Design and Features
With an all-aluminum chassis and slick design, the Book 9 Pro is attractive and feels nice to hold. The laptop features a metallic, black finish with silver trim, and it measures 0.7 by 14.72 by 9.82 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.42 pounds. The XPS 15 Touch is slightly smaller, but heavier, while the 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro is 0.71 by 14.25 by 9.75 inches and 4.49 pounds, about the same size and slightly heavier. The Asus Zenbook Pro UX501J-DS71T is also of a similar size and weight at 0.8 by 15.1 by 10 inches and 4.5 pounds. This is clearly the sweet spot for these premium laptops, as they are very similar in size and weight.
The keyboard and touchpad are as well-designed as the chassis. The backlit, chiclet-style keyboard feels nice to type on, with balanced key travel that’s neither too shallow nor too deep. The curved keys are sturdy and big. There’s no number pad, which some users may want (of the three other systems above, only the Asus ZenBook includes one), but that allows for a comfortable and roomy layout. The touchpad is equally solid, with no looseness or rattling, and the tracking is smooth and consistent. Also impressive are the four speakers. Some laptops only have one or two speakers, but the extras here means that the sound system is incredibly loud, with strong bass. Notebook speakers often sound distorted or tinny at maximum volume, but the XPS 8900’s audio held up quite well when we played booming music.
The touch-enabled 15.6-inch 4K display is another highlight. With a 3,840-by-2,160 resolution, the screen is sharp and clear. The viewing angles are wide, allowing you to see the picture from extreme angles without distortion. This resolution is the same as that of the Dell XPS 15 Touch (though the Dell laptop does include the full Adobe RGB color spectrum) and the Asus Zenbook Pro. The 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro’s resolution is only 2,880 by 1,800 in comparison, and does not feature touch technology.
On the left side of the system are the Power jack, an HDMI port, a USB 3.0 port, a USB-C port, and a headphone jack. On the right, there are two more USB 3.0 ports, a lock port, and a 3-in-1 (SD, SDHC, and SDXC) card reader. The USB-C port is a good, forward-looking addition. The Dell XPS 15 Touch’s USB-C port has Thunderbolt 3, which the Book 9 Pro’s USB-C port lacks. The laptop features dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity.
The system includes a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD) for fast load and boot times. A larger capacity would be nice, especially since the Asus Zenbook Pro and the Dell XPS 15 Touch offer 512GB SSDs. The Apple MacBook Pro only offers 256GB as well. Samsung covers the Book 9 Pro with a one-year warranty.
The Book Pro 9 is equipped with a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 950M graphics card, and 8GB of memory. The Dell XPS 15 Touch features an Intel Core i7, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M GPU, and 16GB of memory, which are slightly more powerful specs all around. The Book 9 Pro scored 2,725 points on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional test for general productivity, just behind the Asus Zenbook Pro (2,775), but ahead of the Dell XPS 15 Touch (2,493). The MacBook Pro is unable to run this Windows-based test.
In multimedia performance, the Book 9 Pro finished the Photoshop test in 3 minutes 37 seconds, the Handbrake video-encoding test in 1:09, and it scored 604 points on CineBench. The XPS 15 Touch was a little better on average (3:20 on Photoshop; 1:06 on Handbrake; 679 on CineBench), while the MacBook Pro was slightly behind on all the tests (3:42 on Photoshop; 1:10 on Handbrake; 592 on CineBench). The Book 9 Pro is plenty quick overall, and can complete media projects you might need to work on at a good clip.
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The Book 9 Pro isn’t a dedicated gaming machine, but given its discrete graphics card, it’s capable of playing some titles. It hit 60 frames per second (fps) in the Heaven and Valley gaming tests at Medium-quality settings, which is more than smooth enough to be playable. Ultra-quality settings, especially at native 4K resolution, were too much for the system, resulting in frame rates of just 5fps on both tests, way too choppy for play. The Dell XPS 15 Touch fared a little better at Medium settings, though it, too, scored sub-10fps rates on both gaming tests at Ultra quality. The other systems were even worse off on the tests, even at Medium quality. While it won’t suffice as a high-end gaming system, the Book 9 Pro can still play most titles at medium or low settings, depending on the resolution you choose.
Battery life wasn’t tremendous—the Book 9 Pro lasted 5 hours 14 minutes on our rundown test—but that’s in line with other 4K systems. The UHD resolution is demanding and drains a battery faster, as seen on the Asus Zenbook Pro and the Dell XPS 15 Touch, which lasted 4:56 and 5:56, respectively. The Apple MacBook Pro, running at a lower resolution, lasted much longer at 11:31.
The Samsung Ativ Book 9 Pro is an extremely well-built and nicely designed laptop. The touch screen is sharp, vibrant, and has wide viewing angles. Performance is on par with other premium laptops, some of which are more expensive, and it has nice bonuses, like USB-C and four high-quality speakers. The Dell XPS 15 Touch is a little faster, and it includes more storage and display features that make the difference for professionals shopping for a high-end machine. As such, the Dell XPS 15 Touch remains our Editors’ Choice high-end desktop-replacement laptop, but the Book 9 Pro is a top-notch alternative that won’t be quite as hard on your wallet.