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Ultraportable Laptop Battle: Apple MacBook Air vs. Samsung Series 9

Published
By Louis Ramirez, dealnews senior feature writer

Apple's just-released MacBook Air and Samsung's forthcoming NP900X1B-A02 laptop are two of the sharpest-looking ultraportable notebooks around. And at $999 each for the entry models, they're both targeting the same buyer. Yet despite their similar profiles and price points, these notebooks are sporting completely different innards. Or are they? We put both systems side-by-side to find out which is more deserving of your hard-earned cash.

Ultraportable Face-Off

Samsung NP900X1B-A02
Apple MacBook Air 2011
Price*
$999
$999
Processor
1.3GHz Intel Core i3 Sandy Bridge dual-core
1.6GHz Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge dual-core
Display
11.6" 1366x768 LED backlit
11.6" 1366x768 LED backlit
RAM
2GB DDR3
2GB DDR3
SSD Storage
64GB
64GB
Weight
2.34 lbs.
2.38 lbs.
Other features
Bluetooth 3.0, microSD card slot, backlit keyboard, micro-HDMI, one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, Mic-in, 1.3MP webcam, 802.11n
Bluetooth 4.0, Thunderbolt port, backlit keyboard, 2 USB 2.0 ports, Mic-in, FaceTime camera, 802.11n
Rated Battery
up to 7 hours
up to 5 hours
*Manufacturer price

Samsung's Series 9 laptops made their debut back in April, when the orginal 13.3" Series 9 laptop (NP900X3A) lost our face-off against the 2010 MacBook Air. Since then, Samsung has refreshed the series and added two new 11" models to the line up. The NP900X1B-A02 is the entry level model, which will ship in August for $999.

Like its 13" predecessor, the new 11" NP900X1B-A02 laptop features an attractive duralumin design, backlit keyboard, and LED display. However, the new 11" Series 9 downgrades to a 1.3GHz Core i3 CPU (from a Core i5) and just 2GB of RAM (from 4GB). It retains the same 64GB SSD drive and many of its other secondary features as listed in our chart above.

Rather than detract, the new 2011 MacBook Air got significant upgrades and yet maintained its $999 price tag. New in the 2011 MacBook Air is an Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge CPU (upgraded from an Intel Core 2 Duo) and a backlit keyboard, an option that was sorely missing from the 2010 model.

In addition to hardware upgrades, the 2011 MacBook Air now comes with Mac OS X Lion, Apple's highly-anticipated OS which combines the best features of iOS with OS X. Also worth noting is that the MacBook Air (like many Macs) is capable of running Windows 7 via its Boot Camp feature. By contrast, the Samsung can't natively run another OS.

Conclusion
It's abundantly clear that Apple's 2011 MacBook Air received multiple hardware and software upgrades (and maintained its $999 price tag), whereas Samsung's new 11" Series 9 laptop received multiple downgrades to reach its $999 price tag. It's also very likely we'll see early Apple reseller discounts on the new 2011 MacBook Air, whereas the previous Samsung Series 9 laptop didn't see a single deal since its April debut.

Thus, history is repeating itself as we favor the 2011 MacBook Air over the 11" Samsung Series 9 laptop.



An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @LouisRamirez. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.

Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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14 comments
dealguy
CNET benchmarked the new MacBook Air http://news.cnet.com/...-into-intel-i5-hyperdrive/
harborbreeze
Lets not start the fan boy war.
ForShame
The models on your website are not the models shown here.  Please don't be disingenuous.
ForShame
So apparently dealnews is deleting any anti-Mac comments on this site.  Way to have integrity.There are just so many lies and blatant Apple-biases coming out of dealnews that the site is almost becoming a parody of itself.  I knew even before reading the article that dealnews would claim Apple is the winner here, but if you take an objective look of the features, Samsung wins hands down.  Let's correct some clear lies by dealnews in this comparison.  First, the article states that the Samsung laptop cannot run another OS natively.  This is a huge lie.  Linux and Windows can run on this laptop, and it technically COULD run OSX, but it is APPLE that does not allow its OS to be run on other hardware.  It has nothing to do with a native ability to run the OS.  This is a benefit of Windows and Linux, that they can be run on any hardware.  It is Apple's moronic policies that do not allow it to be run on other hardware.  Second, the article fails to talk about USB 3.0 support, of which all Macs lack.  Just like the niche Firewire segment, Thunderbolt does not have the traction that USB does.  USB 3.0 right now is infinitely more important than Thunderbolt, and all Macs lack this feature.  Third, if you were to hook up a Blu-Ray player to the Samsung, you would be able to play Blu-Ray discs.  You cannot do this with any Macs.  Period.   Fourth, it conveniently fails to point out that the Samsung laptop gets two hours more battery life than the Mac.  Also, where is the video card comparison?  Dollars-to-donuts I bet the Samsung laptop has a better video card than the Mac, allowing one to play games if they so wished.Clearly, dealnews is all-Apple-all-the-time.  Dealnews never lets real facts about PCs get in the way of their Apple-sycophantic articles.  And why is Dealnews even in the business of pushing Apple products on us?  Aren't they a website meant to give us deals on products, not Apple-biased news?C'mon Dealnews, have some integrity.
BiasedSite
Instead of just deleting my comments and banning me from posting, why not just debate me?  What did I say that is so wrong?
BiasedSite
Your linked site uses different models and has questionable results in any case.
BiasedSite
So apparently dealnews is deleting any anti-Mac comments on this site.  Way to have integrity.

There are just so many lies and blatant Apple-biases coming out of dealnews that the site is almost becoming a parody of itself.  I knew even before reading the article that dealnews would claim Apple is the winner here, but if you take an objective look of the features, Samsung wins hands down.  Let's correct some clear lies by dealnews in this comparison.  First, the article states that the Samsung laptop cannot run another OS natively.  This is a huge lie.  Linux and Windows can run on this laptop, and it technically COULD run OSX, but it is APPLE that does not allow its OS to be run on other hardware.  It has nothing to do with a native ability to run the OS.  This is a benefit of Windows and Linux, that they can be run on any hardware.  It is Apple's moronic policies that do not allow it to be run on other hardware.  Second, the article fails to talk about USB 3.0 support, of which all Macs lack.  Just like the niche Firewire segment, Thunderbolt does not have the traction that USB does.  USB 3.0 right now is infinitely more important than Thunderbolt, and all Macs lack this feature.  Third, if you were to hook up a Blu-Ray player to the Samsung, you would be able to play Blu-Ray discs.  You cannot do this with any Macs.  Period.   Fourth, it conveniently fails to point out that the Samsung laptop gets two hours more battery life than the Mac.  Also, where is the video card comparison?  Dollars-to-donuts I bet the Samsung laptop has a better video card than the Mac, allowing one to play games if they so wished.Clearly, dealnews is all-Apple-all-the-time.  Dealnews never lets real facts about PCs get in the way of their Apple-sycophantic articles.  And why is Dealnews even in the business of pushing Apple products on us?  Aren't they a website meant to give us deals on products, not Apple-biased news?C'mon Dealnews, have some integrity.
datdamonfoo
This has nothing to do with the article.  The article uses the two sub-1000 models of the Air and Series 9.  Your little website compares much different models, and with very questionable results in any case.  You would need an unbiased review of these two models to actually compare the two, and I guarantee you that the Series 9 would match up with the Air.  Also, please realize that the chip speed in the Series 9 is lower, as Ross points out.  But this is made up in the graphics abilities and USB 3.0 functionality.
datdamonfoo
My original comment was erased, because of the Apple-bias dealnews carries.  Luckily I have the post saved so here it is:

There are just so many lies and blatant Apple-biases coming out of dealnews that the site is almost becoming a parody of itself.  I knew even before reading the article that dealnews would claim Apple is the winner here, but if you take an objective look of the features, Samsung wins hands down.  Let's correct some clear lies by dealnews in this comparison.  First, the article states that the Samsung laptop cannot run another OS natively.  This is a huge lie.  Linux and Windows can run on this laptop, and it technically COULD run OSX, but it is APPLE that does not allow its OS to be run on other hardware.  It has nothing to do with a native ability to run the OS.  This is a benefit of Windows and Linux, that they can be run on any hardware.  It is Apple's moronic policies that do not allow it to be run on other hardware.  Second, the article fails to talk about USB 3.0 support, of which all Macs lack.  Just like the niche Firewire segment, Thunderbolt does not have the traction that USB does.  USB 3.0 right now is infinitely more important than Thunderbolt, and all Macs lack this feature.  Third, if you were to hook up a Blu-Ray player to the Samsung, you would be able to play Blu-Ray discs.  You cannot do this with any Macs.  Period.   Fourth, it conveniently fails to point out that the Samsung laptop gets two hours more battery life than the Mac.  Also, where is the video card comparison?  Dollars-to-donuts I bet the Samsung laptop has a better video card than the Mac, allowing one to play games if they so wished.
Clearly, dealnews is all-Apple-all-the-time.  Dealnews never lets real facts about PCs get in the way of their Apple-sycophantic articles.  And why is Dealnews even in the business of pushing Apple products on us?  Aren't they a website meant to give us deals on products, not Apple-biased news?

C'mon Dealnews, have some integrity.
Ross
I wonder how the Samsung would do if it had the i5 processor?  Seems to me that many of these performance differences could be solved or improved on significantly if the Samsung had an equivalent processor.  Is it a fair comparison?
lynx44
"By contrast, the Samsung can't natively run another OS."

Maybe there's something I'm missing, but are you sure about that? Is there are reason this isn't like every other PC laptop out there? Maybe there isn't a build that works with this model right now, but I would assume it's at least theoretically compatible with Linux. At the very least, I'm sure it's capable of running it in a VM.

Otherwise, I agree. Purchasing the Samsung over the Air doesn't make much sense.
bspitzer
According to Laptop Magazines review verdict the 13-inch Apple Macbook Air is a better buy than the more expensive 13-inch Samsung Series 9 equivalent. In Laptop Mag’s testing the 13-inch Air beat the 13-inch Series 9 in speed and every performance test.

According to their findings the 13-inch Air can last 6 hours and 25 minutes in battery tests while the Series 9 lasts only 5 hours and 25 minutes in the same test. Laptop Mag tests battery life by adjusting the screen brightness to 40% and browsing the web continuously over Wi-Fi until the battery drains.According to Laptop Mag’s performance tests for boot times, file transfers, World of Warcraft gameplay the 13-inch Air is better than the Samsung. For boot times the Air does that in 17 seconds while the Samsung does it in 25 seconds, transferring a 4.97GB folder to another folder is done at 127MB/s for the Air and at 68.80MB/s on the Samsung, and finally for WoW gameplay the Air can manage 28 fps at its native res. (1440 by 900) while the Samsung played at 7 fps at native res. (1366 by 768) –both systems used Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics.When it comes to the 11-inch Apple Macbook Air vs. the 13-inch Samsung Series 9 the Air beats the Samsung in boot times, file transfer speed, and WoW benchmarks. The 11-inch model only falls short to the Samsung in battery life and that was only by 24 minutes./...s-samsungs-series-9-reports-review/view/[/url]
datdamonfoo
There are just so many lies and blatant Apple-biases coming out of dealnews that the site is almost becoming a parody of itself.  I knew even before reading the article that dealnews would claim Apple is the winner here, but if you take an objective look of the features, Samsung wins hands down.  Let's correct some clear lies by dealnews in this comparison.  First, the article states that the Samsung laptop cannot run another OS natively.  This is a huge lie.  Linux and Windows can run on this laptop, and it technically COULD run OSX, but it is APPLE that does not allow its OS to be run on other hardware.  It has nothing to do with a native ability to run the OS.  This is a benefit of Windows and Linux, that they can be run on any hardware.  It is Apple's moronic policies that do not allow it to be run on other hardware.  Second, the article fails to talk about USB 3.0 support, of which all Macs lack.  Just like the niche Firewire segment, Thunderbolt does not have the traction that USB does.  USB 3.0 right now is infinitely more important than Thunderbolt, and all Macs lack this feature.  Third, if you were to hook up a Blu-Ray player to the Samsung, you would be able to play Blu-Ray discs.  You cannot do this with any Macs.  Period.   Fourth, it conveniently fails to point out that the Samsung laptop gets two hours more battery life than the Mac.  Also, where is the video card comparison?  Dollars-to-donuts I bet the Samsung laptop has a better video card than the Mac, allowing one to play games if they so wished.
Clearly, dealnews is all-Apple-all-the-time.  Dealnews never lets real facts about PCs get in the way of their Apple-sycophantic articles.  And why is Dealnews even in the business of pushing Apple products on us?  Aren't they a website meant to give us deals on products, not Apple-biased news?

C'mon Dealnews, have some integrity.
menandDragons
Blatant favoritism! In the feature lineup the Samsung clearly is a match (if not a better model than) the MacBook Air.
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