A svelte laptop will never go out of style, and while many consider Apple's current-generation MacBook Air the pinnacle of ultraportables, new models are starting to encroach on Apple's territory. The latest contender is the Samsung NP900X3A laptop. But does this Windows newcomer have what it takes to topple Apple?
Samsung Series 9 NP900X3A vs MacBook Air 13"
As far as ultraportables go, Samsung's new NP900X3A has all the makings of a winner. In our spec shoot-out, it beats Apple's current-generation 13" MacBook Air in four out of six categories. More importantly, it does what few ultraportables have been capable of doing in the past: It packs current-generation technology.
Under the hood, the NP900X3A houses Intel's latest Sandy Bridge 1.4GHz Core i5 2537M processor. While we applaud Samsung for choosing one of the latest Intel CPUs, we're disappointed that it chose the slowest of the new breed. Nevertheless, the processor is more than capable of standing on its own and it gracefully outperforms the Air's two-generations-old Intel Core 2 Duo processor by a score of 7,593 to 5,701, according to PC Mag's PCMark Vantage lab tests. Even with upgrades, Apple's top-of-the-line Air is limited to a Core 2 Duo processor. (To Apple's defense, the Core i5 2537M was not available at the time of the Air's release.)
On the graphics front, however, Samsung relies on Intel's HD Graphics 3000, which was no match for the Air's NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics. The Air beat the NP900X3A by a score of 5,112 to 2,441 in PC Mag's 3DMark 06 lab test. Likewise, the Air packs a higher resolution display (1440x900) versus the Samsung's brighter, but lower resolution (1366x768) display.
As far as connectivity, Apple's first-generation MacBook Air was slammed for skimping on I/O ports. This time around, Apple fitted its Air with two USB ports, an SD card slot, a Mini DisplayPort and a headphone mini-jack. Samsung tops that by adding a mini HDMI port, one USB 3.0 port, and an Ethernet port to the mix, but it also substitutes the SD card slot for a less popular microSD card slot. The Samsung's ports are also difficult to get to as they are accessed via two flip-down doors on either side of the laptop.
Despite its use of newer technology, we ultimately give our nod of approval to the 13" MacBook Air. Not because its more powerful, but because compared to the NP900X3A, the Air looks downright affordable.
Since its debut in October, we've seen the 13" Air discounted once to $1,249 (a modest savings of $50.) However, keep in mind that budget-minded shoppers also have the option of turning to Apple for a refurbished 13" MacBook Air laptop, which goes for $1,099 (a savings of $200).
Sure, the NP900X3A will eventually be discounted too, but for now, it commands too high a price for what amounts to a modest increase in performance over the current-gen 13" MacBook Air.