Samsung Ativ Book 9 (2015) vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 3

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Gizmag compares the features and specs of the 2015 Samsung Ativ Book 9 (left) and Microsoft Surface Pro 3

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The 2015 Samsung Ativ Book 9 shows us what Intel Core M laptops will be able to do: squeeze high-end specs into ridiculously light and thin packages with long battery life. How does it compare to one of the best Windows devices, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3? Let's line them up.

Size

The Samsung Ativ Book 9 is 6 percent taller, but the Surface Pro 3 is 3 percent wider.

You'll want to take those thickness measurements with a few grains of salt, as the Ativ Book's depth includes its keyboard. The Surface's depth doesn't.

Weight

This is the Ativ Book 9's killer feature. It's 13 percent lighter compared to the (already light) Surface and keyboard combo.

Build

Both devices have metallic builds, as the Ativ Book 9 has an aluminum body, while the Surface Pro 3 rocks a magnesium chassis. The only difference is that the Surface's keyboard accessory is made of plastic (though it feels almost like felt).

Keyboard

Speaking of keyboards, the Surface's is detachable and sold separately. As a traditional laptop, the Ativ's is integrated.

The keyboard for the Surface Pro 3 is actually a big step forward from those on older Surfaces. Not only is it bigger, with great keys and a larger trackpad, but it also props up against the bottom of the Surface (like a ramp). This makes for a much better lap typing experience.

You'll notice that Samsung's laptop has a bigger trackpad, though that's balanced out some by the Surface's touch and pen input.

Colors

No color options for the devices themselves, as we're looking at standard black for the Ativ Book 9 and standard silver for the Surface.

You can, however, choose from five different Surface keyboard colors.

Display (size)

The Surface's 12-in display is actually 99 percent as big as the Ativ's 12.2-incher (owing to a different aspect ratio).

Display (resolution)

This is another killer feature for the Ativ Book 9, as it has an ultra-sharp 247 PPI display. That would be low for a modern smartphone, but for a laptop (which sits farther from your eyes) it's outstanding.

The Surface also has an excellent display, though, so you're basically choosing between "great" and "greater."

Touch screen

Many Windows Ultrabooks have touch screens, but not the Ativ Book. Doubling as a tablet, the Surface does, of course, have a touch screen.

Pen input

The Surface include's Microsoft's excellent Surface Pen. It's great for Photoshop, jotting notes and serving as a mouse replacement in desktop apps. You can also click its cap to immediately launch OneNote.

Battery

No word yet on the specs for the Ativ Book's battery, but Samsung is estimating "up to 10.5 hours" of (unknown) use. The Surface has very good battery life, and we think Microsoft's nine hours of web use is a solid estimate.

Processor

The Ativ's Broadwell chip not only helps it to be so light and thin, but it could also help to make that alleged 10.5 hour battery life a reality.

Microsoft sells the Surface in three different processor tiers, starting with a somewhat underpowered Core i3, and making a significant jump in the second tier to a Core i5.

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.

Graphics

The Ativ Book 9 has the newer integrated graphics.

RAM

Both machines come in 4 GB and 8 GB memory options (tied to different storage and processor tiers).

Storage

The Surface offers more storage tiers, also capping out at a more spacious 512 GB.

USB 3.0

The Ativ Book 9 has a pair of USB 3.0 ports, while the Surface only has one. If you buy a Surface, you might want to invest in a USB splitter accessory.

Video out

The Ativ uses a micro-HDMI port for video out, while the Surface has a Mini DisplayPort.

Cameras

Cameras aren't likely to be a big part of your decision, but the Surface does add a rear camera, as well as giving you a higher-resolution front shooter.

Software

The Ativ Book 9 is listed as running Windows 8.1, while the Surface runs Windows 8.1 Pro. Both will also get free upgrades to Windows 10 during the upcoming software's first year on the market.

Release

Samsung listed the updated Ativ Book 9 as launching in Q1, so, if those trains are on schedule, it should be out by the end of March. The Surface Pro 3 has been around since mid-2014, meaning we could be only three months or so from seeing a Surface Pro 4.

Starting price

The Surface and keyboard combo starts at US$270 cheaper than the Ativ Book, but remember that the entry-level Surface only gives you a Core i3 and 64 GB storage. If you're eyeing the Surface, we'd recommend looking at the second-tier model, with 128 GB storage and Core i5. That one rings up for $1,130 with keyboard, pushing it closer to the Ativ Book (though Microsoft currently has all SP3 models $100 cheaper if you buy from the Microsoft Store).

For more on these two, you can check out Gizmag's Ativ Book 9 hands-on from CES, and our full review of the Surface Pro 3.

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