 x 768, an AMD A6-1450 Quad-core CPU (up to 1.4Ghz) with integrated AMD Radeon HD8250 graphics and 4GB DDR3 RAM at 1066Mhz.

The storage is provided by Samsung’s own 128GB SATA6 SSD (MZMTD128HAFV-000) which during our ATTO DISK benchmarks tests gave an impressive read speed of 551 MB/s and a slightly disappointing write speed of 134 MB/s. Whilst an SSD is always welcome, the low amount of storage could become an issue. Firstly the available space to use on the SSD after formatting is only 99.0GB (so you’ve lost 29GB straight away) and secondly the system arrived to us with just 65.8GB of free space after the windows installation and all the other pre-installed programs. It wouldn’t take a few programs and videos before you start running out of space and looking at expansion. Thanks to the SSD though, the boot to desktop time (manually timed) from cold is particularly impressive at just 8 seconds and from sleep it wakes in just 2 seconds. Last but not least there's built-in Wireless using 802.11 b/g/n 1 x1 and the latest Bluetooth v4.0.

Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite

Display

The screen here is a 13.3” HD LED Touch screen display with a 1366 x 768 resolution. Given the price tag it’s no surprise to find the lower HD resolution used here, particularly as you do get a touch screen display but our initial impressions were met with disappointment. Perhaps we are spoiled with the likes of the iPad’s retina display and other Full HD tablets and laptops we have used but it just didn’t impress us.

The viewing angles are very restricted with even a slight movement of your head to the left or right will find the screen losing clarity. It’s a glossy display and highly reflective and with even a minor light source behind you the screen becomes difficult to view and using Passmark’s Monitor Test program we found the colours to be very weak with the red and greens in particular looking slightly washed out. On the plus side the brightness is reasonable and there was no backlight bleeding or dead pixels. To the top of the screen we also get a 720P HD web camera.

The viewing angles are very narrow.
Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite

Pre-installed Software

One of our bugbears is laptops that come with huge amounts of pre-installed software, most of which you find out are just trial versions anyway and end up taking up valuable space. In the case here with the 128GB SSD only giving you 65.8GB of free space to use you may want to keep the system as trim as possible. Firstly the trial versions, we have a 90 day free trial to Adobe Photoshop Elements 11, a 1 month trial of Microsoft Office, a trial of Norton Internet Security (that one was very quickly uninstalled!) and a trial of Plants Vs Zombies.

Onto the non trial software and firstly we have a complimentary subscription to Absolute Data Protect which allows you to map your computer’s location, lock the device and remotely delete any personal data if the laptop is lost or stolen. Then we have the various Samsung programs, such as the HomeSync Lite which allows you to easily share content between various devices and SideSync which gives you the ability to view your Galaxy Smartphone screen on the laptop’s screen and easy transferring of files for example. Then finally various other mini programs which give quick access to settings such as updating the system software and easily changing system settings. Overall a fairly hefty chunk of pre-installed software, which to illustrate our point, once we had uninstalled all the trial software we gained another 4GB of drive space.

On-board sound

The audio here is supplied by a pair of 1.5watt speakers located towards the front on the underside of the laptop. Given that our previous experience with laptops and tablets onboard audio has been pretty lousy, we were surprised with just how good the speakers were. The maximum volume is probably too low for some in which case headphones may be the way forward but even at maximum volume there was no distortion or audio breakup. The sound is very clear and the bass and treble levels seem just right, with the speakers being able to cope very well with various audio tracks we threw at them. We never had that awful tinny sound you find with the cheaper quality speakers particularly noticeable on vocal heavy music tracks.

Overall the audio is very impressive given the specification of just 1.5watts. Even the software to enhance the audio, which in this case is Samsung’s SoundAlive, seemed to work very well. On previous devices we’ve tested, these enhancement options normally make the audio sound terrible but it did actually enhance it to a positive degree. We appear to have found that rare device where we aren’t instantly recommending headphones due to the hideous onboard speaker quality, Samsung have got it spot on here. Let’s hope they can roll this out to some of their tablets
Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite

Battery Life

With just a lowly 2 cell (30Wh) battery fitted to the Samsung Book 9 Lite our expectations were set suitably low when it came to the battery test and the results, whilst not terrible, were certainly nothing to write home about. Perhaps no surprise given the size and weight restrictions Samsung must have put on this laptop during design, but for our YouTube video test we managed 4 hours and 17 minutes from a full battery charge using the ‘Power Saving’ power settings and a much reduced time of 3 hours and 18 minutes with the ‘Maximum Performance’ power setting.

Whilst certainly better than a few of the tablets we have tested recently, which could barely manage 2 ½ hours on the same test, but for normal use it would seem very unlikely that you will get a full day out of the battery and the power saving mode seemed to reduce the already low system performance to an unacceptable level. The battery recharges from flat to 100% in 2hours 20minutes.

Bencmark Tests and Performance

Benchmark Score Summary

Time to Desktop 8.35 Seconds 10
Super Pi @ 1M 45.833 seconds 2
3D Mark 11 471 3D Marks 2
Passmark Performance Test 7.0 645.7 2
Cinebench 11.5 Open GL 9.85 FPS - CPU 1.13pts 1
Unigine Heaven 4.0 -
Unigine Heaven 3.0 -
Unigine Valley 1.0 -
PC Mark 7 2220 PC Marks 3
The benchmark tests shown in the table above give two different pictures to this system. Firstly you have the excellent Time to Desktop from a cold boot of just 8.35 seconds, coupled with a 2 second wake time and the good read speeds on the SSD we mentioned earlier in the review, which are then completely the opposite to the rest of the results. The low powered AMD A6-1450 CPU with the integrated Radeon 8250 graphics really showed their limitations here with a very poor score on the Super Pi test of 45.8335 seconds and equally low scores on the 3D Mark 11 and Cinebench 11.5 tests. This clearly is not a system for gaming and it doesn’t pretend to be, you may get away with a few older games or flash games but that’s about it.

Presumably to save costs Samsung have chosen an inexpensive CPU which the lack of power and the basic integrated graphics have highlighted most disappointingly when trying to play back any YouTube videos in 720P. The system could not cope with this and although the video was fully buffered thanks to our 40Meg connection, there was stuttering galore. We tried many different 720P YouTube videos and none would play satisfactorily, the same went for Netflix in HD, the system was not powerful enough to cope. Despite the fast SSD the low performing system really took much longer than we would have expected to load programs. Overall this system would be fine for general use, word processing and web browsing for example, but any tasks such as video or photo editing, viewing HD videos and other intensive tasks are sadly beyond its capabilities.

Temperatures and Noise

The HWMonitor screenshot below shows the maximum temperatures the various system components reached during our testing session. The CPU temperatures at idle are about 46°C whilst under test conditions reached a reasonable 70°C. As for noise, this system did impress us. Although given the low power of the CPU these temperatures are what we would expect. The heat is expelled from vents on the underside and even after prolonged use the heat didn’t appear to be an issue with regards to slowly cooking your lap.

Samsung ATIV Book 9 Lite

As for the noise this is an area that we were particularly impressed with. During our benchmark tests you can just very faintly hear the system fan running and for general use the system is completely silent. Samsung have clearly worked hard on this point and if you were a stickler for system noise then this laptop would give you no complaints at all.

Verdict

Pros

  • Responsive touchscreen
  • Thin and lightweight
  • Fast SSD
  • Good on-board audio
  • Very Quiet

Cons

  • Weak CPU and graphics
  • Narrow viewing angles
  • Poor display quality

Samsung AITV Book 9 Lite Review

There is certainly a lot of competition in the 13-14” laptop market, especially with those offering touch screens, and because of that it’s important that a device can stand out from the crowd or offer something different to its competitors. With the rather oddly titled ATIV Book 9 Lite from Samsung they look to be offering a device which is highly portable, thanks to its thin dimensions and lightweight construction. Samsung have also managed to keep the price point within reach of the competition but, because of this, it has quite a few failings.

Due to the thin size Samsung have used quite a few proprietary connections, which is fine providing the adaptors are supplied. The network connection thankfully has the adaptor supplied in the box but not so the VGA monitor connection, which is completely useless unless you shell out £20 to get the correct adaptor. The power connector is also proprietary and whilst it is held in place firmly there is a considerable amount of side to side movement, which over time could result in charging failures.

Overall the specification is full of highs and lows. The 128GB SSD is very fast, giving a boot to desktop time from cold of just over 8 seconds, but then the AMD A6-1450 1Ghz CPU is very weak and the integrated Radeon 8250 graphics certainly isn’t for gaming. A simple action such as watching a 720P YouTube video or Netflix in HD is too much for this laptop and program load times seem particularly excessive, despite the fast SSD. The build quality is decent enough, although it does have too much plastic for our liking and the touchscreen is extremely responsive. However the display itself is disappointing with poor colours and very tight viewing angles.

The major positives we can take from the Book 9 Lite are the on-board audio, which punches very much above its small 1.5watt weight, a cooling system which gives you a silent laptop the majority of the time, and a barely audible cooling fan noise for the rest of that time, and a reasonable battery life offering at least 4 hours from a single charge when in normal use.

With the likes of Lenovo’s 13” IdeaPad U310 which has both a 500GB HDD and a 24GB SSD and is £30 cheaper, not to mention Asus’ Vivobook S400CA, with a slightly lower specification overall but a considerably cheaper price of £379, the ATIV Book 9 Lite has a lot of work to do for a £499 asking price. If you are after a very thin, lightweight and ultra portable touchscreen device that you only plan on doing light work with such as word processing, web browsing and a few flash games for example, then this could be for you. However if you need a device that can do a little more for the price tag, then you may be best suited to look elsewhere.

Scores

Screen Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Processing Speed

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
3

Connectivity

.
.
.
7

Features

.
.
.
.
6

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Value For Money

.
.
.
.
6

Verdict

.
.
.
.
6
6
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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