With the arrival of Intel’s Core M Broadwell-running devices, we’re seeing some ridiculously light and thin notebooks that make the MacBook Air feel downright beefy. A couple months after Samsung showed off its Core M Ultrabook, the Ativ Book 9, Apple revealed its own "new MacBook." Let’s compare their features and specs.
The Samsung Ativ Book 9 (2015) is 8 percent taller and just a hair wider. As thin as the new MacBook is, Samsung managed to make its laptop 11 percent thinner.
Samsung wins the thinness crown, but Apple’s is lighter: by 3 percent. Once you factor in the Ativ’s larger frame, though, things are looking pretty balanced (if not tilted a bit in Samsung’s favor).
Both notebooks have aluminum designs.
During our brief hands-on at CES, we found the Ativ’s large trackpad to be among the best you’ll find on the Windows side of the aisle.
Apple’s glass trackpads, though, have consistently been the best in the business during the recent past. The one on the new MacBook removes the physical "diving board" hinge found in older MacBooks, opting instead for a "Force Touch" pressure sensitivity, along with haptic feedback. The result is a non-moving trackpad that feels like a moving one (the experience isn’t much different from using any of Apple’s other trackpads).
The Ativ Book 9's display is a little bigger, with the new MacBook giving you 97 percent as much real estate.
Samsung's display is about 9 percent sharper, but both are going to look extremely crisp (the MacBook's pixel density is nearly identical to that of the 13-in Retina MacBook Pros).
As a Windows notebook, you might expect the Ativ to have a touch screen, but this model doesn't.
Those Broadwell processors are the spark that's going to usher in a forest fire of ultra-thin and ultra-light notebooks this year, the likes of which consumers have never seen before now.
Note that these processor speeds denote the maximum (Turbo Boost) frequencies. Also, in addition to the two listed, Apple will be offering a couple of extra made-to-order configurations for the MacBook.
All versions of the new MacBook ship with 8 GB of RAM, while only the higher-end version of the Ativ Book 9 jumps up to 8 GB.
This is a big advantage for the MacBook, as its two storage tiers double the two tiers Samsung is offering.
Apple sees a future where our notebooks each only have one port (including for charging), and it wants to pave the road to that future right now. The new MacBook only has one port: a new USB Type-C.
In the long term, USB-C falls into Apple's wheelhouse of simplicity and minimalism – and once accessories and cables made for the new standard become ubiquitous, maybe we'll all thank Apple for giving us a nudge in that direction.
But right now, prepare for adapters – including for older USB (2/3) accessories. And don't expect to be able to do things like perform a wired Time Machine backup of your Mac while charging, or transfer photos from a camera while connected to an external hard drive.
Are you willing to make that sacrifice in the name of simplicity? If not, then perhaps this will tip you in the direction of the Ativ Book 9, and its more traditional (and compatible today) two USB 3.0 ports.
That USB-C port is natively compatible with DisplayPort for video out (or HDMI and VGA via US$80 adapters). But again, just remember that you won't be able to charge your device while using a cord to mirror your display.
Both machines have the same integrated Intel graphics.
Samsung originally listed the Ativ's battery life as "up to 10.5 hours," but a company representative tells us that further testing boosted that to "up to 12.5 hours."
You'll always want to take estimates with a few grains of salt, but that has Samsung's estimate cranking out an extra three and a half hours over the MacBook.
We'll be reviewing the new MacBook and (hopefully) the Ativ Book 9 later on, and we won't have anything more to say about battery life until then.
This seems like an odd compromise: Apple reduced the resolution of the new MacBook's webcam to 480p (from the 720p camera that you'll find in every other recent MacBook).
The latest version of the Ativ Book 9 launched on March 1, while the MacBook is set to ship on April 10. Just note that there are also older versions of the Ativ Book 9 that are still for sale, so be sure you're picking up the 2015 edition.
The Ativ Book 9 starts at $100 cheaper than the MacBook.
Which gives you the better value? We won't be able to say until we review both of them, but from where we stand now, it's a mixed bag. Storage is a big advantage for the MacBook, giving you double the storage of the Ativ Book 9 for only $100 more. The MacBook also gives you double the RAM in those entry-level models.
On the other hand, the Ativ Book 9 is thinner, with a slightly larger display, claims of longer battery life and – perhaps most importantly – a more traditional set of USB ports, along with a standalone charging port. If you use external hard drives, import photos from cameras or SD cards, and mirror your display using wires, the MacBook is going to require lots of adapters (not just to buy, but also to remember to bring with you every time you leave home with your MacBook).
For more, you can read Gizmag's new MacBook review.