Samsung may be leaving the value-priced and mid-market categories alone for the time being, but it isn't changing anything on the premium front. The South Korean tech giant just announced its latest premium Ultrabook, the svelte Samsung Ativ Book 9 2014 Edition, which is the follow-up to the excellent Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus.
This new Ativ Book 9 Ultrabook keeps the slim dimensions and graceful curves of the previous model, but steps up every other feature with an upgraded display, revamped audio features, and a new keyboard designed with comfort in mind.
The new Ativ Book 9 2014 Edition features an all-aluminium chassis that measures just 16mm thick and weighs around 1.75kg. While that's a tad heavy for an ultraportable, it's not out of line for a 15in Ultrabook. The new laptop is easily recognised as a member of the Book 9 and Series 9 family thanks to the same aerodynamic curves along the sides, an eye-catching design that Samsung has been smart to keep.
The screen has been upgraded from the already stunning 3,200 x 1,800 Quad HD+ display seen on the Ativ Book 9 Plus to a brighter version of the same display, boasting wider viewing angles (up to 178 degrees) and less glare thanks to a new low-reflective coating. Low-reflection coatings have largely disappeared on newer laptops, because past coating materials caused problems with capacitive touchscreens. Samsung has begun to remedy this and the new display looks better for it.
Samsung has also revamped the audio. While there is only so much sound quality that can be produced by physical speakers in the slim confines of an Ultrabook, there is plenty to be done for audio that is being played through high-end headphones or piped to a sound system.
Audiophiles know that streaming compressed audio causes significant flattening of the sound and reduction in overall audio quality, and Samsung has taken steps to solve these problems with lossless sound, which is exclusive to the Book 9 line-up.
New sound software developed in partnership with Dolby uses custom algorithms to return the richness to compressed audio. An array of features are being added to skip over the compression problems altogether – the new Book 9 2014 Edition features a Wolfson digital-to-analogue chip for better sound and recording, which Samsung claims offers better than CD-quality sound when used to play FLAC files. The laptop also comes with S Player+ pre-installed, which offers improved compatibility with Samsung Hub, an audio streaming service that Samsung will be launching sometime this year. The new service will join a few others already available in offering lossless audio streaming.
The backlit keyboard also got extra attention, with several improvements made over last year's Book 9 Plus. Samsung has tweaked the weight and depth of each key to provide a more substantial typing feel. Each key is now curved and slightly sculpted to better accommodate a fingertip, as opposed to the flat chiclet keys used in the past. Additionally, each key is coated in a matte rubberised finish for a more comfortable surface.
While details on hardware specifications and pricing are scarce, the Samsung Ativ Book 9 2014 Edition will likely be priced like a premium product. If the previous Book 9 Plus is any indication, the new Ultrabook will likely retail for in excess of £1,000, and will be available sometime in the first half of 2014.