2017 Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 13.3 Impressions

Discussion in 'Samsung' started by Jefstead, Jul 2, 2017.

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  1. Jefstead

    Jefstead Notebook Enthusiast

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    Pros
    +Flexible as a 2-in-1 and very portable
    +Included S-Pen works well and stores in the case
    +Comfortable keyboard and accurate touchpad
    +Has a USB-C port that supports charging
    +Excellent build quality

    Cons
    -Some bloatware
    -Speakers could have more bass

    Summary
    This is a very good 2-in-1 from Samsung. It doesn't have any noticeable weak spots. It has a good mix of ports that includes USB-C, is light, and very well constructed. The pricing is on par as well when compared to others with similar build quality. I like the fact that the pen stores into the device similar to the Lenovo X1 Yoga so it is always handy (and harder to lose). This device is recommended for business travelers and students.

    Background
    I picked up the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 13.3 from my local Best Buy. I wanted a travel friendly Windows 2-in-1 with a good screen, keyboard, touchpad, USB-C compatibility, and battery life. My daily driver to this point has been a 2016 MacBook Pro 13 with Touch Bar and I have been testing out many recent Windows laptops including the 2017 models of the Dell XPS 13 (regular and 2-in-1), 2017 ThinkPad X1 Carbon, 2017 Surface Pro, 2017 Galaxy Book, 2017 Spectre x360 13, and others. My thoughts are based on being a frequent business traveler that spends a lot of time in Microsoft Office & Office 365 and the web. I also play some light games like World of Warcraft and League of Legends.

    Design
    I really like the design. It's a professional and clean silver aluminum body with a dark interior that makes the key lettering pop. The hinges are sturdy and fairly firm to minimize screen wobble. Fingerprints tend to show up on the inside in the keyboard deck area (not so much on the outside), but are easy to wipe clean. The rounded edges of the body make it easy to carry and nothing digs into your hands. It weighs under 3 pounds, is thin, and very easy to carry around or toss into a bag. The fit and finish is excellent.

    Display
    The laptop comes with a 13.3-inch touchscreen at 1080p resolution. It looks good and I think is the perfect resolution for this screen size. A higher resolution would draw more power and I don't think the tradeoff is worth it for a mobile device. Plus, there is less of a chance of running into Windows text scaling issues. While it doesn't have the thinnest bezels, they are still quite slim and look good. Light bleed is very minimal. Text and video are both clear and HDR is supported. The panel is pleasing to look at and is plenty sharp for standard use.

    Input devices
    The 3-stage backlit keyboard has a good amount of travel, is relatively quiet, and is easy to type on. My biggest gripe with it is the fact that functions like volume and screen brightness are not the default action for the function key row. I checked the BIOS and there doesn't seem to be a way to enable these by default. The touchpad glides well and makes satisfying click. It supports gestures and tracks accurately. The device includes the S Pen that slides into the case which is very convenient so you always have it with you and you don't have to worry about figuring out how to attach or secure it to the device like other similar devices. The S Pen does not require batteries and while thin, provides a good mark-up experience. Having used the Apple Pencil and new 2017 Surface Pen, I find it works just as well as those two for casual use.

    Ports
    2 USB 3.0
    1 HDMI
    1 DC Power In (1.5mm)
    1 USB-C (not Thunderbolt) that supports charging and display port - Note - I use the Apple USB-C to HDMI adapter to charge the device and plug it into my monitor with one cable with no issues.
    1 Headphone/Mic combo port
    1 micro SD card

    Audio
    There are two downward firing speakers on the bottom of the case that get loud enough. The audio is clear, but there is a distinct lack of bass that is common in most laptops. They are fine most casual use, but not as good as the newer MacBook Pro models which have amazing audio.

    Performance
    A dual core i7-7500 powers the device and I have not run into any issues with daily tasks. It scored a 4352 on the single core and 8548 on the multi-core Geekbench 4 tests. The integrated Intel HD 620 graphics are ok for light games, but you are going to have to turn details way down to achieve a decent frame rate. I would have preferred to see an option for Iris graphics for a bit of added game power, but it still drives multiple windows, including streaming video, across my Dell 34 inch ultrawide with no problems. The included 8GB of DDR4 RAM and SATA 3 256GB SSD are not upgradeable. Wireless performance is good and uses the Intel 8265 card. Bluetooth 4.1 works as expected.

    Battery Life
    It has a decent sized 54Wh battery and I am getting about about 8 hours of mixed productivity use with battery saver on and suggest auto-brightness enabled. Since the device can charge over USB-C, a portable power bank is an option to help augment the battery if needed.

    Webcam
    The front facing 720p webcam can best be describes as serviceable. It's fine for web conferences, but it's not going to win any awards. Windows Hello facial recognition is supported and works very well.

    Heat & Fans
    The device gets warm towards the middle back when under load, but the keyboard and touchpad are still comfortable to type on. If you are doing some heavy processing, it will get warm on your lap. The fans are not audible doing normal tasks, but do ramp up if playing a game or other processor intensive tasks. I was not able to detect any coil whine (the bane of every Dell laptop I have used).

    OS/Bloatware
    The device ships with Windows 10 Home and the Creator Update. There is quite a bit of bloatware installed including McAfee, Samsung Apps, and various Windows store games. The first thing I did was clear all of that stuff off. I would much rather have the Microsoft Signature edition install that you typically only get from the Microsoft Store and other vendors like Lenovo, but a little time doing app housekeeping or a fresh install resolves this. Samsung includes an app for driver updates, but it can also pull from the standard Windows 10 update process.
     
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  2. 44Jon

    44Jon Newbie

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    Thanks for the review.
    Do you have any comments on "sleep" and hibernation modes? Also, any problems in switching between laptop and tablet modes?
    (And, if there's any chance you compared this to Dell XPS or others in the category, it'd be interesting to hear your thoughts on why you chose it.)
    FWIW, as an avid Note phone user, the storable S-Pen is making me think this is the one to get...
     
  3. Jefstead

    Jefstead Notebook Enthusiast

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    I have not had an problems with the sleep or the hibernation modes in the two weeks or so that I have owned it and I have been using it as my daily driver the entire time, including a business trip.

    No issues with the tablet/laptop modes, either (but I use it 90% of the time in laptop mode).

    Compared to 2017 Dell XPS 13:
    • XPS has a smaller footprint and has a more powerful processor and graphics (if you get the iris model) but is only a laptop and no stylus support.
    • My XPS also had a ton of coil whine which my Samsung Notebook 9 Pro does not. This is highly variable, though, and a lot depends on luck. I seem to have more coil whine issues with Dell than any other vendor.
    • Battery seemed to be worse on the XPS 13 than the Samsung even with equivalent 1080p screens.
    Compared to 2017 Dell XPS 13 2-in-1:
    • Similar machines, but Samsung has a stylus that comes with it (and slides into the case which is awesome).
    • Again, coil whine issues with the Dell and not on the Samsung.
    • Battery is pretty much the same between the two.
    Compared to 2017 Dell XPS 15:
    • Not really a comparison - two different class machines :)
    • This Dell did not have any coil whine problems for me, but I felt it was a bit bigger than what I wanted as I travel a lot.
    Compared to 2016 MacBook Pro 13 with Touchbar (i5/8GB):
    • Almost the exact same dimensions between the two and similar weight.
    • Totally different OS for each. I prefer Windows 10 at the moment as I spend a lot of time in MS Office and the apps work better and have more features and plugins than the MacOS version. I use Apple for everything else (new iPad Pro 10.5, Apple Watch, iPhone 7 Plus).
    • Battery is about the same between these two (about 8 hours).
    • I did run Windows 10 using bootcamp and Parallels and it ran "just ok". I think I would want to go to the i7/16GB model for this to run better, but then we are talking $2400 which is ridiculous pricing compared to Windows machines.
    • The MacBook Pro was my daily driver but has been replaced by the Notebook 9 Pro (haven't even booted up the MacBook in two weeks).
    Compared to 2016 MacBook 12 (customized with a core M7 processor):
    • Macbook is smaller footprint. Basically the same everything else as the MacBook Pro above. I really like this little machine, but I wanted a bit larger screen size for working on the road and add some additional capability through a stylus.
    Compared to 2017 Lenovo Carbon X1:
    • Carbon is a really nice machine. It's a bit wider than the Notebook 9 Pro.
    • Fatal flaws for me on the Carbon: 1-The screen brightness just wasn't enough. I kept having to run it on max brightness where other machines I can run at 50% for the most part. The touchpad was a wide enough, but not tall enough. Minor gripes, but I am super picky about my machines.
    • Carbon is pretty pricey unless you get it a discount.
    Compared to 2017 Surface Pro i7:
    • SP2017 is a very nice machine. The battery life was comparable (about 7-8 hours). Similar footprints, but the SP i7 model is more powerful and has iris graphics.
    • I used the SP2017 for a week straight and ended up returning it for a couple of reasons. First, the hibernation issue (the machine would hibernate for no reason). Not good if you are in the middle of a presentation. I hear this was fixed maybe yesterday. Second, the footprint for actual use is quite tall. I work on tray tables on planes and the occasional lap. I knew going in this might be a problem and real life ended up confirming it. Third, the cost. $2000 for it, plus keyboard, plus pen. That's almost twice the price as the Notebook 9 Pro.
    Compared to 2017 HP Spectre x360 13:
    • I had an earlier model with the silver color for the HP. Similar footprints and very close on everything else. I had issues with the Elan trackpad on the Spectre and didn't like the white/silver keyboard combo which made it a bit harder to read. There was no pen support at the time for that earlier model, but the new version comes with it. I feel like this is maybe the closest competition for Notebook 9 Pro.

    I've used a lot of devices from different vendors and I have found Samsung makes some really nice laptops. Before the Notebook 9 Pro, I had also used the non-pro variants and really liked those as well. I feel like more people should be aware of these as Samsung doesn't really market their laptops well and people always look at the XPS or Spectre lines. For my use, I greatly prefer the Notebook 9 Pro over either of those.

    Hopefully that helps. Feel free to ask anything else and I can try to answer based on my experience.
     
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  4. Sher the Love

    Sher the Love Notebook Enthusiast

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    Jeff,

    Thanks for the thorough review. Can you give some more detail about the fan noise? I currently have the Lenovo Yoga 720 13" and the fan is constantly turning on and off, even during light web browsing. The noise is also high pitch and and are pretty loud.

    Do you have this issue for basic web browsing and office work when running in balanced power mode? How is the pitch of the fan noise? Do the fans come on at high volumes all the time or do they come on at lower rpm?

    I'm still under return period and I'm highly considering getting the Samsung if this is not an issue.

    Thanks in advance.
     
  5. Jefstead

    Jefstead Notebook Enthusiast

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    The machine runs silent doing normal things like web browsing or using MS Office. The only time I notice the fan is when I push it by playing World of Warcraft and League of Legends. Even when the fan is going while playing games, it never gets loud enough to be obnoxious even in those cases (it's not a high pitched whine). It's a very quiet machine.

    I think the worst thing I could say about the machine at the moment is that I wish the speakers were louder. Coming from the newer MacBook, that is probably the thing I miss the most.
     
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  6. Sher the Love

    Sher the Love Notebook Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the quick reply. One last question. Did you have any issues updating any of the drivers? I've noticed the page to update this models drivers isn't working on Samsung website. Not sure if it's temporary or if they haven't added anything online yet. Thanks again.
     
  7. Jefstead

    Jefstead Notebook Enthusiast

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    Yeah the Samsung website isn't updated for this model yet (it seems to take them a bit to get that stuff going for some reason).

    I haven't had any problems with drivers. The Samsung software updates with the pre installed Samsung Update app (which also serves as a place to reinstall any bloatware you uninstall). Between that and the standard Windows update, I haven't had a need to go searching for any drivers. And with all that said, I have not had any stability issues with the OS or any apps I run. It's been solid.
     
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  8. Sher the Love

    Sher the Love Notebook Enthusiast

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    Great. Thanks!
     
  9. 44Jon

    44Jon Newbie

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    Thanks. I'm just torn between this and XPS "2 in 1". I guess it comes down to issue of, as a "light" user, is Dell worth it to have a smaller and lighter machine at the price of no place to store a pen and no legacy ports. Having never used a 2 in 1 before, I'm not sure how to judge this. Realizing it's subjective, but if you had any input, it'd be appreciated.
    Jon
     
  10. Jefstead

    Jefstead Notebook Enthusiast

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    Having used both, I greatly prefer the Samsung. The XPS 2-in-1 I received had some pretty major coil whine and did not come with a pen (let alone a convenient place to store it). The Dell uses Y series processors versus the U series of the Samsung. The Dell is also roughly $500 more expensive.

    It's totally subjective as you said, but I am quite pleased with the Samsung and would make the same choice again.
     
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