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Laptop Battle: Apple MacBook Air vs. Samsung Series 9

Published
By Louis Ramirez, dealnews senior feature writer

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"

Samsung NP900X3A
Apple MacBook Air 13"
Price
$1,649.99*
$1,299*
Processor
1.4GHz Intel Core i5 2537M Sandy Bridge
1.86GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
Display
13.3" 1366x768
13.3" 1440x900
RAM
4GB DDR3
2GB DDR3
Wireless
802.11n
802.11n
Weight
2.8 lbs.
2.9 lbs.
Other features
Bluetooth 3.0, microSD card slot, mini-HDMI, one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, Ethernet, Mic-in, 1.3MP webcam
Bluetooth 2.1, SD card slot, Mini DisplayPort, 2 USB ports, Mic-in, FaceTime camera
Rated Battery
up to 7 hours
up to 7 hours
*Manufacturer price

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.

Winner
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.



An avid gadget lover, Louis Ramirez has covered technology for Gizmodo, CNET, Laptop, and various other publications. Follow him on Twitter — @LouisRamirez. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.

DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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9 comments
Dealhunter89
Windows 7 OS has been great and as far as critics go they too agree its a great OS. The problem with windows vs mac is that apple is the only company aloud to make computers with OSX installed. Windows is installed on many different hardware companies, some do a great job, and others do very poor. Therefor people's experiences are so much different. There is a standard set when making apple computers so everyone knows what to expect buying one. With Windows, some will be amazing, others tragic. Windows has struggled but my personal opinion is they are far from out of the game in software with PC and cell phone technology. I think windows 7 phones are going to take off when Nokia begins to release them which will promote Zune marketplace which I am a big fan of. People don't want to pay 1.29 for a song. Ownership for media is becoming a thing of the past look at Netflix taking over so quickly. It just takes time to adjust people's ideas on those kinds of concepts. I am not saying all of my predictions are accurate they are hunches and I don't think will catch on for 3 to 5 years because Mac still has a strong hold on things. Look out for Google though...Chrome computers coming and android is looking strong...this could really hurt apple.
gkcmilner
I don't like your poll. The question should be "Which is a better value?" or "which would you buy?".

With the price disparity it's not fare to the Apple to ask which is better since you can tell from the specs the Samsung is better. But I would rather buy the Apple because it's so much cheaper. Plus I prefer the higher resolution display and and superior graphics card. I also agree that the standard SD card slot is much better than a micro SD slot since I always pop the card out of my camera and right into my computer to view, download, and edit pictures. The C2D processor combined with the nvidia is still a pretty powerful combo for most any application.
sambanh73
I agree that apple hardware and price are not the best, except for the recent batch of macbook pros. but you know what, b/c of jobs high demand, their os and design unmatched. you get so much productivity out of mac osx, it is not funny. windows is losing grounds from every direction and can't come up with a successful product anymore. as a matter of fact, when did they ever really come up with a successful product? never. everything built was either a stolen idea, outright bought, or copied. my future mac computers will be bought from their refurbs.
iam_f159
Agree! And I guess it depends on what you gonna do with it as well. For what I have to do on daily basis...Apple products won't do at all except iPhone and iPad...
jobelle20
the MacBook Air isn't due for a refresh for another several months, the Samsung Series 9 may be the most portable, thinnest and lightest laptop option right now.
Dafus
Three years of AppleCare adds $250 to the price. AppleCare, however, is widely viewed as the best in the business; it provides both phone advice and cost-free repair for three years. I consider it to be vital, and a part of the price of Apple computers. (AppleCare for Desktops is less expensive.)
Dafus
It would certainly make a more fair comparison if you included the option that boosts the Air to GB ram. That adds $100 to the price, and makes the machine far more attractive to my eyes.
simsear
Looks like most retailers are selling the Series 9 for $1,599.99. It also has a three year warranty. Is that standard? Still too expensive though. If it was the same price, it seems that would give it an edge over the Air. I wonder how much of the cost is due to the operating system than the actual hardware. Too bad these things aren't itemized.
Dealhunter89
Apple products are heavily overrated. I have owned iMacs, Macbook Pros, and Macbook Airs. They are reliable, very sleek, and have nice displays/keyboards/trackpads. But things like ram, memory, processor speeds, and video cards are always behind pc computers of equal or often times less cost price. So for this comparison when looking at the samsung if you were to strictly judge the performance of the two side by side the Samsung wins in a landslide ( I have done the test). When multitasking, downloading heavy content, and just over all sleekness samsung series 9 wins every day, with regards to the display you cant see much of a difference although the pro is indeed superior there. But it is frustrating when I read these reviews because when comparing mac and pc rarely if ever does pc get any wins over mac even though the pcs being compared are often priced much lower. Apple is a great brand with regards to simplisity, looks, and reliability, but when you are factoring power, storage, and multitasking PC will win every time when you compare two models of the same price point. An example below

Dell xps 15 currently for around 1100 dollars gives you 1080p display, blu ray, 1gb nivida graphics card, 6 or 8 gb ram, 640gb hard drive and an i7 sandy bridge processor.
Macbook pro 15 starts at 1800 dollars, normal optical drive (no blu ray), graphics card that is not as good, 900p display (not as good), only 4gb ram, 500 gb hard drive, and the older model i7 not sandy bridge processor.

People think macs cant get viruses=not true. Less likely yes. Get free avg virus protection with pc and your fine though. Apple is a brand that is trendy and people want just because it is a status symbol not because they make better products than PC.

So logically if you are looking to spend less and get more, its pc every day of the week.