Samsung Notebook 9 Pro hands-on: A laptop for creative and business users alike

Samsung's latest 2-in-1 laptop features an S-Pen, Samsung's Windows software suite, and a solid battery life.

Most of the attention Samsung receives is for its smartphone lineup, and rightfully so. Samsung's Galaxy line is Apple's biggest competition, often setting the bar for fellow Android device makers and Apple alike.

Samsung's laptop business, on the other hand, has steadily improved and is starting to prove competitive with the top PC makers. I've spent the past couple of weeks using the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro, a 2-in-1 with a few tricks of its own.

Samsung's expanding ecosystem

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Samsung's Notebook 9 Pro with preinstalled Samsung apps. (Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

Much in the same way Samsung built an ecosystem of products and services on top of Google's Android operating system, the company is trying to do the same on top of Microsoft's Windows platform.

Pre-installed on the Notebook 9 Pro is a series of Samsung apps, some of which work with the company's latest Galaxy smartphone. Others are designed to be familiar to those who've recently owned one of Samsung's Android devices, such as Samsung Notes.

Samsung Link Sharing service makes it easier to share a large photo or video files and is also found on Samsung's Galaxy devices. Samsung Security is another app that's similar to the Secure Folder app on Galaxy devices, only with PC-specific features such as blocking the camera or microphone from being accessed by nefarious apps.

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Another Samsung app, called PC Message, syncs text messages between your Galaxy smartphone and the PC. Being able to sit and text from your computer and have everything in sync with your phone is one of the (many) reasons Apple's iMessage platform is so hard to leave.

PC Message is not perfect. For instance, I was directed to view received photos on my phone, instead of inline with the chat, but it's a step in the right direction. I truly hope Samsung will continue to build upon the platform and make it available to Windows devices outside of its own brand, along with Mac.

Earlier this week, Samsung announced its Flow app was updated to work with all Windows 10 computers running the Creative update.

Samsung Flow is an app that links the Galaxy S8 to the laptop, mirroring the phone's notifications to your desktop. You can even unlock the Notebook 9 Pro using the S8's fingerprint sensor once Flow is setup.

Flow is useful when replying to messages, but outside of that, there's a lot of aspects Samsung got wrong. For instance, I can't tell Flow which apps I want to see notifications from and which to ignore.

Even though Samsung is building out its ecosystem on Windows, in the case of something like Flow and PC Message, it feels like there's a lot of competition between apps, and the company's end goal isn't always clear. Another example would be the fact that Samsung Notes doesn't sync with the Notes app on any of the Galaxy tablets or phones. Why? It makes no sense.

Still, I find one of the more compelling aspects of Samsung laptops to be the Samsung apps themselves, and not always the hardware.

S-Pen

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Here, have an S-Pen for your Notebook 9 Pro. (Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

Samsung tucked its popular S-Pen stylus into the underside of the laptop. Once removed, the Notebook 9 Pro automatically opens Samsung's Air Command feature (also found on its Galaxy Note smartphone line), with options to take a note, view your notes, create a screenshot, take a screenshot and notate it, or show a window.

The S-Pen isn't a full-sized stylus, similar to a pen or pencil like Samsung used on the Galaxy Book. Instead, it's similar in size to the Galaxy Note's stylus.

It requires no pairing or battery charging. It just works once you remove it. A lone button on the S-Pen will launch Air Command when you hold the pen just above the display.

The display of the Notebook 9 Pro folds flat against the bottom of the housing, turning the 2-in-1 into a 15-inch doodle machine.

Well, for me it's doodling, because I'm a horrible artist. Even stick figures are better left to someone else; like my kids.

On a couple of occasions I used the Notes app to jot down ideas and notes in this orientation and found it to be a bit cumbersome with so large of a display, but for someone who makes a living sketching and creating, I can see how attractive this setup would be.

Performance

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The Samsung 15-inch Notebook 9 Pro. (Image: Jason Cipriani/ZDNet)

Samsung claims the Notebook 9 Pro has "all day" battery life, and my use falls just short of that, though each person's definition of how long a day is will vary. In other words, I was able to use the Notebook 9 Pro during the course of a normal workday, but not any longer. You can charge the device through a USB-C port and take advantage of fast charging, or with the included proprietary charger.

At no time did I feel like the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro was underpowered or struggling to keep up with multiple Chrome tabs and apps running in the background. The only app that took longer than I expected to open was Samsung's Air Command.

In conclusion

The Notebook 9 Pro is one of the best Windows laptops or 2-in-1's I've used in recent memory. Taking into account the S-Pen for jotting quick notes, its solid performance, and the versatility of the device being able to go from a sketchpad to a multitasking device, if I was looking at buying a Windows PC right now, this device would be at the top of my list.

I would, however, opt for the smaller 13-inch model just for ease of portability. I don't need or want a 15-inch display.

The Notebook 9 Pro starts at $1,099 for the 13-inch model. The 15-inch model starts at $1,299.

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