A few weeks ago, in a verbose and engineering laden press event Apple announced their new MacBook. Not quite the MacBook Air nor MacBook Pro, the MacBook is Apple's premium, ultralight laptop competitor. While the design and the thinness were praised, the single USB Type-C port was greeted mostly with jeers, especially for a device that starts at $1,299.
Despite Apple's self-congratulatory accolades on making the new MacBook, Samsung announced a similar device back in January with little to no fanfare. The new ATIV Book 9 (2015) was the answer to Apple's MacBook before it was even announced months later.
The ATIV Book 9 (2015) is already available to purchase, and we managed to get our hands on one. Here are the ways that it is better than Apple's MacBook.
Breaking down both laptops by their core specifications, and we can see both devices run neck and neck for design, including both being completely metal except for their keyboard. However, each has a few tricks that are worth mentioning.
Here, the Samsung clearly wins with its higher resolution (2560x1600) display over Apple's MacBook (2304x1440). Although that difference is not vast, combined with the extra 0.2 inches and the ATIV Book 9 gets the upper edge.
Both displays incidentally are 16:10 orientation and non-touch.
Apple is known for using high-quality displays, as in Samsung. In fact, Apple often uses displays from Samsung and LG, making quality comparisons similar between the two devices.
So far, the ATIV Book 9 has one of the best screens we have seen due to its low reflectivity, high resolution and excellent contrast. There are also bonus features like 'secret' mode to hide things on your screen with a tap of the button and outdoor mode, where the display can shoot up to a whopping 700 nits of brightness (300 nits is standard for laptops). Outdoor mode kills the battery right quick, but it is still a fantastic option.
USB Type-C is the future, but that future is not here yet. It is not that people have an issue with switching to Type-C but rather there are no other ports on the MacBook: no HDMI, micro SD, or USB 3.0. As a result, people are planning to pick up the $79 dongle to get work done. It is not the end of the world, and Apple users should be used to buying dongles and expensive accessories by now, however, it does detract from the MacBook's convenience.
Meanwhile, the Samsung ATIV Book 9 goes in the other direction:
- USB 3.0 x 2
- Micro SD
- AC Power (proprietary barrel design)
If we had to knock the Samsung model, it would be that last one: the proprietary AC barrel plug. Sure, it is teeny tiny, but not nearly as opportune as using a USB Type-C. However, having two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI and micro SD for reading or expansion is one heck of a bonus.
The new MacBook is just 2.03 pounds (0.92 kg) versus the ATIV Book 9's 2.06 pounds (0.93 kg). If you think that half an ounce is detectable, you are likely a human scale. In fact, the just-noticeable difference (JND) for 32 ounces in humans would be closer to 3 ounces (0.09 kg). So these devices are equal.
In terms of raw dimensions, Apple gets the nod for being smaller for width 11.04 inches (28.05 cm) and depth 7.74 inches (19.65 cm) versus the ATIV Book 9 at 11.19 inches (28.42 cm) and 8.37 inches (21.26 cm), however, both are very close.
In terms of height (or "thinness"), which is often touted as the big selling point for mobile devices, the ATIV Book 9 0.46 inches (11.7 mm) edges out the new MacBook 0.52 inches (13.2 mm) at its thickest point. Considering how much emphasis is placed on how thin these devices are, it is fascinating to see Samsung's ATIV Book 9 beat out Apple here.
Winner: Apple (overall size); Samsung for thinness
Comparing direct performance between the two devices is currently not possible, but here Apple has done some things right.
Both devices are running the new Intel Core M: the 5Y31 version for the ATIV, while the MacBook may have Broadwell Y-series (it is not yet known). However, Apple's is clocked higher at 1.1GHz or 1.3GHz (Turbo Boost up to 2.4GHz and 2.6GHz) versus Samsung's Core M 0.9 GHz (Turbo Boost up to 2 GHz). However, it is unclear which OS will make the most out of the Core M.
For what it is worth, the ATIV Book 9 does ship with Windows 8.1 64-bit.
One interesting difference that should help Apple is their usage of newer PCIe Flash storage versus Samsung's SSD (SATA III). The downside to PCIe is the price, which costs significantly more than SATA III SSD.
The ATIV Book 9 comes in 4 or 8GB variants for RAM while the MacBook is just 8GB.
Both devices use the Intel HD 5300 graphics.
It is too early to do real world tests on battery usage, especially since you cannot yet buy and use a 2015 Apple MacBook. Nevertheless, in terms of battery ratings, Samsung is claiming 10.5 hours versus Apple's 9 hours.
Seeing as the MacBook has a CPU that is clocked higher than the ATIV Book 9 that estimate seems rational.
Neither one of these laptops are going to win an award for being budget-friendly. However, the ATIV Book 9 (4GB/128GB) does come in at $100 cheaper ($1199 versus $1299) than the base model of the MacBook (8GB/256GB).
However, if you even out the specs (8GB/256GB) and the Samsung is now more expensive ($1399 versus $1299).
Apple tops off their MacBook at a whopping $1599 for the 512 GB version, likely attributable to that pricey PCIe storage solution.
One caveat to add though is Windows laptops often go on sale, whereas Apple products do not. Additionally, users can expand the storage on the ATIV Book 9 with the built-in Micro SD card reader and use the free 30GB of OneDrive cloud storage.
Winner: Samsung for entry-level; Apple for parity cost
Overall, Samsung's ATIV Book 9 edges out Apple's MacBook in many areas (but not all). In terms of thinness, battery life, display and most importantly, ports, the ATIV Book 9 is one hot contender.
Perhaps the bigger story though is not so much who wins and who loses in raw specifications and pricing. Rather the big reveal is that Apple did not "invent" the super-thin, ultra-light category of premium laptops.
In fact, Samsung beat Apple to the market and did so with much less fanfare (in fact too little, in my opinion). There were no fancy engineering-porn videos, no half-hour announcements with gasps from the audience. Just a regular product line refresh from one of the largest PC and digital device manufacturers in the world.
The bottom line is this: If you have the money and want something like the new MacBook but for Windows, the ATIV Book 9 is your answer, and you can order it today.
Stay tuned for more in-depth coverage of the ATIV Book 9 (2015) from Windows Central, including a forthcoming first-impressions article.