With Ultrabooks dominating headlines during this year's CES, Samsung is feeling pressure to distinguish its thin-and-light offerings from Intel's new ultraportable family. The Korean manufacturer contests that its second-generation Series 9 notebooks are more of a premium kit than Intel's sub-$1,000 ultrathins. Opinions on that stance will likely depend on your appreciation for notebook engineering, but one thing's for certain: Samsung is pricing the systems as if they're something special.

The 13 and 15-inch variants are set at $1,400 and $1,500. Both offer (dare we say) Ultrabook-like specs, including an Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB to 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD, a backlit keyboard and six hours of battery life. They also carry a 1600x900 display, a 1.3MP webcam, a 4-in-1 card reader, USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, HDMI and VGA connectors, as well as 3W stereo speakers. The smaller system weighs approximately 2.5lbs while its heftier sibling pushes that north by 1lb.

As noted, the difference boils down to craftsmanship, according to Samsung. The company's development team spent over 33,000 hours creating the new Series 9, which is 37% thinner and nearly half a pound lighter than its predecessor. The build is "nearly seamless," using a single shell aluminum body and a fully customized LCD, keyboard, motherboard, cables, fans and battery. The notebooks have a fingerprint-resistant sandblasted finish with an ash black body and matte aluminum sides.

The company also draws attention to the matte display with wide viewing angles (no figures provided) and Samsung's SuperBright Plus technology, which provides a 400-nit brightness. Between its matte surface and extra bright lighting, we wouldn't be surprised if the display was reasonably visible in outdoor conditions, but Samsung made no such claims. However, it does brag about the notebook's startup speed, citing 9.8-second boot and 1.4-second wake times. The refresh is due in February.

Folks looking for wallet-friendly solutions might find Samsung's Series 5 more appealing. It takes everything we mentioned above and scales it down in a more affordable package. Starting at $899, the 13 and 14-inch Series 5 will offer a Core i5, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD or 500GB 5400RPM HDD with a 16GB of flash-based cache, an eight-hour battery, a matte 300-nit 1366x768 display, and the typical gamut of connectivity. The 13-inch model doesn't have an optical drive, but the 14-incher does.