In our standard performance tests the Series 9 came out ahead in overall performance, which isn’t surprising since it has a newer, more powerful CPU and more RAM than our Air review unit. [See full specs for the Series 9 and the Air]
However, in our Transfer Test, the SSD inside the Air proved speedier by 10 MB/second. Both are plenty fast, though.
We also tested application open times on both notebooks using Firefox 4 and the LibreOffice suite. (Times are averaged)
|Program||MacBook Air||Series 9|
|Firefox 4||2 seconds||2 seconds|
|LibreOffice||4 seconds||3 seconds|
New Document open
|3 seconds||2 seconds|
The Series 9 did a little better on average.
Next, we attempted to edit an 8-minute, 720p MP4 video (recorded with a Sanyo Xacti camcorder) using iMovie and Windows Live Movie Maker. Once we’d selected the clip, it took WLMM 5 minutes to prepare the video for editing but just 2 minutes for iMovie. Editing is more cumbersome in WLMM, but the Series 9 didn’t lag or stutter as we moved through the clip to find precise places to clip and add effects. The Air performed similarly here. When the video was ready, we exported it as a 720p clip using the default settings. The Series 9 was done with the video in 8 minutes, the Air took 38.
Winner: Samsung Series 9
The more powerful Core i5 processor inside the Series 9 makes a big difference when doing resource-intensive tasks.
When we first tested the Air and Series 9 we noted speedy cold boot and wake times for each laptop. The Air went from off to ready to use in 15 seconds. It took 20 seconds to see the Windows 7 desktop on the Series 9 and another 5 seconds until the blue circle stopped spinning.
Booting isn’t the only measure of speed. With notebooks it’s just as important how fast they come back from sleep. Samsung claimed that the Series 9 would wake from sleep in 3 seconds, but our initial tests said otherwise. We saw 4 seconds to wake with no programs running and 5 to 6 seconds with two programs running. Then an automatic Windows update came through. Afterwards, we found that the Series 9’s wake speed had improved. Still, the Air wakes from sleep pretty much instantly.
|(all times in seconds)||MacBook Air||Series 9|
|Time to Sleep||1||12|
|Time to Wake (no open programs)||1||2|
|Time to Wake (3 open programs)||2||3|
|Time to Boot||15||24|
|Time to Shut Down||2||14|
Time to sleep is also important, as users want to close their notebook and know it’s off without having to wait. Sliding the Series 9 into a bag while it’s in the process of sleeping shouldn’t hurt it, but it’s still annoying that it takes longer.
Winner: MacBook Air
Apple delivers a more instant-on like experience with the 13-inch MacBook Air.
Thanks to its Nvidia GeForce 320M graphics, the 13-inch MacBook Air blew the Series 9 away in our graphics benchmarks. Yes, the Air’s graphics are integrated, not discrete, but Nvidia’s tech consistently beat out Intel’s integrated HD graphics. Not only did the Air score twice as many marks in 3DMark06, it also managed 53 frames per second at its native resolution in World of Warcraft (with graphics set to Good), whereas the Series 9 crawled along at 14 fps at its lower native resolution on the same settings.
Though you can’t get your serious game on, casual titles such as Farmville and Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook ran just fine.
You can also enjoy HD video. We played a 1080p trailer for The Discoverers on both machines and saw smooth movement, crisp edges, and bright colors. Neither stuttered or dropped frames. We saw the same excellent performance when streaming a 1080p Lady Gaga performance from YouTube and the 1080p QuickTime trailer for Miral.
Winner: MacBook Air
No contest here.
One of the biggest benefits of toting an ultrathin ultraportable is being able to use it away from an outlet. For notebooks of this type, we like to see at least 6 hours of runtime. The MacBook Air exceeds this, lasting almost 6 and a half hours during the LAPTOP Battery Test. The Series 9 came in at more than an hour less.
Winner: MacBook Air
Getting close to all-day longevity is a big plus.