Ultrabook design has been at a standstill for the last few years, but Samsung is set to break the mold with its 2015 Ativ Book 9. Let's take a look at the features and specs of the new Samsung Ultrabook vs. the 2014 (11-in) MacBook Air.
Since its screen has a different aspect ratio, the Ativ Book 9 comes out at 11 percent taller – but 5 percent narrower – than the 11-in MacBook Air. The Ativ Book 9 is also listed as 31 percent thinner, but that's skewed a bit: the Air is tapered, while the Ativ Book has a (mostly) uniform thickness.
This is the Ativ Book 9's killer feature: it's 12 percent lighter than the 11-in Air. And since Samsung's notebook has about a 5 percent larger face, it feels like an even bigger difference in hand.
The Ativ Book's lightness (and Samsung's history with plastic builds) caught us offguard, as, after our hands-on, we mistakenly thought it was made of plastic. But it's an aluminum laptop, like the MacBook.
No customization here, as each notebook ships in one color: black for the Ativ and gray for the MacBook.
We could have just as easily compared the Ativ Book to the 13-in MacBook Air, as Samsung's Ultrabook falls somewhere in between the two. Compared to the 11-incher, the Ativ gives you 16 percent more screen (and if you're curious, it gives you 16 percent less display than the 13-in Air).
It's a little surprising that we're in 2015 and the MacBook Air is still rocking a mid-ranged display resolution. The Ativ Book 9 dominates in this category, with a crisp, colorful and gorgeous display.
Many Windows Ultrabooks have touch screens, but not the Ativ Book 9.
Both notebooks are going to be very fast for their form factor, but the Ativ Book 9 uses a new Broadwell chip, which should help out some with battery life – and also likely plays an indirect role in Samsung's impressive combination of screen quality and lightness/thinness.
But that also means there's no reason Apple can't do the same thing with a future Broadwell-running MacBook Air (more on that in a minute).
Samsung didn't list the speed of its processor, but the Intel Core M 5Y10C that it runs is listed as running as fast as 2 GHz.
Though we didn't list it in this visual, you can also pay an extra US$150 to pimp out your MacBook Air with a faster Core i7 CPU.
The Ativ Book 9's integrated graphics should only offer a slight performance advantage over the MacBook's, but Intel's 5300 offers better power consumption.
Both devices offer the same RAM options, though the 8 GB version is a paid ($100) configuration on the Air. The 8 GB option is a standard option on the Ativ, but it's tied to the 256 GB storage tier.
The only storage difference is the extra 512 GB option in the Air – which is also a paid configuration.
USB 3.0 ports
Each machine gives you two USB 3.0 ports. The MacBook Air also adds a speedy Thunderbolt port, if you're one of the few who owns Thunderbolt-compatible accessories.
If you want to mirror your display (perhaps turning your notebook into a faux desktop PC), your options are micro HDMI on the Ativ and Mini DisplayPort (via Thunderbolt) on the Air.
Each notebook gives you a 720p webcam.
Samsung hasn't listed the Ativ Book's battery specs, apart from an "up to 10.5 hours of use" estimate. Apple's estimate for web use in the Haswell-based MacBook Air is "up to nine hours."
Based on its Broadwell processor, we wouldn't be surprised if the Ativ indeed lasted a bit longer (even with its much sharper display).
Surprisingly, this is one of the most important categories. Why? Because Apple is likely going to be launching a new MacBook Air very soon – and it could go toe-to-toe with the Ativ Book 9 in key areas like screen resolution, size and weight.
In fact, 9to5Mac had the scoop on what's supposedly the next MacBook Air, "leaking" the day after Ativ Book 9 hands-ons started hitting the web (perhaps proving that intentional leaks are alive and well in 2015?). Apparently somebody wants us to know that the Ativ Book 9 is going to have some much stiffer competition very soon.
The MacBook Air starts at US$300 cheaper than the Ativ Book 9. Maybe the real question, though, is how Apple will price that rumored MacBook Air with Retina Display?