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Ultrabook decision

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July 29, 2012 6:45:10 AM

I'm going to be going off to college next month and I have decided on getting a new ultrabook. The problem is I can't decide on the best one. I will mainly be using it for basic stuff like web browsing and note taking, maybe a little light gaming, but I have a desktop for anything major.

I have mostly narrowed it down the these three.

Samsung series 9
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Asus Zenbook
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Macbook Air
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

I have used PC's until now but I am open to trying OSX, I will have windows installed on the Air in some form or another just in case.
If you think there is something better out there I am open to suggestions, but I need to get it in the next week or so.
My budget is about 1500, but that is flexible. I am not set on those configurations in the links, I just used the base models.
What do you guys suggest? I have been thinking about this for a while and I just cant make up my mind.
Thanks for all your help.

More about : ultrabook decision

a b D Laptop
July 29, 2012 7:07:09 AM

If you've only used Windows until now you'll only be irritated by OSX so don't bother with the Macbook.

If you absolutely must get an ultrabook the Zenbooks have gotten a few good reviews

However, since you're going off to school I'm going to assume that this is going to be your primary point of work for the next 3-4 years. I know you have a desktop but you will be on the go more than you think. I have a netbook, full sized laptop and a desktop. My laptop gets a massive workout and my netbook never gets touched. At this point you most definitely will want an actual laptop from a good manufacturer (no HP, Acer,or Toshiba).

Ultrabooks are nice to have and look at but they're going to be difficult to write essays on unless you have particularly small hands. For this you will want to go 15.6 or even 17.3.

Go to a PC shop and try out the various full size laptops because this is what you will want for your time on Campus and you will be spending a lot of time on campus. Take it from someone who's spent many years in post secondary.
July 29, 2012 6:21:04 PM

Hey 302stephen, I am in the same boat as you right now, minus the interest in a mac.

I have tried both the zenbook and the samsung series 9, the ones that you have listed.

I will start with build quality. Both computers seemed to be well built, neither felt particularly flimsy over another. From personal experience, I would say the samsung has a better build quality than the asus. It also costs a little more.

Another key difference I noticed was that the resolutions varied in each ultrabook. The asus sported its 1920x1080 which is awesome, but the samsung was rocking a 1600x900 resolution which is also nearly as good in a screen that size. This has led me to get a little confused as to why the samsung would cost more than the asus, but it is more than likely it has more expensive and better built parts on the inside (Just an educated guess).

Next up I studied the keyboards, as I will be typing a lot (I am going off to college next month, too). Both are very easy to use, and certainly big enough for big people who have big hands. My hands are on the larger side, and I found each keyboard to be very easy to type on. The samsung keys felt a little more fluid than the asus keys, but both were very functional.

If speakers are important, I noticed the samsung could deliver a much louder sound than the asus. The quality difference between both sounds wasn't very noticeable, especially in the store.

The mouse pads are both good for... mouse pad stuff (I found no particular problems with either)... with the clickers marked on the asus and unmarked on the samsung.

The speeds of both are very similar, even with different ssd's. Both processors are the same.

So overall, this is where I stand on the topic. I, like you, can't decide which computer to choose. I personally will probably choose the samsung, because I suspect that the build quality is a bit nicer and it isn't as flashy as the asus. I also preferred the display because it wasn't too bulky, it has very small side panels. Honestly, both resolutions are solid and I wouldn't complain about either. 1600x900 is a very good laptop resolution compared to the others that are offered from brands like dell, hp, and acer. Best of luck to you in your decision, hope my points help out!

P.S. My reason for doubting the build quality of asus is because of what I have read online about how long they last and what goes wrong, and I have a netbook built by them that has a lot of cheap plastics that have broken. You do get what you pay for, generally speaking, so keep that in mind when choosing between the samsung and the asus (and their minimal price differences).
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July 29, 2012 8:26:18 PM
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kfactor1119 said:
Hey 302stephen, I am in the same boat as you right now, minus the interest in a mac.

I have tried both the zenbook and the samsung series 9, the ones that you have listed.

I will start with build quality. Both computers seemed to be well built, neither felt particularly flimsy over another. From personal experience, I would say the samsung has a better build quality than the asus. It also costs a little more.

<snip>This has led me to get a little confused as to why the samsung would cost more than the asus, but it is more than likely it has more expensive and better built parts on the inside (Just an educated guess).

<snip>
The mouse pads are both good for... mouse pad stuff (I found no particular problems with either)... with the clickers marked on the asus and unmarked on the samsung.
<snip>

P.S. My reason for doubting the build quality of asus is because of what I have read online about how long they last and what goes wrong, and I have a netbook built by them that has a lot of cheap plastics that have broken. You do get what you pay for, generally speaking, so keep that in mind when choosing between the samsung and the asus (and their minimal price differences).


First, I did want to note that the biggest complaints about the Zenbook (at least for the previous gen) were its touchpad so its a good sign that you say both are good. For the OP i recommend that he try out both touchpads, as for some people this was a reason to completely disregard the Asus so make sure you check it out!

For build quality, Asus has become a powerhouse in this field. In fact consumer reports and some other consumer agencies typically rate Asus as just behind Lenovo's Thinkpad line for top consumer notebooks over the last few years. Your netbook may have been an older model because the amount of plastics in the newer ones is pretty limited. Samsung is good but typically falls in line with similar brands like Sony, Dell's XPS lin, and HP's Envy line.
The price is not really representative of the hardware you get. Samsung has a much stronger household name and like Sony, Dell XPS, and HP Envy you have to pay that premium for the Samsung name. The internal and external hardware is very similar between the two machines.
Speaking to the screen, IMO the IPS panel on the Zenbook has much better viewing angles and better colors than those of the Samsung's but again this it something one must look at by ones self. The Samsung panel looked a little washed and pale to me. Though the Zenbook's panel (especially the 1080p version) requires windows to do good scaling, which it just cannot at the current time. So if the 1080p makes the text too small for your eyes or other things you may want to look at the 1600x900 Zenbook.
July 29, 2012 8:54:04 PM

All three of these computers have gotten good reviews and are very good machines, I just cant decide which one is best for me. One of the main reasons I want an Ultrabook is that they have most of the power of a regular laptop but are still
extremely portable. I do have fairly small hands and I have tried typing on that size laptop and have not had any problems.
I'm only considering the mac because its a good piece of hardware. The Samsung costs $250-300 more than the Zenbook, and there's only one configuration available. I'm not sure if a 128GB drive is big enough, and a bigger drive is only available on the Macbook and the Zenbook.
In my experience, Asus is a good brand, and I have heard they make a pretty good computer, but that there are a couple quality control issues on the Zenbook, but nothing major.
My main issue with the Samsung is that I am having a hard time justifying spending that much more when i can get a much better Zenbook for the same price.
I have checked out both laptops (i could only get my hands on the 15in version oft he series 9, but they are almost identical) and both the track pads work well, although i think i prefer the Samsung as it feels a little more solid. The new Zenbook is much better than the 2011 model. The new Series 9 is supposed to have a very good screen, one of the best. but there isn't much doubt that the Zenbook's screen is superior.
July 29, 2012 10:13:03 PM

Is there a reason you are trying to justify spending more on the Samsung? From your post it seems like you do like both, but because of the cost you are leaning towards the Zenbook which also offers you a larger drive. (Remember you can always buy a 256GB ssd for about $200 and more like $160-$180 if you wait for a deal).

If the Samsung does seem like a better machine to you, you can justify the cost by considering that its battery life is superior (though not by much with the new models of the Zenbook apparently) and it doesn't have those quality control issues you mentioned.
July 29, 2012 10:38:09 PM

If I could upgrade it, it would make my decision much easier, but the series 9 and the Zenbook both use a special type of ssd, so you cant just put any2.5in drive in it. I do like both laptops, the Zenbook is more price effective, and it is available for a GB drive, plus has a better screen. But the series 9 is so much more beautiful; its thinner and lighter, and I have always loved the series 9, from the time the first model came out. the major thing i have issue with is the small drive, I know i can use external drives but i would rather not have to mess with that. will 128GB be enough for everyday use, I don't need to carry around any HD movies, just some photos and some music, just a couple GB total.
July 29, 2012 11:05:32 PM

People here dislike Apple and recomend against it, but they never tried OS X. This is the great oportunity for you to try the OS and its applications. Be familiar with both worlds.

One more thing, the Macbook Air has inferior specs apparently, but take note of the following, in 2 years this Samsung will be worth $500 and way less for the Asus. The air will be at least $800. So when you go to resell it, it will be even cheaper to upgrade.

Most people here say you gonna pay more for less, but in reality thats not how the trade market works. Macs are kinda cheaper and therefore faster too
July 30, 2012 1:00:24 AM

I would like to try OSX at some point, but I would like to keep this computer until I graduate, and I don't want to be stuck with an OS I don't like for so long. The Air has the exact same specs as the windows laptops, except it has the worst screen out of thee three, but its still pretty good.
July 30, 2012 1:19:55 AM

Asus is going to be releasing their new Transformer prime update

notebookcheck is known for insulting every single notebook flaw out there, the review I read was critical of the Charger hitting 60c temps, otherwise I think this is the first one iv seen with a consistent praise pattern, probably good to look into it.

although I havnt heard anything about windows 8 or OSX compatibility and its still going through the US FCC testing, Im guessing its going to hit shelves within 2 months, I Guess.

Im pretty sure the hardware will be more then enough for windows 8, which is rumored to be priced fairly, when it comes out.
July 30, 2012 1:20:53 AM

leandrodafontoura said:
People here dislike Apple and recomend against it, but they never tried OS X. This is the great oportunity for you to try the OS and its applications. Be familiar with both worlds.

One more thing, the Macbook Air has inferior specs apparently, but take note of the following, in 2 years this Samsung will be worth $500 and way less for the Asus. The air will be at least $800. So when you go to resell it, it will be even cheaper to upgrade.

Most people here say you gonna pay more for less, but in reality thats not how the trade market works. Macs are kinda cheaper and therefore faster too

What do you mean that they are "cheaper therefore faster"?

302stephen said:
I would like to try OSX at some point, but I would like to keep this computer until I graduate, and I don't want to be stuck with an OS I don't like for so long. The Air has the exact same specs as the windows laptops, except it has the worst screen out of thee three, but its still pretty good.


What is the price difference between the two?
a b D Laptop
July 30, 2012 1:28:21 AM

302stephen said:
I would like to try OSX at some point, but I would like to keep this computer until I graduate, and I don't want to be stuck with an OS I don't like for so long. The Air has the exact same specs as the windows laptops, except it has the worst screen out of thee three, but its still pretty good.


OSX does a few things really nicely and it's worth checking out (go to the apple store, just bring some Lysol and ear plugs) but as a general purpose desktop OS it still lacks a lot of the "playground" feel that Windows has. If OSX were a tablet OS I'd jump on it in a heartbeat, but I have a really hard time using it as a desktop os with lots of applications.

It presents itself very well but it really tries to hide a lot of the important information from the user. Not necessarily a bad thing for teenage girls, grandmothers and library users but I quickly found myself frustrated by a lack of flexibility and information anaemia. The task bar and start menu that are so iconic to the fluidity of Windows have no proper analogue in OSX.

The lack of uniformity is what makes Windows a strong platform, and it's also what gives Windows its massive momentum. The sheer number of frameworks and APIs that are exposed either natively or by installation mean that there's really nothing that OSX can do that Windows can't. The converse is unfortunately not true.

If you start using OSX you'll find that you have to rely on Apple for pretty much everything. If Apple doesn't want you to have something you're not going to get it. When they do want you to have something it is usually well designed and works almost flawlessly.
July 30, 2012 2:17:08 AM

I need a Laptop in the next week or two, so I can't wait for the Transformer, and thats a tablet anyways so it wont be able to do what I want.

The Zenbook runs for about $999, the series 9 $1250 and the Air is $1200 all base prices. With the air i can upgrade to *GB ram for $100 which might be worth it, and I will also have to buy a new copy of windows so that's another $100, so maybe more like $1400 for the Air if i get windows and the 8GB ram.

If I do get the Air I will probably use OSX mostly because of the huge hit to battery life when using windows on a mac with boot camp, and only use windows when i need to, or if I had the 8GB ram I could probably virtualize it pretty well
July 30, 2012 2:27:35 AM

You can buy 4gb sticks of ram for like $20 :p 
I still like the Zenbook the most, but at this point its really personal preference!
Does the Zenbook come with the 2year manufacturers warranty many Asus's come with? That could be another thing to note.
July 30, 2012 3:05:42 AM

302stephen said:
I would like to try OSX at some point, but I would like to keep this computer until I graduate, and I don't want to be stuck with an OS I don't like for so long. The Air has the exact same specs as the windows laptops, except it has the worst screen out of thee three, but its still pretty good.


Oh man, I switched over to OSX last year and i think it's great. Any barriers you come across can mostly be solved by a quick google, like the NTFS write out of the box.

Bootcamp works a treat on them and the support on the machines is brilliant. The only complaint i would have would be the graphics side of things, but that's no problem for me as i keep a windows desktop at home i built myself.
July 30, 2012 3:32:04 AM

You cant just stick another stick of ram in these laptops, they only have one slot and its probably a custom stick soldered on to the motherboard. The Zenbook comes with a 2 year warranty, and the series 9 and Air both have a 1 year.
July 30, 2012 4:13:29 AM

Ah duh, sorry - I forgot that basically all the ultrabooks are like that!

Well again I like the Zenbook with that price and the warranty, but I think the reasoning for the Samsung is jusitified. (I am not going to comment on the Air because after 4 years of using it almost every day for school I despise OSX).
July 30, 2012 4:39:25 AM

I assume you have a desktop with a monitor running 1920x1080. Try switching it to 1600x900 and use it that way for a week. My laptop has a 13" 1600x900 screen. While that's considerably better than 1366x768, I find that it's just not wide enough. I'd like to be able to put two apps side by side, but 800 px in width just isn't wide enough for one of today's apps or websites. The two apps always end up overlapped and I'm always clicking to bring one or the other to the foreground (I switched to an X-style mouse which changes focus on hover, which helps a bit).

So assuming youy eyes can deal with 1920x1080 on a 13" screen, that'd be a major plus for the Asus IMHO.

If you've never used OS X, I'd strongly recommend trying a friend's Mac for a bit before you sink $1.2k into one. Most people seem to like it, but some absolutely hate it. It tries to hide a lot of the complexity of the OS from you, which some users find very frustrating. (It runs a variant of BSD/Unix under the hood. I troubleshoot them by popping open a text terminal and using Unix commands. That always leaves Mac owners flabbergasted when they see what's lurking underneath the shiny GUI.)
August 1, 2012 7:20:13 AM

Thanks for all for your advice, it has really helped me decide, I just picked up a Zenbook. I decided the series 9 wasn't worth the extra $200, and that now wasn't the right time to try out OSX. Thanks for all your help, i really appreciate it.
August 1, 2012 7:23:39 AM

Best answer selected by 302stephen.
September 13, 2012 8:21:14 PM

302stephen said:
Thanks for all for your advice, it has really helped me decide, I just picked up a Zenbook. I decided the series 9 wasn't worth the extra $200, and that now wasn't the right time to try out OSX. Thanks for all your help, i really appreciate it.


nice! i just bought a zenbook myself. i just ordered the 8gb memory module and 512gb ssd. i'm stoked!
!