Before Intel coined the term "ultrabook" to describe thin, light, and yet powerful mobile PCs, the category was generally defined by the spliced adjective of "thin-and-light." That came to mind today as I encountered Samsung's Notebook 9 laptops for the first time. Much like LG's Gram lineup, these new Windows laptops from Samsung are all about shaving off the last millimeter of thickness and last possible milligram of weight. The 13.3-inch variant weighs just 0.84kg / 1.85lbs while the 15-inch Notebook 9 rises to 1.29kg / 2.84lbs. If those numbers aren't doing a good enough job of conveying exactly how light these machines are, just take a piece of thick cardboard, fold it in half and you'll have a pretty realistic home model.
Another way to describe Samsung's Notebook 9 PCs is that they feel as light as if there were no battery inside them, which is fitting, because the battery is the main thing that worries me about them. I enjoyed using LG's Gram laptop when I reviewed it last year, but its thinness came at the cost of good ergonomics, a keyboard backlight, and, most importantly, good battery life. Glancing at Windows 10s battery life estimator on the 15-inch Notebook 9, I was promised 3 hours and 33 minutes off a remaining charge of 83 percent. That doesn't fill me with confidence that Samsung can pull off the wild trick of making insanely svelte machines that also last for an entire day. Maybe with an ARM processor, but not with an Intel x86 chip inside.
It's really hard not to like these laptops
As thin as they are, the Notebook 9 laptops are not fanless, and there's a pair of vents at the back of each computer to let heat out. Both computers use low-voltage models from Intel's latest Skylake generation of processors, with specs scaling up to a maximum of a Core i7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB of SSD storage for the 15-inch Notebook 9 or 128GB for the 13-incher. Those specs do hint at the fact that these laptops are intended to fill the middle of Samsung's lineup and not challenge the Pro members of its Book PC range. The Notebook 9s are also limited to a 1080p display resolution, which is fine, but setting one of these computers up against the new Galaxy Tab Pro shows a marked difference in quality and vibrance, with the Windows tablet being in the clear lead.
I like these Notebook 9 laptops. They don't have touchscreens or many fancy extras — though the 15-inch model does include a USB-C port and fast-charging capabilities, which are always appreciated. The hinge seems nice and reliable, opening up to a full 180-degree arc. The keyboard also has good key travel and a satisfying responsiveness. More than anything, though, the ease of toting one of these Notebook 9s around is just sublime. Unfortunately, Samsung has yet to finalize a few of the specs and set pricing and release dates for these laptops. Those, along with the performance of the batteries inside, are the key outstanding questions about Samsung's new Notebook 9 series.