Samsung Notebook 9 Pen review: Samsung's note-taking PC can't quite justify its price

The Notebook 9 Pen knows what to do with a stylus, but Windows 10 has evolved to make a number of Samsung's apps and tools somewhat irrelevant.

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Finally, we run 3DMark’s Sky Diver benchmark. Many of the gaming and other desktops have moved on to Time Spy or other advanced benchmarks, but a typical midrange laptop hasn’t advanced much, especially if it sticks with Intel's pedestrian UHD 620. Virtually all of the notebooks we tested use the UHD 620 integrated controller, save for the Radeon RX 540 found in the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen 3dmark sky diver Mark Hachman / IDG

Our final metric of significance is battery life. We set the display at a fixed level of brightness, then loop a 4K video to run down the battery from a full charge. The Samsung Notebook 9 Pen offers satisfactory battery life when considered by itself, enduring about ten hours on its 39Wh battery. Comparatively, however, you’ll find better choices elsewhere. 

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen battery life Mark Hachman / IDG

Battery life is one of the areas where the Notebook 9 Pen falls a bit short, comparatively. Still, ten hours of use isn’t anything to sneeze at.

Conclusion: Keep an eye out for bargains

Samsung’s Notebook 9 Pen certainly doesn’t impress when you pick it up. Samsung, however, sees the Notebook 9 Pen as a note-taking device, where you’ll undock the S-Pen, fold the display back, and jot notes on a giant tablet. Combine that with its Air Command apps and the numerous Samsung-authored apps already on the tablet, and what Samsung hopes to achieve is more in the direction of Apple than anything else.

In general, though, Samsung’s app ambitions are more of a miss than a hit, at least on the PC. Windows apps outshine many of Samsung’s similar alternatives, especially in the case of Notes. Extending Samsung’s ecosystem between its phones and its PCs feels forced.

Pulling that thread, however, unravels much of what justifies the Notebook 9 Pen’s higher price. It bears reiterating that there’s nothing wrong with Samsung’s choice of an 8th-gen Core CPU, 8GB of memory, and roomy SSD. The S Pen works well—and it’s bundled, too. A mediocre keyboard and battery life, though, suggest you should check out alternatives: Dell’s new XPS 13 or the HP Spectre Laptop 13 may be better bets, offering just as much or more, and for a lower cost.

While I’m not convinced that as many note-takers crave this convertible notebook as Samsung believes, the Notebook 9 isn’t a bad choice. It simply doesn’t seem to aspire to that much.

This story, "Samsung Notebook 9 Pen review: Samsung's note-taking PC can't quite justify its price" was originally published by PCWorld.

At a Glance
  • This unassuming 13.3-inch laptop conceals Samsung's S-Pen, as well as a robust 8th-gen Core chip and a fairly spacious SSD. It's a solid notebook, though not at Samsung's original asking price.

    Pros

    • Solid performance, powered by an 8th-gen Core
    • Samsung's pen storage solution is the best in the business
    • Fingerprint reader and depth camera for added security
    • Lightweight, compact form factor

    Cons

    • Average battery life
    • S-Pen can permanently jam if not correctly inserted
    • Overpriced at Samsung's MSRP
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