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The display and controls
Looking at the spec sheet for the Series 9, you'd be be tempted to think there's nothing remarkable about its 13.3", 1366x768 display. And you'd be wrong. Upon lifting the machine's lid, you'll notice that the display has a matte finish. Yes, this is one of those blessed few screens that doesn't double as a vanity mirror in the presence of sunlight. Samsung has outfitted the Series 9 with an uncannily powerful backlight, as well, giving the display an impressive 400 cd/m² brightness rating.

Put together, those attributes translate into crisp, bright colors unhindered by pesky reflections. The backlight is so bright that you may want to turn it down a couple notches.

The Series 9's display has surprisingly good horizontal viewing angles, but tilting it too far back or forward will induce noticeable color shift. That means Samsung has likely used a TN panel—although I'm guessing it's a cut above the rank and file, if the image quality is any indication.

You're looking at a bilingual Canadian keyboard, so don't mind that large enter key. The U.S. version of the Series 9 has a good ol', down-home, flat enter key, just like George Washington intended. (The left shift key is the right size, too, and everything else is as it should be. Don't worry.)

Although it's a little hard to tell in the picture above, the metal used for the palm rest doesn't extend into the keyboard. Samsung surrounds the keys with a slab of glossy black plastic. Such design decisions never cease to amaze us here at TR. Keyboards are made to be touched, and glossy black plastic is one of the world's most potent fingerprint magnets. Keyboards with glossy bezels are guaranteed to look disgusting within minutes of use.

The Series 9's keyboard has backlighting. No matter how you shake it, keyboard backlights are just plain cool—not to mention very handy if you happen to be using the laptop in a dimly lit environment. Touch typists may scoff at the notion, but even the most seasoned might occasionally need help locating, say, the volume up and down keys.

In terms of size, here's how the Series 9's keyboard compares to our full-sized reference keyboard, which has traditional, non-chiclet keys:

  Total keyboard area Alpha keys
  Width Height Area Width Height Rough area
Size 279 mm 104 mm 29,016 mm² 168 mm 51 mm 8,568 mm²
Versus full size 97% 95% 92% 98% 89% 87%

I believe this is known in computer parlance as a "pretty much normal chiclet keyboard." For the record, the distance from the left of the A key to the right of the L key is essentially identical between the Series 9's keyboard and Apple's desktop chiclet keyboard.

While the Apple keyboard is pretty solid, the one on the Series 9 exhibits quite a bit of flex. The flex gives typing a sort of mushy, rubbery feel, a bit like kneading dough or giving your date a backrub. Neither of those activities are unpleasant per se, but firm, consistent tactile feedback makes long writing sessions much more comfortable. Unfortunately, the Series 9 doesn't deliver that.

I was more impressed with the touchpad—one of Synaptic's ClickPad units, which turns the touch-sensitive surface into a button via a hinge at the top. This design's coefficient of friction feels just right, and the surface area is large enough to allow for swanky multi-touch gestures. Users can scroll with two fingers, flick with three, and even swipe up with four fingers to switch between applications with Aero Flip. As far as PC touchpads go, this might be one of the best. Holding down the button while moving the cursor doesn't always seem to work reliably, though, so drag-and-drop operations can take a couple of tries. This particular touchpad seems better suited to tap-to-click mode than to traditional clicking.