The Notebook 9 Pen aspires to be Samsung’s version of a MacBook, with a pricey, potent mix of components powering some unique app experiences. But its bland, plasticky exterior will probably suggest a Chromebook instead, though with an iconic S-Pen stylus that’s always ready to jot a quick note.

It’s a difficult dichotomy for this 13.3-inch, 360-degree convertible to reconcile, made even more challenging by the Notebook 9 Pen’s MSRP: $1,400. To be fair, we’ve recently seen it for $100 or so less on some sites. Unless you love Samsung’s S-Pen, though, the Notebook 9 Pen is vulnerable to like-priced (or cheaper) competition.

Still, you may consider some of its weaknesses to be strengths. For example, Samsung manufactured the entire chassis out of a special custom magnesium alloy, with the look, weight and feel of plastic. Yet the light 2.14-pound weight (just under 2.5 pounds with the charger) is something your shoulders will appreciate when you carry this laptop in your bag. Likewise, we don’t consider its numerous customizable settings and apps to be truly useful, though they offer a degree of configurability its competition lacks. 

Samsung Notebook 9 Pen back Mark Hachman / IDG

Samsung’s Notebook 9 Pen is Samsung’s version of a MacBook: simple and unadorned.

Notebook 9 Pen specs and features

When a laptop is just 0.65-inch thin, you’re going to sacrifice a few things in the specs. Here’s the list, which we’ll look at more closely in the hands-on portion of our review:

  • Display: 13.3-inch FHD (1920×1080) LED touchscreen 
  • Processor: 1.8GHz Core i7-8550U (Kaby Lake-R)
  • Graphics: Intel UHD 620 (integrated)
  • Memory: 8GB DDR4
  • Storage: 256GB PCIe SSD
  • Camera: Front-facing, 1280×720
  • Wireless: 802.11ac (2×2 MIMO), Bluetooth 4.1
  • Ports: One USB 3.1 Type A; one USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) Type C (supporting 4K display out and charging); microSD (micro SDXC standard), HDMI, headphone jack/mic in, fingerprint reader
  • Battery: 39Wh
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Home
  • Dimensions: 12.22 x 8.13 x 0.65 inches
  • Weight: 2.14 pounds, 2.5 with AC adapter
  • Price: $1,399 (MSRP)

Of those specs, it’s worth noting that the 256GB SSD in our test unit had only about 83GB free. That could start to feel tight.

But our biggest disappointment was the display. At 308 nits (measured), it’s certainly bright enough. For the price, however, you might expect Samsung to deliver a bit more than the standard 1920×1080 (FHD) resolution that accompanies most low-cost notebooks. To be fair, higher-resolution screens bring their own compromises, as they eat at your battery life and other resources. 

The other problem with the display was other displays. The vivid screen reflects Samsung’s typical quality—until you hook up an external monitor: The Intel HD 620 integrated graphics washed out my second screen more than other laptops do. Samsung provides a series of supplemental settings to adjust the color mode, but tweaking them made no difference for me.

Samsung Notebook 9 S-Pen slot 2 Mark Hachman / IDG

One of the strengths of Samsung’s design is simply how well the Notebook 9 Pen stores its S-Pen.

Samsung S-Pen: The gateway to its app ecosystem

One of the best things about the Samsung Notebook 9 Pen is the S-Pen—not only that it’s included, but that it’s stored in its own, internal slot underneath the keyboard. The storage slot is spring-loaded, so pushing the pen in pops it out for use. Why other manufacturers haven’t adopted this simple, effective solution is beyond me. 

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