Tuesday, June 12, 2012

8gB RAM Samsung Series 9 np900x4c Teardown

UPDATE: 7/12/2012----------------
I wrote up a comparison of this 16gB Samsung Series 9 15" Ultrabook to the Asus Zenbook Prime here. I also compare it to the Macbook Air here.
Below you will see how to upgrade the 8gB RAM to 16gB.
You can also upgrade the mSata SSD by following my instructions, here.

Make sure to check out the world's first ultrabook docking station that I designed and produce personally on my tech gadgets (product ideas are often user-submissions/crowd-sourced) 3d-printing site, techneesh!
----------------

I bought the np900x3b knowing it would be significantly outdated in a matter of weeks by the Ivy bridge model. I also was told it could be upgraded from 4gB to 8gB RAM by the Samsung rep. While I could live with the former, finding out the latter is untrue was a dealbreaker for me.

Further, coming from the (now-seemingly) hefty Dell XPS 15Z, the 13" Samsung was almost too small and light! It slides around in my backpack's laptop sleeve and its screen size is too drastic of a downgrade from my 4x 22+" monitors at home.




Enter the np900x4c. Picked it up at a local BestBuy (they only had one other, and were the only store in Michigan to have it) for $1399 on June 10th, 2012.

Initial reaction: when did 3.5 pounds get sooooo heavy??!!
It looks pretty beastly next to the 13.3". Pictures below of both laptops with the back cover removed.

Differences:
1. Sandisk SSD instead of Samsung (after multiple benchmark tests for the Sandisk using Benchme, it shows slightly (5-10%) slower speeds, much more unreliability in score, and 2-3x the access time (around .4-.7ms instead of Samsung's .2ms)
2. The power cable turns 90 degrees where it plugs in to the s9
3. thicker/heavier
4. more battery
5. more ports
6. 15" screen is same brightness and resolution as the 13.3", but logos appear slightly blurry. Text is crisp, but some logos seem blurry to me. Viewing angles look good.
7. User-removable RAM!! 2 slots (see pics below)





 For those that don't know, you can actually upgrade to 16gB of RAM for around $70 (amazon.com). Even if the tech specs say the laptop won't support it, it probably will. I'm usually pretty good with 8 but if you need to have multiple VMs running simultaneously, the upgrade may be for you.




 Be careful when removing the insulating tape - it wants to steal the Sandisk sticker.









 Series 9 on top of Series 9.








Bottom line:

If you want a desktop replacement that's also very portable, the 10-hour battery life 8gB ram 3.5 pound np900x4c is definitely for you.

If you want something to plug into your tv for netflix, take everywhere, and browse the web, the np900x3b or np900x3c are both excellent choices.

Note: both laptops (the np900x3b and the np900x4c) run Diablo 3 beautifully :)
Just turn down the graphics settings all the way for the 3b.

Per Alessandro's request, I took some shots of the x3b and x4c side by side. It was dusk and the x4c was closer to the window so there's a bit of potentially biasing glare. I will take more shots tonight with even lighting (and when my girlfriend isn't using her x3b ;)

Even while I was taking the photos I didn't notice much difference, but it does seem the viewing angles are worse on the x4c. I spent the last 5 minutes in very awkward head-cocking poises trying to discern a difference, but I'm still kind of baffled. They look very similar in person, but in the photos... well, you'll see.












 It's possible the screen dimmed on the x4c due to power settings here. I will take more photos and ensure that doesn't happen later tonight.



UPDATE: I took more photos. While it is evident the x3b/c has a much better panel (PLS) than the x4c, I'm still pleased enough with the x4c to keep it.

If folks are interested enough, I may even upgrade it (Samsung np900x4c) to 16GB of RAM.





I believe one reason it may look less sharp is due to the gamma/color settings. I saw this snippet of a review on Amazon that sounds worth a try:
"UPDATE: I just played around with the display settings and got it to look not so horrible: Right click on desktop and go to Screen Resolution > Advanced Settings > Intel Graphics and Media Control Panel > Graphics Properties... Change it to Advanced Mode. General Settings > Color Enhancement Change the Color drop down menu to All Colors, adjust the Contrast and Gamma settings until a photo looks as normal as possible. My settings are:
Brightness: 31
Contrast: 40
Gamma: .7
Hue: 0
Saturation: 5"

Per Alessandro's second request, I took some photos head on of the two screens. Then I adjusted the color settings on the 15" and took some more, then adjusted again, etc.













It's weird that by default the clouds look more purple on the np900x4c. I kind of like that better. But it is not hard to see the overall quality of the PLS is much better - particularly with the vertical viewing angles. If they made the 13" with 8GB of RAM, I would probably choose that. The screen quality is still quite good in the x4c, so I think I'll hold onto it until (if?) the Zenbook Prime with 8GB of RAM comes out. Which I'll probably have to then return because it will be too high resolution.

71 comments:

  1. Hi there,

    Thanks a lot for the review. I'd like to ask if you could put up some pictures comparing the 13" and the 15" displays. People say the latter is not a PLS panel and hence has worse viewing angles. Since you own both, I'd really like to see some pictures showing them together to tell if there is much difference.

    Cheers,
    Alessandro

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Alessandro, glad you liked it!

      I just took a whole bunch of photos and will add them as soon as they are done uploading. It's dusk here so it was hard to get good shots- but I can say that they looked VERY similar to me.

      Cheers,

      Will

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    2. Thanks a lot for the very prompt feedback. Posts that go as deep as yours are really of great help when trying which is going to be my next toy :)

      And it is indeed a good news that the display of the 15" is a good one, I was a little bit put off by people complaining it hasn't particularly good viewing angles.

      Delete
    3. Thanks again for the update with new pictures. As a last question, would you mind taking a shot op the two laptops from a front view, something like http://forum.notebookreview.com/samsung/637717-samsung-15-series-9-np900x4b-thread-53.html#post8444263?

      The link above compares the two screens, and they look so different, while the 15" seems pretty much OK here. Just wondering if the colour profile used for the comparison I linked was simply too blue (the factory ICC profile was used there).

      Thanks again,
      Alessandro

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    4. Added more photos for you, Alessandro :)

      Delete
    5. You are the man! Thanks a lot, these really help!

      Delete
  2. Is the SSD also user service-able in the 15"?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes sir, it's in the photos (it's the one that says Sandisk)

      You can buy a 256GB drive for around $250 on mydigitaldiscount.com. There's a $20 off coupon on slickdeals.net.

      For imaging the drive (to upgrade ssd), I recommend CloneZilla. It's free, fast, and works very well.

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  3. I can see that you have removed the SSD on the NP900X3B.
    Is there any thing special with this on NP900X3B. I want to make sure that at least SSD is up gradable.

    I was about to do a purchase on NP900X3B as many web sites inclusive of, Samsung and crucial does refer / sell RAM kits for this model!!!!!

    cheers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. removing the SSD is very easy- and yes it is upgradeable!

      You will have to disconnect a ribbon cable to get to it (you'll see which one)

      Delete
    2. you can also see my other blog for photos of the x3b's innards
      http://uselesspuzzles.blogspot.com/2012/03/13-ultrabook-with-8gb-ram.html

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    3. I did see that thanks for the heads up. I was fooled with the misleading information that i can upgrade RAM on NP900X3B.

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    4. As there is no new information on NP900X3C I assume its the same.

      Delete
    5. Yes I believe you're right. Just updated the cpu for the most part.

      Delete
  4. on the new samsung series 9 ultrabook.. you mention it has two user removable ram slots.. any way to confirm if you can indeed upgrade to 16gb? I've looked on the net but cannot find anything that confirms this yet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't confirm it personally but I would be willing to bet you $100 that it will work.

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    2. I can confirm it works.
      http://mobtechwatch.blogspot.com/2012/06/samsung-series-9-np900x4c-with-16gb-ram.html

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    3. Do you know if this will boost the graphics card performance or if 8gb already maxes out the shared ram that the card can access? I'm planning to run solidworks on mine, and I'm wondering if the extra ram will make any difference. Thanks.

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    4. I wouldn't expect a big graphics boost, but if you have a suggestion for how to best go about testing it I'd be happy to :)

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  5. Great blog! I'm not too familiar with the performance of the mobile hd 4000. My daily use: SIMULTANEOUSLY play 1080p on hdtv via hdmi and surf web(youtube on laptop screen), ms office, photoshop. This is set up in extended display(i'm sure you know this lol). If you can set this up let me know how the NP900X4C handles this-that would be great. If the system can handle this and not overheat then I would consider replacing my current laptop with this beautiful series 9 15".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks!

      yes i do it constantly (stream 1080p movies to the tv via hdmi and surf the web/do other stuff incl photoshop/3d modeling on the little screen)

      my gf does as well (she has the 13" np900x3b (pre-ivy bridge)) without a problem.

      hope this helps! i'd def rec. the series 9. see my most recent post if you haven't- I got the new Zenbook to compare and will be returning it promptly in favor of the s9.

      best,

      W

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    2. Thank you for the reply. Dell just (today) came out with a new xps 14 (1.7ghz, 900p screen, hd 4000 and GT630M, and .81")... Looks like i should wait a while..

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    3. I've been a die-hard Dell fan for my last 5 laptops, in fact, my last one was the 15z. However, I was not impressed with that last one :/

      4.6 pounds puts the XPS 14 somewhat outside the ultrabook class. the 3.6 pounds for the 15" Samsung feels almost too heavy for me already :)

      Delete
  6. Would you know if the NP900X4D (X4D instead of X4C) has a PLS screen?

    Google Samsung NP900X4D-A02US

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately there is no 15" Series 9 with PLS, currently.

      Both are listed as
      'LED HD+ Display Type
      1600 x 900 Resolution
      Brightness : 400 nits SuperBright™ Plus Technology'

      On the website, and were confirmed to be identical by a customer support rep to me via chat (although that is generally not the best source of info).

      The D simply designates the silver color (and i7)

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  7. Great info! Solves all my questions for upgrading ssd and ram. Do you know of any places that sell the replacement battery for the NP900x4C? Couldn't find any information about that online, although samsung does offer this service. As a DIY guy, it just feels wrong to have them service my stuff

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apologies for the delay - I'm not sure, but if you've found one please leave a comment with the link!

      Delete
  8. How did u open the 900x4c?? It feels like im gonna brake it, the back side is just bending, i unscrew 10 screws. Do i just need to use more force? ><
    Thnx.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Will,
    Thank you for the photos, especially seeing the comparison between 13"'s PLS and a 14"'s TN screen is invaluable!
    I was originally put off by the PLS low color gamut as reported in notebookcheck's test, but after seeing the Asus UX32vd/UX31A and Retina Mac today in the store and walking away underwhelmed, as well as being disappointed by the screen in Lenovo's X1 Carbon, the Samsung suddenly makes it back to the top of my list - thanks to the information that you provided.
    Big cheers from Prague, Boris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. glad to help!

      After a solid few months of use, I'm still really enjoying the np900x4c. So far its only issue is that the backlight (for the screen) sometimes doesn't respond to increase/decrease brightness commands - I found you can fix this quickly if you slap it closed and then immediately open it again.

      Delete
  10. Hi, thanks for your informative review. Just to clarify, is the memory and SSD in "NP900X3C-A01CA" upgradable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. only the ssd is upgradable, not the RAM

      Delete
  11. Best review and photos I've seen of these devices. Thank you for sharing.

    I've had a play around with a 13" 9 series and didn't like the keyboard - it has a very short travel and is odd to type on. Does your 15" 9 series have the same shallow key travel, or is it better to type on than the 13" model?

    Thanks again for this review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. sorry for the delay lol!
      i think it was the same keyboard. what'd you end up getting?

      Delete
  12. Hi, I've just bought a 15" 900X4D-A01 (128 SSD and 4gb Ram)I've kind of understood that I can upgrade the ram up to 8 or eventually 16 gb, is one of the two ram slots empty? Do I just need to buy 1 extra 4 gb ram slot and install it?

    Thank you, Matteo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm I'm not really sure - the only specs I can find on the 4D say 8gB ram. Just open it up and see :)

      If you really only have 4gB, I would bet there's an empty slot in there. Might as well spend the $70 and go to 16gB, though

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  13. Thank you for your reply. I opened it and actually I've got 1 slot free. What Ram would you suggest I should buy? Could you tell me the exact name and specs I need? I'm not an expert :( Both for the 1x4 Gb ram or for the 2x8Gb expansion!! Thank you ever so much!!

    Matteo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd suggest the RAM that I linked to in the post ;)
      (ctrl-f this page for amazon)

      Delete
  14. AO1AU or AO5AU ? I Really appreciate blogs like this! enjoy the read. I am currently thinking about getting either the 1 or 5 but have heard back from Samsung and officially their word is that neither can take 16Gb ram! Can someone please confirm this is not the case? As soon as I know I can upgrade to the 16 I will buy one. With Win8 and hyperV running I will need the extra grunt.
    Thanks heaps!
    Phil

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is the US version - and yes, I did upgrade it to 16gB (and it has been running like a champ)

      Click the very first link ('16gb')

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  15. Any thought on how to use some kinds of lock on Samsung Series 9 13", probably Kensington?

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi,
    Really good post. Just have one question about "real" vga slot. What is the real name of the adapter that I should buy for my projector? mini vga to vga, micro hdmi to vga or mini dvi to vga?
    Thanks in advance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. the laptop has a micro hdmi port - so you need to go from that. you could also probably find a usb->vga adapter, I know there's a usb->hdmi on meritline.com

      Delete
  17. Great post. I need a printer for printing plastic id cards for school children. Where i can get the best one?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. plastic id cards? as in like laminated badges or actually made of plastic? for that level of detail you would probably want a ~$2,000 Makerbot Replicator (for printing plastic)

      Delete
  18. Did you upgrade the Bluetooth to 4.0

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. just swapped ssd - I use the Lenovo Yoga now (see my other blog: uselesspuzzles.blogspot.com)

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  19. Its really great post...can i use this printer for Plastic card printing business?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not really sure I understand your question

      Delete
  20. Hi Will,

    I want to upgrade NP900X4C-A02SE (i7 processor), from 8GB ram to 16GB. Do you think its possible ?

    Thanks in advance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes, you can, click the very first link in my post...

      Delete
  21. Thanks for the reply.
    Can you send me the link which 16 GB ram should i buy !

    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  22. Crucial.com usually has better prices on RAM. How do I find compatible RAM on there? What specs need to be the same?

    ReplyDelete
  23. Hot-pluggable USB devices can be connected to while not turning the computer off, enabling removable devices to be plugged and unplugged as needed. This feature, combined with straightforward-to-reach ports on the front of the computer case, gave rise to the USB drive that is used for storage and various applications.

    www.dueltek.com.au

    ReplyDelete
  24. Has anyone upgrade the SSD on the NP900X4C-A07US from 256GB to 512GB? Plan on getting this on but need more space. The 8GB RAM is good for now, but I plan to upgrade that in the near future.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Just did some researching. The larges mSATA SSD I can purchase to date is 480GB (from several vendors). Anyone have any recommendations?

    A Bell

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you consider a dockbox from my website, techneesh.com? I just designed a new version that holds a 2.5" ssd. I personally use the lenovo yoga now because it has room for two msata ssds and is convertible

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    2. Will Stone, Thanks for the reply. I'll take a look at your site. I'll also take a look at the lenovo yogo.

      A Bell

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  26. Will, the RAM you link to is now $120. Do you know of any compatible RAM that costs under $100?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! Well you don't really need 16gb... depending which machine you have you can get 1x 8gb for $70 http://www.amazon.com/Corsair-1x8GB-Laptop-Memory-CMSO8GX3M1A1333C9/dp/B005T63BEM/ref=sr_1_27?ie=UTF8&qid=1381977659&sr=8-27&keywords=ddr3+8gb or 2x 4gB for probably a bit less

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    2. It comes with 8GB so that wouldn't be an upgrade. :(

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  27. hi..Im student from Informatics engineering, this article is very informative, thanks for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
  28. I'm having some keyboard trouble with my np900x4c, before I try to tear it apart maybe you could give som advice. Is it possible to access the keyboard to clean it out a little?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. compressed air is probably going to work just as well assembled as disassembled - did you try buying one of the plug-in compressors?

      Delete
  29. Hi how to know if the NP900X4C-A01AU has Bluetooth v4.0? And likewise, how to know if it has a Class 1 or 2 Bluetooth device onboard? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  30. Hi Will Stone, nice work. I have a question, I run Piriform Speccy and says that have 4 slots of memory and have 2 of them used. I have a NP900X4C-A07US with 8 GB RAM and LITEONIT LMT-256M3M 256 GB. I didn't open the Ultrabook, do you think that its possible this UB have 4 memory slots?
    Thank for your attention

    ReplyDelete