Samsung Series 9 notebook vs Apple MacBook Air

We pit Samsung's latest Sandy Bridge-based ultraportable against Apple's highest-spec MacBook Air

The comparisons between Samsung's new Series 9 notebook and Apple's Macbook Air are apt. They both have almost identical dimensions and weight and a similar feature-set. But if you're in the market for a new ultraportable and you don't have an allegiance to Apple or Microsoft, then which should you choose? Ultimately, it might come down to price, but it's also important to know what type of features and technology you're getting.

In this versus article we've pitted the brand new Samsung Series 9 notebook against the high-specification version of Apple's MacBook Air (which was released in late 2010). Both the Samsung and the Apple look sexy (the Samsung is the better looking of the two in our opinion); both have full-sized keyboards and large touchpads (or trackpads if you're an Apple user), making them very comfortable to use despite their small size.

They both use different technology under the hood though, and there are a few features that set them apart. Let's take a look:

Feature Samsung Series 9 MacBook Air Verdict?
Price $2499 $1949 MacBook Air
Warranty 1 year international 1 year international AppleCare MacBook Air
Weight 1.31kg 1.32kg Series 9
Operating system (OS) Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit OS X Tie
Display size 13.3in 13.3in Tie
Display technology LED-backlit matte panel LED-backlit glossy panel Series 9
Display resolution 1366x768 pixels 1440x900 pixels MacBook Air
CPU Intel Core i5-2537 Intel Core 2 Duo SL9600 Series 9
Storage 128GB SSD 256GB SSD MacBook Air
Graphics Intel HD graphics NVIDIA GeForce 320M MacBook Air
I/O ports 2x USB (USB 2.0 and USB 3.0), Micro-HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet (via dongle), headphone/microphone, internal mic 2x USB 2.0, Mini DisplayPort, headphone, internal mic Series 9
W-Fi 802.11bg/n 802.11a/b/g/n MacBook Air
Bluetooth 3.0 2.1 EDR Series 9
Memory slot microSD SD MacBook Air
Webcam 1.3-megapixel 0.3-megapixel Series 9
Battery Sealed 5900mAh Sealed 50Wh Tie
Construction Duralium Aluminium Series 9
Keyboard backlight Yes, adjustable brightness No Series 9
Ambient light sensor Yes No Series

Overall, the MacBook Air, despite being older, is still a good proposition, but the Samsung is more technologically advanced. It has an ultra-low voltage Sandy Bridge CPU as opposed to an older Core 2 Duo. It's a lot more powerful than the Core 2 Duo (the Core i5 can process four software threads simultaneously as opposed to only two for the Core 2 Duo), but it has the same TDP (thermal design point) of 17W.

We like the fact that the Samsung has a backlit keyboard and matte screen. The backlit keyboard also has various levels of brightness adjustment, which is handy. The matte screen means you won't get any nasty reflections when using the notebook in a well-lit environment. However, the MacBook has a higher screen resolution of 1440x900, which is better for Web browsing and viewing high-definition photos.

As for connectivity, the Samsung has USB 3.0 while the Apple is only USB 2.0. The MacBook Air might get Thunderbolt in the notebook's next refresh though.

Both notebooks are solidly built and have smooth hinges. The Samsung's design is a little more sleek as it has hidden ports that can be exposed only when you need them. The Samsung's microSD card slot is a disadvantage compared to the regular SD card slot of the MacBook Air, especially for photographers who want to view their photos straight away, as it means a USB adapter will have to be used.

We can't wait to see what Apple brings to the table with the next MacBook Air, but at the moment, its Core 2 Duo-equipped model is still one of the best ultraportables on the market.

However, the Samsung Series 9 is the winner here. It feels absolutely great to use and has a Sandy Bridge CPU that offers much better performance than the Core 2 Duo. The extra money for the Samsung is justified when you consider the CPU.

Verdict: Samsung

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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