Samsung was one of the very first PC manufacturers to jump on the Ultrabook bandwagon. It's done a fine job of representing Intel's baby ever since, with some stunning offerings, including the Series 5 Ultra Touch and, more recently, the top of the range Series 9 NP900X3D.
Samsung certainly knows its stuff when it comes to Ultrabooks, but the goal posts are always moving. So what new trick can it pull out of its sleeve for late 2013?
Well, it's new Ultrabook: the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus, might keep the company ahead of the game for a while, at least if its on-paper abilities are anything to go by.
It's a wonderful-looking unit. It's thin and carefully crafted, with just a slither of the all-aluminium chassis peaking through the dark outer casing. But its plain black exterior might lend some clues as to its intent: this is an Ultrabook focused as much on the business user as regular Joe on the high street.
Its main competitors in the working arena are undoubtedly the Macbook Air, Dell's Latitude 6430 and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch.
But unlike those Windows Ultrabooks, the Ativ features the new fourth-generation Haswell processor from the Intel stable, as does the 2013 Macbook Air, which makes it the closest competitor in terms of performance, even though the Air is a consumer device first and foremost.
With Haswell architecture comes various improvements in mobility (outlined here), with an ability to better manage the power it uses than previous generations of Intel chips.
The key gains are proposed longer battery life, lower heat output and better graphics performance. From a business user's point of view, battery life is the biggest concern, but portability is also important.
It's looking good - Samsung promises 11 hours of usage and the Ativ is also incredibly thin, being just 13.6mm at its thickest point. You'll really be impressed when you lift the lid, and there's no flex either - it really is a solid unit.
At 1.39kg, it's not the world's lightest Ultrabook (that accolade goes to the Sony Vaio Pro 13, at just over 1kg). But it's comparable to the current Macbook Air, which comes in at 1.35kg, and it feels plenty light enough to carry in one hand.
The biggest talking point with the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus has to be its screen - it's a thing of beauty, with perfect viewing angles. There there's the headline figures: 3200 x 1800 pixels, coined by Samsung as QHD+.
That puts the resolution firmly into 4K territory (3840 x 2160) and it helps to elevate an already impressive screen into something we've not seen before. To put it into perspective, it's superior to a Macbook's Retina screen, and at present you can't even get that technology on a Macbook Air. So it's streets ahead in terms of screen performance.
Our only issue with its immense screen resolution is that, while Modern UI in Windows 8 works perfectly and looks spectacular for it, in desktop mode the scaling isn't quite right. You'll need to bump up the size of on-screen items to 200% just to be able to read text and graphics, although some aspects - such as third-party programs - are still tiny.
Power users will probably want to spend their time in 1080p - the best compromise between quality and usability - so they won't get the full benefit from the huge level of detail on offer.
The Ativ's 13.3-inch display also features touch, with 10-point recognition, and it works flawlessly. The trackpad perfectly accompanies it with a range of touch gestures that mimic the screen, meaning navigating the interface is a joy, whether you like Windows 8, or not.
The screen can also be angled to a full 180 degrees, should you need to collaborate on something locally. It means the Ativ could be used as if it was a tabletop device. It's interesting, although not necessarily essential.
Underneath that slender aluminium chassis is a splendid selection of components, including a Core i5 4200 running at 1.6GHz, which can happily throttle to 2.6GHz for a temporary burst of speed. There's also 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
While this might not sound particularly beefy, in an Ultrabook this slim we think it's a pretty comprehensive line-up of hardware, not to mention that at just over £1,200, it's reasonably good value for money too. The aforementioned ThinkPad and Latitude are much more expensive business-focused laptops and neither offers anywhere near the same level of overall spec.
A MacBook Air is cheaper, but the only area in which the Air trumps the Ativ is in the networking department. The Air features the latest, and fastest, 802.11 ac technology, while the Ativ makes do with an 802.11 abgn card. It's still fast, but not cutting edge. (Mind you, this is probably the only aspect of the Ativ that isn't new.) You do get a 1GB LAN adapter that can take advantage of a high-speed network, without having to be tethered to a Wi-Fi connection.
The only major dislike that we came across with the Ativ is the pre-loaded bloatware found on both the Modern UI and the desktop. At this level of quality, and for the price you're paying, it really shouldn't be there. Some of the built-in software, however, is pretty good: SideSync allows you to work on an Android phone on-screen, at the same time as the Ativ.
Benchmarks Cinebench 11 - CPU render 2.5 pts, OpenGL 14.73 fps 3DMark - Ice Storm: 33,535, Cloud Gate: 3,453, Fire Strike: 582 Battery life - 269 mins
As we've mentioned previously, the Ativ's on-paper performance doesn't appear particularly mind-blowing - but real world performance is a different matter entirely.
Startup time is frighteningly quick thanks to the responsive SSD. We were opening apps within ten seconds of switching the power button on; it's almost as quick as an always-on tablet.
The Ativ also manages to handle a range of computing tasks with ease, whether you're playing casual games, working on multiple documents or viewing more than a few browser windows at the same time.
The benchmarks show that the new generation 1.6GHz Core i5 is almost a match for the slightly higher clocked previous generation 1.9GHz i5, the same found in the Dell Latitude 6430u. That's pretty impressive because you're getting comparable performance without the system outlay. What really counts here, and it's no doubt a result of the improved power management, is the battery life - it's about double that of the Ivy Bridge chip.
To the untrained eye, a battery result of between four and five hours doesn't seem particular impressive, but bear in mind that we ran the Ultrabook at High Performance without a break, doing some seriously demanding activities, ranging from simple document editing, up to editing video.
In normal, everyday life, we should easily see the battery life doubling to at least eight or nine hours, so it's possible that Samsung's 'all-day' claim of 11 hours use isn't such a boast after all. It's no doubt in part due to the improved power management of the Haswell chip.
This is a big advantage, and it makes the Ativ a viable proposition for somebody looking to use a laptop for all day working, without having to carry a chunky charger at all times.
Not only does the Ativ offer genuinely great performance, with great battery life, it's also totally silent in general use, with just a very small amount of heat from the underside. When things get busy, however, the fan does kick out a little bit of din. It's not excessive, but you'll definitely notice it. Thankfully, the processor doesn't often get to the point when it needs that extra lick of cooling.
As for ergonomics, the Ativ's keyboard feels really nice in use, and the backlit keys look great on an evening, but we did find that occasionally key presses didn't always register - it's everything or nothing with the amount of pressure you use.
As mentioned previously, the trackpad is multi-touch and combined with the touch-screen display, it's a marvel to use. There's loads of space on the trackpad too, so you can really feel comfortable working for an extended period.
The overall feel of the Ativ is great, and there are lots of great touches that make you glad you spent the extra money. There are two USB 3.0 ports, a micro HDMI, Bluetooth 4.0 is included, and we love that the Ativ comes with an attachable Gigabit Ethernet adapter. It's got an air of quality and nothing feels like an afterthought. For example, instead of a basic slot or a removeable cover for the SD card, it's got a spring-loaded hinge cover, which works wonderfully.
The Ativ is certainly one of the best Ultrabooks we've seen to date, and offers a great package for those looking for a laptop that can be both a workhorse and an exemplary home entertainment machine. It's powerful, the battery life is stunning - all-day capable, even - and it has an incredible screen.
The only fly-in-the-ointment here is whether you buy the cheaper Macbook Air, which is similarly specced, or the Sony Vaio Pro 13, which is almost identical on paper, but about £200 cheaper. You can even get the Core i7 version of the Sony for just £100 extra.
Neither of these options have the amazing detail of the Ativ's screen, but we're not convinced it's a necessity, especially at this screen size. And we're not sure a business user would mind either, unless they were looking to maximise their screen real estate.
Samsung's skill in creating premium Ultrabooks is evident with their latest model. It scores highly in nearly every aspect we can think of. The quality of the screen simply can't be overstated. There's a tiny bit of reflection, but otherwise it's the best we've seen to date. It boasts a huge resolution that betters Apple's Retina standard, offers smooth touch capabilities and it's super-thin too.
The rest of the laptop is just as ridiculously thin, and it weighs very little. Coupled with the impressive battery life and the powerful innards, this is genuinely the perfect portable laptop for the business person.
The Ativ also comes with LAN and VGA adapters, so you're good to go if you find yourself working in a corporate scenario. Lastly, a Kensington lock port ensures you won't be a victim of crime when security is a concern.
We were actually surprised how little the Ativ gets wrong. Sure, it's a tiny bit on the expensive side, especially when compared with the aforementioned Apple and Sony offerings, but it does feel like you're getting an Ultrabook that's almost perfect. The screen can be a little tricky to use when you're in desktop mode, but thankfully this can be adjusted if it's not working out.
If you absolutely must have that stunning display, then we would wholeheartedly recommend the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Plus. It's built to be future-proof, and you won't be disappointed with any aspect of its performance. Its price is the only area you'll need to convince yourself on.
Otherwise, you might want to consider some of its closest competitors. Alternatively, Samsung has also produced a budget version of the Ativ, called the Lite, which sacrifices performance in the quest for a £500 price tag.