Samsung has just announced its ATIV Book 9 laptop, so we put it head to head with Microsoft’s Surface Book and Apple’s MacBook Pro counterparts to figure out which one is the true value for money.
Sometimes, owning the best laptop in the market is considered a necessity to help you get through with all that workload you need to finish on a strict timeline.
In other cases, tech fans simply like to put two or more products head to head in order to see which one deserves to be at the top.
In both cases, this comparison is definitely worth reading through, as it includes three opponents (Samsung ATIV Book 9, Microsoft Surface Book, Apple MacBook Pro) that all provide peak performance, and therefore plot twists and controversies are considered a must and should probably be expected.
All three manufacture companies – Samsung, Microsoft and Apple – are well known for coming up with some pretty innovative and easy on the eye designs.
The Samsung ATIV Book Plus 9 starts with a design that, according to the majority of customers, resembles a lot to Apple’s 12-inch MacBook, which leaves no room for creativity. But that is not actually true, so let’s settle this once and for all.
Samsung announced its system, shortly afterward at CES 2015, more than two months before Apple gave notice of the 12-inch MacBook. We understand that further comparisons between the two devices concerning the design may be inevitable. Yet the ATIV Book 9 Pro looks elegant for the most part, with a matte-metallic finish, black island-style keyboard, and a relatively large touchpad.
The MacBook Pro has been designed based on its predecessors that the Apple rolled out in 2012 for the first time and then later in 2013, with the same unibody aluminium frame and edge-to-edge glass display.
It’s far from being considered as a light or slim option, weighing 1.6Kg and measuring at 18mm thick. Its most noticeable difference from the previous models, is the Force Touch trackpad which is a new approach to the traditional hinged click-down design found on most laptops.
The Surface Book Pro stands out for each so-called “liberal” design. The whole device is a bit hefty to pick up and what’s more interesting is that, when closed, the Surface Book Pro goes from 13mm thick in the front to 22mm thick in the rear, while it weighs at 1.4Kg, or 1.6Kg, depending on whether you choose the variant with the Nvidia GPU or not.
Due to the thicker rear hinge this laptop can sometimes be more awkward to pick up and carry around.
The ATIV Book 9 Plus is Samsung’s first 4K laptop, so its 15.6-inch display has a 3840 x 2160 resolution and the company also claims that it also features “real time HDR enhancements” which, to be honest, is probably another way of referring to decent brightness and contrast optimization.
MacBook Pro may not sport a 4K display but its 13.3-inch screen is filled with 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, which also gives the viewer an exceptional viewing perspective.
Same goes for the Surface Book, which comes with a 13.5 -inch 3,000 x 2,000 touchscreen display. Note that out of all three, the Surface Book is the only one with a touchscreen – not a surprise since it can also be used as a tablet – and comes second in resolution.
A top tier laptop that Samsung brags about could not run with anything less that the sixth generation of Intel’s Core i processor running at 2.7GHz, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M graphics card, four speakers, and a 4K HDMI out port.
And while we all may know more or less that 8GB of RAM and an SSD driver are quite impressive for a laptop, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M graphics card is what should draw your attention, as it is what will take your product to the next level, in terms of gaming, video editing or professional use.
Of course, the ATIV Book 9 Plus is not the only one which has a powerful engine under the hood. As a matter of fact, the MacBook Pro also has a few tricks up its sleeve, including Intel’s Broadwell Core i5-5257U. Admittedly, this specific model did not manage to excite us in the benchmark tests when it came to application performance, but Apple says that with this choice it has achieved enhanced efficiency and thus longer battery life.
Now combine that with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD hard drive and what you get is a machine that can perform nearly any kind of tasks.
However, it is worth mentioning that not only is the 2015 MacBook Pro under Samsung’s ATIV Book 9 Pro in terms of performance, but Apple’s latest MacBook Pro also embodies lower-end components to its predecessors as well. For instance, the 15-inch Pro from 2014 had a more powerful -but slightly older- Core i7 processor and twice the RAM, at 16GB.
As for the Surface Book, it’s also highly competitive, with a 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U processor – from the latest Skylake generation of chips – 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD driver (note that the retail version is 256GB). What makes all the difference in this case, is the new custom Nvidia graphics chip, packed into the keyboard base of the system.
Neither NVIDIA nor Microsoft have disclosed any details on the said graphics card but, according to CNET, “it looks like this GPU is roughly on the level of Nvidia’s lower-end GeForce 940M chip”.
Samsung’s contestant loses ground in this field, as the Korean tech giant has noted as a downside, since the battery lasts roughly for 6.5 hours, probably due to the 4K resolution. It might not seem enough, but it is definitely an improvement than other 4K laptops available in the market – for instance, Toshiba’s 4K laptop lasts only for 3.5 hours.
The MacBook Pro on the other side, is even better than before, since Apple has added an extra hour of battery life thanks to the Broadwell processor. Now the laptop can run for approximately 15 hours, which puts it not far behind from the all-time leader in battery life, the 2014 13-inch MacBook Air.
As for Microsoft’s Surface Book, the fact that it can also be used as a tablet – which means that the screen gets detached and operated as a different system – kind of complicates things when it comes to battery.
According to the firm, the battery is split in two segments, with the biggest one being located under the keyboard. Only one quarter is found inside the screen so, obviously, you can’t keep it in tablet mode for as long as you might have expected. Official tests indicate that the device can run for a total time of around 12 hours with both batteries combined.
Thankfully, the system is smart enough to consume the biggest part of the battery first, which is under the keyboard, so that you can then use the tablet separately.
Price and availability
While the components described above are included in the standard editions, all three laptops are highly customizable, with Microsoft’s Surface Book being the most customizable one – it is available in six different variants.
The Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus starts at $1,299 and goes through the main $1,700 variant that embodies an improved Intel Core i7 5500U processor, to reach the $1,800 ceiling where you can get it with an even better i7 4500U CPU.
Apple’s 13-inch 2015 MacBook can be purchased for $1,300, $1,500 and $1,800 accordingly, depending on the installment you choose. Each one comes with expanded internal capacity while the most expensive model also has an improved CPU that clocks at 2.9Ghz instead of 2.7Ghz.
And last but not least, the Surface Book is surprisingly customizable, so you can get your hands on any of the six available editions you want. The most affordable one costs $1,500, but the price keeps rising until the $3,200 that one must give for the best variant.
Note that all prices are written based on the official sites of each company. You may be able to find a better deal at a local retail store for example, but that does not typify the general price of each laptop.
Taken all the above under consideration, it’s quite hard to declare only one of the three contestants as the winner.
However, we think that the best option you can go with is the Surface Book on the grounds that it may not be the best on every aspect – none of them is – but it’s never left too far behind, while at the same time it comes with a few features that give it a big advantage, such as the detachable screen and the tablet mode or the pen that it packs.
Do you think that another option should be added? Let us know in the comments below!