Here at CES we got a chance to sit down for a roundtable discussion with Samsung’s designers to talk about the look, feel, and process of the brand new Series 9 ultrabook. The brand new design, which comes in 13-inch and 15-inch models, has a super-slim body (only .5 inches thick), a 128GB SSD harddrive, an Intel Core i5 2467M processor, 4GB of memory, and a 1600×900 resolution screen, among other things. Packing all of those features into a super slim body that weighs under two pounds is a feat of both engineering and design. Senior Designer Junghwan Hong and Principal Designer Sangwon Yoon were on hand to discuss the challenges and accomplishments of the 12-month design process.
The new second generation of the Series 9 ultrabook put the focus for the designers on the slim form factor and the precision of each and every component. The new model made the switch from duralumin to aluminum, which makes the notebook extremely strong despite its slim profile. Designer Junghwan Hong said that the design of the original Series 9 was inspired by paper, which is light, thin, and easy to hold. The clean lines of the new model keep that inspiration in mind. The designers wanted to make it as solid and strong as possible while maintaining the extreme thinness. “I went to the factory every week in Korea,” said Hong. “I really wanted to make it as perfect and precise as possible.”
The large Samsung brand, which manufactures many different components, made the ultra-sleek design possible; “Every single component is customized,” said Hong. Almost every part imaginable had to shrink in size to fit into the notebook. Even getting the LCD screen to be as thin as possible was a struggle of engineering and design. In only 12 months, Samsung put 24,000 hours of research and development and 9,000 hours of design into the Series 9 ultrabook.
According to Hong, the company was going for a “premium” look with the new Mineral Ash Black color scheme and the “sandblasted” finish that gives a subtle metallic look and is helpful in avoiding too many fingerprints. The sides of the notebook are a double-anodized shiny silver, which is a simple design element that keeps the look fresh. “In order to make it look slim, we highlight this shape,” said Hong, who was a main designer on the project. When talking about the company’s design philosophy, Hong explained that they work off of the acronym STAR, which stands for simple, thoughtful, authentic, and remarkable. “Simple is always better.”
Despite the skinny form factor, the designers (with the help or hindrance of the engineers, depending on your outlook) managed to pack many important features into the design. The notebook has two USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0) on either side, an SD card reader that was built into the bottom of the chassis (but is accessible from the top), and a full keyboard that is backlit in a unique bluish white.
Based on response from consumers, Samsung eliminated the 11.6-inch model and is now offering only 13 and 15-inch models. While we only got our hands on the 13-inch model, the 15-incher is unique because it is built on the chassis of a 14-inch notebook. The screen size accounts for the 15-inch descriptor, thanks to an ultra-slim bezel by Samsung, but the notebook itself has the same footprint as a typical 14-inch notebook.
The designers rightly emphasized that the look and feel of the product was important to them, down to the packaging that the Series 9 comes in, the wallpaper that appears on the screen, and even the dongles that come with the notebook. “Every single product for the series 9 has been touched by designers,” said Hong. It shows; the Series 9 itself is no doubt a feat of design, and very little has been compromised in the way of necessary functionality, making it a success in the eyes of designers and consumers.
Samsung plans to release the new design on February 27. The 13-inch model will cost $1,400 and the 15-inch model will set you back $1,500.