The original MacBook Air (and its 2010 design refresh) was ahead of its time, and spurred a storm of copycats on the Windows side of the aisle. But in the last couple of years Ultrabooks, including the MacBook Air, haven't been changing much – at least from a design standpoint. But Samsung's new Ativ Book 9 (2015) is really something to behold ... or rather, something to hold.

When we approached the Samsung Ativ Book 9 at CES 2015, it was sitting on a table. It looked nice, but nothing that would stand out from tens (maybe hundreds) of other Ultrabooks waiting at your local electronics store. But once we picked it up: hoo-boy, you realize this isn't like those other Ultrabooks.

This is one incredibly light and thin laptop. Compared to its obvious rival, the MacBook Air, Samsung's laptop is 31-32 percent thinner and 12-29 percent lighter (depending on whether you're looking at the 11- or 13-in Air). In hand, it's hard to describe how feathery it feels. Laptops are finally catching up to some of the light/thin innovations we've recently seen in tablets, like the iPad Air 2 and Galaxy Tab S.

The device also has WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) resolution, spread out over 12.2 inches (giving it an impressive 247 pixels per inch). In person, it really pops – with sharp text, rich colors and terrific contrast.

Being a Windows device, we reached up to swipe the screen, only to realize that this one doesn't offer touch. Fortunately the trackpad is large, and appears to be one of the better options on the Windows end of town. And though we, at first, thought this featherweight was made of plastic, it actually has an all-aluminum body, similar to the Air.

The Samsung Ativ Book 9 (2015) is set to ship in Q1 2015, and will start at US$1,200 for the 128 GB SSD (4 GB RAM) version. A higher-end 256 GB/8 GB version runs up to $1,400.

Software preferences aside, Samsung just gave Apple a great reason to get a move on with that long-rumored, but still unannounced, MacBook Air with Retina Display.

This article was updated on 01/06: we originally described the Ativ Book 9's build as being made of plastic, but it's 100 percent aluminum.

View gallery - 4 images