Samsung Notebook 9 Pen (2018) Laptop Review
Is the new Samsung laptop worth your money?
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Samsung is one of the most popular smartphone, TV, and appliance manufacturers in the world, so sometimes its laptops can feel like a bit of an afterthought. Fortunately, the Samsung Notebook 9 Pen is anything but. With its 8th Gen Intel processor, included stylus, and wide variety of ports, there's a lot to love.
But while this convertible does lots of things right, it's not flawless. Even though it's made of this awesome metal that's durable and as light as plastic—it looks and feels like a boring plastic machine. Battery life is below average as well, and the glossy screen is plagued with glare.
Our verdict? We feel there are better options out there. The Notebook 9 is great for travel because of its weight and size, but is it worth the money? Sadly, it comes up short in terms of value. The 13-inch HP Spectre x360, for example, costs several hundred dollars less and is just as powerful. It also has a more luxurious-looking design.
About the Samsung Notebook 9 Pen (2018)
The Notebook 9 comes in just one configuration ($1,399). Armed with an Intel Core i7-8550U processor and 8GB of RAM, this 2-in-1 may not be an absolute beast in the performance department, but it's fast and perfect for multitasking.
While powerful internals are important, the real draw here is the convertible's lightweight body. Made of premium magnesium alloy (Metal 12), which is lighter than regular aluminum, it feels lighter than air.
CPU: Intel Core i7-8550U
GPU: Intel UHD Graphics 620
Display: 13.3-inch RealViewTouch FHD (1920 x 1080)
Memory: 8GB RAM
Ports: USB-C, USB-A 3.0, HDMI, headphone jack, micro SD
Weight: 2.2 lbs
Stylus: Samsung (S) Pen
What We Like
It's a powerhouse
Between the Intel Core i7-8550U processor and 8GB of RAM, the Notebook 9 is a zippy machine for multitasking and note-taking. Even with twenty-five tabs open in Chrome and a live stream of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild running in the background, I didn't notice any slowdown or stuttering. In other words, it handled my daily workflow just fine.
With a multi-core score of 13,259, it lines up with other machines that have 8th Gen Intel processors. Performance-wise, it's pretty similar to the 13-inch HP Spectre x360, which has a multi-core score of 13,490. However, the HP is a better value because you can get the same processor and 8GB of RAM (plus 360GB SSD) for $1,079 on sale.
Good variety of ports
On the left side, you'll find one USB-C port, an HDMI, and a headphone jack. The opposite side features one USB 3.0 port and a microSD slot (this is good for offloading large files). The port selection is great, especially if you're looking to hook up to an external monitor.
The S Pen is included
Sitting flush with the chassis, the S Pen pops out from its slot in one fluid motion. Not only is it remarkably lightweight, basic navigation is really smooth as well. Plus, it's included in the package, so you're not paying extra for a standalone accessory.
My only complaint is that it's small. It actually feels like it was designed for a smartphone screen, so it's not comfortable to use for long periods of time. The pen also hides away in the base of the laptop, which is nice, but I had a lot of trouble finding it.
What We Didn't Like
The design is on the boring side
Okay, first of all, let's get this straight: The Notebook 9 isn't a bad looking laptop. With its silver color scheme and tiny bezels, it actually takes a lot of design cues from the original Apple MacBook. I mean, at the end of the day, design is really just subjective.
If you dig the minimalist aesthetic, this 2-in-1 will definitely deliver. But if you're looking for something that'll inspire you, we'd recommend the HP Spectre 13 or the Dell XPS 13 (2018), as they have a little more pizzazz.
It's lightweight, but the metal feels more like plastic
Made of premium magnesium alloy (aka Metal 12), the Notebook 9 is one of the lightest convertibles we've ever worked with. That said, it feels more like a Chromebook than a premium 2-in-1. It may be as durable as the company claims, but it doesn't feel that way, and if you're paying this much for a premium laptop you want it to feel like one.
Battery life is below average
When we put the Notebook 9 through our PC Mark 8 benchmark, which cycles through a series of power-hungry tasks, it petered out in a little over two hours. Cue sad trombone. If you're a power user, you'll want to keep the charger nearby.
In our WiFi browsing test, which is less intensive, the convertible did marginally better, fizzling out in a little over three hours. Compare that to the Dell XPS 13 (9360), which managed six hours in our PC Mark 8 test, and you can see where Samsung's losing out.
Glare is a real problem
The 13.3-inch 1080p display is perfectly fine for a laptop this size. Colors are vivid and viewing angles are pretty good. However, it's very glossy, so it's a nuisance in natural light. If you plan on working outside on a balmy day, you're going to deal with a lot of glare. While glare is certainly annoying, the Notebook 9 works best in ambient light.
Should You Buy It?
Maybe, but we feel there are better options out there
If you're looking for a speedy convertible for note-taking or doodling, the Notebook 9 is a good choice. With its 8th Gen Intel CPU, 8GB of RAM, and included stylus, this 2-in-1 has a lot to offer. The port selection is great too, as it eliminates the need for dongles. While we like the fast performance and lightweight stylus, we still had a few gripes with it.
The Notebook 9's design is bland and dated. That said, design is subjective, so if minimalism is your thing, then this 2-in-1 is right up your alley. In addition to the uninspiring look, the exterior feels more like plastic than metal, so we don't think it's as durable as the company claims. Battery life is short, too, so you'll want to keep the charger nearby, and the black, glossy display is rubbish in natural light.
If you're looking for an alternative option, we'd recommend the 13-inch HP Spectre x360. Not only does it have the same specs, it's less expensive and the design is more exciting. While the Notebook 9 is not without its flaws, we still think it's worth considering, as it does a lot of things right. If you travel a lot and need a really portable machine, you can't really do much better than this.