Samsung 900X3A review

Samsung's black beauty of an ultra-portable laptop is one of the first with an ultra low voltage Sandy Bridge processor, but is it good enough to take on the Apple MacBook Air? Read our full review of this slender new computer to find out.

IT Pro Verdict

We had high hopes for the Samsung 900X3A, but the ultraportable laptop feels like a Windows version of the flawed original MacBook Air, with its odd design choices and short battery life, rather than the most recent, greatly improved Air. Plus, the 900X3A is about £100 more expensive than Apple's laptop. Despite the 900X3A's faster processor, if you need a thin and light ultraportable laptop that has long battery life and is comfortable to use, the MacBook Air remains our top pick.

We're big fans of thin and light ultraportable laptops here at ITPRO. Unless your laptop is never going to leave your desk or office, we don't see the point in a laptop that's so big and heavy it's uncomfortable to carry around.

Previously known as the ZX310, Samsung's sleek and stylish new 900X3A is remarkably thin - it's just 19mm at its thickest point so it's not much thicker than the cord of the battery charger. It's lightweight too at around 1.33kg, making it easy to carry around all day.

The black brushed metal construction looks and feels very classy. It feels robust too, although it flexed under pressure more than we'd like, especially when compared to the remarkably rigid build of the latest MacBook Air.

The 900X3A comes equipped with a 1.4GHz Core i5 2537M processor. This may sound slow, but paired with 4GB of RAM it managed a reasonably quick overall score of 31 in our cross-platform applications benchmarks. This was no doubt helped by the processor's Turbo Boost ability which can temporarily up its clock speed to 2.3GHz when applications demand it. It's certainly faster than the ageing ultra low voltage Core 2 Duo processors that Apple still uses in the MacBook Air.

Unfortunately its battery lasted just five hours and 50 minutes which is shorter than the 13 hour 13in MacBook Air as well as many other ultraportable laptops and netbooks. We were hoping for more given both the energy efficient ultra low voltage processor and the long battery life of previous Samsung laptops.

Its slender build means that the ports are hidden behind flip-down doors on either side of the laptop, just like the very first MacBook Air released back in early 2008. This makes plugging in cables more fiddly than we would like and that the tightly-spaced ports make it too easy for a chunky cable or peripheral to foul an adjacent port.

On the left hand side there's a USB3 port, a micro HDMI connector and proprietary socket for an Ethernet adapter which is included in the box. On the right hand side there's a USB2 port, a combo headphone/microphone jack and a microSD slot useful for transferring files to and from an Android smartphone, but of little use for copying photos off digital cameras which rarely use microSD cards.