Samsung updates its 15-inch ATIV Book 9 Ultrabook with touch, a higher-res screen and lossless audio

Samsung launched its 13-inch ATIV Book 9 Plus Ultrabook with so much fanfare that it was easy to overlook the not-so-good news: The 15-inch Series 9 wasn't getting any updates. In fact, you can still buy it today, but with last year's Ivy Bridge chip and a 1,600 x 900 screen that doesn't support touch. Great deal, right? Finally, though, Samsung is catching up: The company just announced a new version, the ATIV Book 9 2014 Edition, which ushers in an updated design and more current specs. Of note, Samsung made the screen slightly bigger, stretching it from 15 inches to 15.6, and boosted the resolution to 1,920 x 1,080. That might come as a bit of a disappointment to some, given that the 13-inch version has a 3,200 x 1,800 screen, but Samsung notes that ultra-high-res screens in larger sizes aren't exactly easy to come by. So maybe you'll see that in the next-next-gen version.

For now, at least, the screen is a bit brighter (300 nits vs. 250 in last year's model) and you also get a regular HDMI port this time, as opposed to a micro-sized one. As you can imagine, the addition of the touchscreen, plus that slightly larger footprint, means the ATIV Book 9 is a good deal heavier -- four pounds and 0.63 inch thick, versus 3.5 pounds/0.58 inch on last year's model. The battery size is the same as ever, but thanks to Intel's newfangled Haswell processors, runtime is now rated at 14 hours, up from 10. Samsung hasn't revealed pricing yet, but we do know there will be at least two configurations: a Core i5 model with a 128GB SSD, and a Core i7 version with 256GB of storage.

Gallery | 15 Photos

Samsung ATIV Book 9 2014 Edition

Gallery | 15 Photos

Samsung ATIV One 7

Gallery | 15 Photos

Samsung ATIV One 7

In addition to refreshing the specs, though, Samsung also made some design changes that hint at what the 13-inch model might look like when it eventually receives another update. For starters, it has an aluminum chassis, rather than a magnesium one, and is devoid of all the garish logos we complained about on the ATIV Book 9 Plus. Samsung also retooled the keyboard, adding subtly contoured keycaps with a tactile, rubbery finish and a quieter sound. In our brief hands-on, we were indeed impressed with the feel of the keys, and the backlighting also seems brighter than it used to be. That said, it's still a flat keyboard; there's only so much travel you can get on a machine this thin.

There's one more change you won't see, but you'll definitely hear: Samsung added lossless audio support so that if you're listening to music using headphones or a compatible speaker, you'll enjoy richer, clearer sound with shockingly little distortion. (You won't get lossless quality on the notebook's built-in speakers, though Samsung said it made some improvements there too.) Though this might seem like an obscure spec, given how relatively few of us are audiophiles, a Samsung rep told us that as more streaming services start supporting lossless, it wants to be ready with laptops that can handle it.

Finally, Samsung also refreshed its ATIV One 7 all-in-one, moving from a 23-inch screen to a 24-inch one. Other key specs include 1TB of storage, a Core i5 Haswell processor, dual 7-watt speakers, a tweeter, HDMI in/out ports and the ability to stream music over Bluetooth even when the system is powered down. No word on how much it'll cost, but Samsung says it will reach the US sometime in the first half of this year. For now, stay tuned for some hands-on pics -- and enjoy the photos we already took of the new ATIV Book 9.