At last year's CES, a time before every single laptop manufacturer was releasing ultrabooks, Samsung unveiled its extremely thin Series 9 laptop. So how is the company planning to maintain its lead this year? With two brand new Series 9s. While Samsung's not calling the 13.3- or 15-inch laptops "ultrabooks," the laptops are astoundingly thin and weigh just 2.5 and 3.5 pounds, respectively.

However, Samsung hasn't just refreshed the line with new processors, though it's done that too. The duralumin material that wrapped the previous Series 9 has been replaced with a dark aluminum, and Samsung's using the new all-popular thin bezel trick, allowing it to fit a 15-inch display in a 14-inch chassis and a 13.3-inch display in more of a 12-inch case. Even better, the screens have also been enhanced: both versions have 1600 x 900-resolution, 400nit, matte displays.

Samsung matches those more premium attributes with some solid specs. The $1,399 13.3-inch model and $1,499 15-inch version come with an 1.6GHz Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB of RAM (the 15-inch has 8GB), Intel HD 3000 graphics, and a 128GB mSATA SSD, which Samsung says will boot Windows 7 in 9.8 seconds. Both also have non-removable six-cell batteries, which supposedly provide six hours of real use.

Albeit, those are some hefty price tags when you consider that most of these laptops have fallen below $1,000, but you really do get a higher end laptop here. The design and the black metal is striking, and a nice change from all of the silver aluminum machines that are trying to mimic a certain other thin laptop. Samsung's even managed to fit on an SD card slot and two USB ports, though it had to shrink down the HDMI and DisplayPort sockets. LIke the original Series 9, there's a backlit chiclet keyboard and a large ClickPad, which seemed to be decently responsive when I played around with it. And to seal the deal, the matte, 400nit display looked bright, with colors looking even quite accurate when standing at wider angles. Of course, there's no telling how the battery life and performance measures up until I get it in for review next month, but off the bat, I'd say Samsung's polished up what was already a really great ultrabook.