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Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15 review: A convertible Ultrabook built to impress

We're big fans of Samsung's Notebook 9 line. Windows Central Editor-in-Chief Daniel Rubino called the 15 EXT "a traditional but absolutely exceptional laptop that may be the best representation of what an Ultrabook is meant to be," and the Pro version we have here seems to bring similar quality and performance, albeit in a convertible form.

Windows Central Recommended Award

It seems like Samsung is entering the ring with the 15-inch Lenovo Yoga 720 and HP Spectre x360, with discrete graphics, a touch display with pen support, and a thin, light design. Let's take a look at how well it fares in our review.

About this review

Samsung loaned Windows Central a review unit of the 15-inch Samsung Notebook 9 Pro. This specific configuration, which is currently the only one available, has a seventh-generation Intel Core i7-7500U processor (CPU), 16GB of DDR4 RAM, an AMD Radeon RX 540 graphics card (GPU) and a 256GB SATA solid-state drive (SSD). This laptop costs about $1,200 (opens in new tab).

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Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15 hardware and specifications

CategoryXX
ProcessorIntel Core i7-7500U (up to 3.50GHz)
Dual-core
RAM16GB DDR4-2133MHz
Storage256GB SATA SSD
Samsung PM871a
Display15-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080)
IPS, touch, glossy
GraphicsIntel HD Graphics 620
AMD Radeon RX 540
2GB GDDR5 VRAM
PortsTwo USB-A 3.0
USB-C
HDMI
microSD card reader
3.5mm jack
AudioDual stereo speakers
1.5W each
WirelessIntel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265
802.11ac (2 x 2)
Bluetooth 4.1
CameraFront-facing 720p
IR camera for Windows Hello
KeyboardBacklit
TouchpadPrecision
PenSamsung S Pen
BatteryFour-cell 54WHr
Weight3.79 pounds (1.72kg)
Dimensions13.67 inches x 9.41 inches x 0.67 inches
347.2mm x 239mm x 17mm
OSWindows 10 Home

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15 design

Samsung's standard Notebook 9 line is all about thin, and the convertible Pro is no different. The aluminum chassis is just 3.79 pounds (1.72kg) and just 0.67 inches (17mm) thick, both outstanding numbers for a 15-inch device. Compared to the Spectre x360 and Yoga 720, the Notebook 9 Pro is thinner and lighter.

The outside has a silver finish that's nothing flashy, and the inside is darker to match the keys. Fingerprint and palm marks hold on for dear life, even with cleaning solution and a cloth. If you're one who likes to keep their laptop pristine, this could be a problem. The chassis is extremely sturdy, as is the lid when open. Likewise, the hinges are stiff and hold the display at any angle, though you cannot open the lid with one hand.

On the left edge are an HDMI port, USB-C port (that can be used for charging), a 3.5mm jack, and the standard Samsung charging port. On the right, you have two USB-A 3.0 ports and a microSD card reader, as well as a power button. Like a lot of convertibles, there's a tendency to hit the power button accidentally in tablet mode, especially here where it's closer to the middle. One other small issue is how close the ports are together. Thumb drives are getting smaller, but you could have an issue using both USB-A ports or the HDMI and USB-C at the same time.

Dual down-firing speakers are placed near the front corners of the laptop, and while they hit a decent volume, they don't deliver great audio quality.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15 display

One of the big features of the Pro version of the Notebook 9 line is the S Pen, which is tucked into its own slot on the bottom of the laptop. Pulling it out, Air Command opens on the screen offering a number of Samsung's productivity apps, but it also works perfectly well with Windows Ink.

The S Pen utilizes the Wacom EMR digitizer in the 15-inch display and has 4,000 levels of sensitivity and tilt support. For such a compact pen, it delivers a surprisingly satisfying inking experience, though I would prefer something physically thicker to hold onto.

The touch display itself has a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and has an IPS panel with wide viewing angles. It's plenty bright — Samsung claims it sits at about 350 nits — and there's also an outdoor mode found in the Samsung settings app that boosts brightness a considerable amount. Those working in direct sunlight will have no problem.

Testing color accuracy, we saw 97 percent sRGB and 74 percent AdobeRGB, both excellent results. Samsung seems to know what it's doing with its displays, and it really shows here. The picture is crisp and contrast is spot on. Bezel along the sides is kept thin and is a bit thicker along the top to fit a 720p webcam coupled with an IR camera that can be used with Windows Hello for quick, secure logins.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15 keyboard and touchpad

Samsung takes advantage of the large chassis to include a sizeable Precision touchpad and a backlit keyboard with well-spaced keys. Travel is adequate and bottoming out on the deck isn't jarring, making for a pleasant typing experience.

The keys are set into the body to prevent them from being mashed when in a converted mode, and the touchpad is also ever so slightly set in. Using the Notebook 9 Pro for about two weeks to handle a good portion of daily writing duties, it's proven to be one of my favorite keyboards to use, even competing with a lot of the greatness Lenovo has to offer.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15 performance

The high build quality here is matched by excellent performance. The discrete Radeon GPU is an entry point for specialized tasks and some light to medium gaming, 16GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM keeps things from getting bogged down, and the seventh-generation U-series CPU, while not quad-core, still does a good job of keeping up. Two fans handle keeping the laptop cool, and even under heavy load, they operate quietly. The laptop gets hot but considering there's a discrete GPU packed in there, it's nothing surprising.

Samsung predicts about 11.5 hours of battery life from a single charge, and they're actually close to the mark. I saw about nine hours when using the laptop for productivity purposes, and you can no doubt stretch that number quite a bit more if you aren't using it constantly. A 60W charger is included and fits into a rounded charging port, but you can also charge via USB-C if you have a separate charger lying around.

CPU

Geekbench 4.0 benchmarks (higher is better)

DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15i7-7500U4,4318,669
Lenovo Yoga 720 15i7-7700HQ3,78410,255
HP Spectre x360 15i7-7500U4,0988,022
Dell XPS 13 (9360)i7-8550U4,69014,334
Dell XPS 13 (9360)i7-6560U4,1207,829
Surface Book 2 13i7-8650U4,86214,694
Surface Laptopi5-7200U3,7257,523
HP EliteBook x360 G2i7-7600U4,4968,435
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Exti7-7500U4,3168,320
Lenovo X1 Carboni5-7300U4,1398,311
HP Spectre 13i7-7500U4,1007,469

The new eighth-generation CPUs from Intel are hard to compete with because of four cores and the same 15W Thermal Design Point (TDP), but the i7-7500U in the Notebook 9 Pro holds its own against other seventh-generation hardware.

GPU

Geekbench 4.0 OpenCL (higher is better)

DeviceCompute score
Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 1519,769
Lenovo Yoga 720 1513,727
Dell XPS 13 (NEW)22,555
Surface Laptop19,256
HP Spectre x360 1528,868
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext23,207
HP EliteBook x360 G221,512
Lenovo X1 Carbon20,932
Dell XPS 13 (OLD)19,410
Surface Book HD52018,197
Dell Latitude 728017,827

The integrated Intel HD Graphics 620 scored well in our benchmark, and testing again with the discrete AMD Radeon RX 540, we saw a score of 38,192. This is a good chunk of power if you're multimedia editing or interested in some medium gaming, but don't expect a powerhouse. To put it into perspective, the RX 540 GPU sits somewhere between the aging NVIDIA 940MX and the NVIDIA GTX 1050.

PCMark

PCMark (Home Conventional 3.0)

DeviceScore
Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 153,542
Lenovo Yoga 720 152,993
Dell XPS 13 i73,280
Surface Book 2 133,341
Surface Laptop Core i52,494
Samsung Notebook 9 15 Ext2,998
Lenovo X1 Carbon Core i52,965
HP EliteBook x360 G22,916
Dell Latitude 72802,829
HP Spectre x360 152,472

The PCMark Home Conventional test measures how well different pieces of hardware in your PC work together to tackle everyday tasks. Here the Notebook 9 Pro scored very well, which isn't surprising. Everyday use presented no standout problems with performance.

SSD

CrystalDiskMark (higher is better)

DeviceReadWrite
Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15549.9 MB/s519.3 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (NEW)1,368 MB/s847 MB/s
Dell XPS 13 (OLD)1,287 MB/s794 MB/s
Surface Book 2 131,411 MB/s1,202 MB/s
Surface Laptop423 MB/s237 MB/s
Lenovo X1 Carbon1,518 MB/s1,188 MB/s
Samsung Notebook 9 Ext1,365 MB/s1,213 MB/s
HP EliteBook x360 G21,129 MB/s916 MB/s
HP Spectre x360 151,128 MB/s862 MB/s

While it's nice that the M.2 SSD is upgradeable down the line, it's unfortunate that Samsung chose to go with a SATA interface. Read and write speeds, compared to speeds by drives connected via PCIe, are slow. This is no doubt the laptop's weak spot, and for something labeled "Pro," it's kind of a surprising feature.

Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15 review: Conclusion

Offering a convertible version of a popular laptop doesn't always pan out. Favorite features are often cut out and performance sometimes takes a hit in the redesign process. Samsung, however, has done an excellent job here, bringing to the table a laptop that delivers great performance and retains its slim and light body.

Everything about this laptop suggests a premium build, yet the price remains competitive with other convertibles in the same arena. Likewise, the hardware inside can tackle productivity tasks — web browsing, video watching, word processing — with ease, and thanks to the discrete AMD GPU, you can even partake in some decent gaming and multimedia editing.

Whereas some convertible laptops have a pen that seems tacked on as an afterthought, the S Pen here is built right into the chassis. Thanks to the Wacom EMR digitizer in the display, you're looking at an excellent inking experience, even if the S Pen does seem a bit too thin to remain comfortable for long periods of time.

If you're looking for a convertible Ultrabook that's the thinner and lighter than its competition, definitely have a look at Samsung's 15-inch Notebook 9 Pro. If you're intrigued by the design yet don't feel the need for a convertible design, keep an eye on Samsung's new lineup that's expected to hit sometime in 2018.

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Pros:

  • Evident premium quality.
  • Excellent performance.
  • Light and thin.
  • S Pen is great for inking.
  • Bright, crisp display.

Cons:

  • SATA SSD.
  • Speakers aren't the best.
  • One configuration currently available.