Review: Samsung Ativ Book 6 goes big for gamers -- business users, too

A desktop replacement built for gaming, the 15-inch Book 6 is powerful, cool, quiet, and comfortable

In an era of small devices with small screens, the Samsung Ativ Book 6 seems almost a throwback. It's a strapping, business- and gaming-class Ultrabook sporting a 15.6-inch screen, a full-sized keyboard with numeric pad, a generously sized touchpad, and a wrist rest. Big and bright, the screen is good competition for the Samsung monitor I have on my own desktop. If I were stuck using this as a replacement for said desktop, I wouldn't feel all that cramped.

I'm used to larger notebooks throwing off a lot of heat and noise, but the Ativ Book 6 is quiet and reasonably cool. Some of that is smart vent design. The exhaust vent is cleverly half-concealed behind the lid hinge, so it blows upward and away from one's lap. Also, in another creative design decision, the speakers (the audio is by JBL) are on the underside. This doesn't muffle the sound as much as you might think, even when the unit is placed on a tabletop. The audio does get a little muddy if you're using your lap, but even then it's still quite clear.

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The Ativ Book 6's large keyboard and generous key spacing make it easy for fingers to find the right keys. On the downside, the throw of the keys is fairly short, most likely as a way to keep the chassis slender, and typing on them is a bit mushier than on some other keyboards I've experienced with similarly low profiles. Another downer: The touchpad is a clickpad with no discrete buttons, which always makes both right-clicking and two-handed use more difficult. But the adjustable and ambient-light-sensitive key backlighting is great.

Those used to Ultrabooks shipping by default with SSDs may be surprised to learn the Ativ Book 6 comes instead with a 1TB 5,400rpm SATA drive. In light of that, I'm doubly surprised the system has no HD activity light, though free software is available for use in lieu of the physical indicator.

The Ativ Book 6 is billed as a gaming notebook, and it sports the Radeon HD 8700M graphics chip set to prove it. Actually, it has the Radeon plus an Intel 4000 chip set, plus the ability to toggle between either one of those on a per-application basis: Radeon for performance, Intel for power savings. You can also default to using one chip set or the other based on the current power profile, which requires less tinkering. The power-saving profile produced an impressive 5 hours, 7 minutes of battery life in my Netflix rundown test.

Samsung has taken some intriguing steps toward the kinds of integration among all of its different products that you'd expect from a company like Apple. Consider SideSync, a software package that allows a Samsung smartphone to be controlled by the Ativ Book 6. SideSync has some useful features, such as being able to share a clipboard between devices, but on the whole it's still not even half-baked. Mouse commands don't map well to touch gestures, so controlling the phone with the PC becomes an exercise in frustration.

Software bundled with the Ativ Book 6 is a fairly typical mix of consumer-level trialware and utilities. You'll find a trial edition of Office 365 Home Premium, the Norton antivirus suite, and software for the Infineon TPM Security Platform. The last of those provides data protection via on-disk encryption, with the passwords protected by the system's TPM chip -- I'm not used to seeing this in a gamer-level notebook, but it'll be welcome to business users.

The Ativ Book 6 is at about the right price and feature point for both a gaming notebook and a modest desktop-replacement system. In terms of size, it's definitely no challenger to the smaller and lighter Ultrabook models out there -- including the Samsung Ativ Book 9. But the Ativ Book 6 is attractively and meticulously put together, it's light for its size, and for such a powerful system, it runs both cool and long.

Samsung Ativ Book 6 at a glance

PriceStarts at $1,199 MSRP
ProcessorIntel Core i7 3635QM 2.4GHz
Memory8GB DDR3 1600MHz
Storage1TB 5,400rpm SATA 2

5.38 pounds

Dimensions14.75 x 8.84 x 0.97 inches
Display15.6 inches @ 1,920 by 1,080 LED 300nit
Netflix battery rundown test5 hours, 7 minutes
Ports2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 SD card slot, 1 RJ-45, 1 HDMI, 1 VGA, 1 audio
Radios802.11a/b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Management features5-point capacitive multitouch
Sandra 2013 score4.6kPt

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InfoWorld Scorecard
Security and management (20.0%)
Build quality (20.0%)
Performance (20.0%)
Usability (30.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Samsung Ativ Book 6 8.0 9.0 9.0 8.0 8.0 8.4