Apple's ultra-sleek MacBook Air may finally have a viable competitor -- and from Samsung of all places.

Last month, Samsung revealed its Series 9 laptops, a line of computers so thin and light that they seem born out of Cupertino itself. The Series 9 runs Windows 7 Home Premium, making it the first Windows-based laptop to really challenge the Air's reign over the sleek notebook market.

The Series 9 meets the MacBook Air in nearly every significant area. The devices are almost the exact same size and weight, with the Series 9 just edging out the Macbook Air in thickness. While that certainly gives Samsung bragging rights, the size differences are almost entirely insignificant in the user's daily interaction with the computer.

It's quite handsome, wrote The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg, who noted the Samsung laptop beat out Apple's MacBook Air in a number of metrics.

Price isn't one of them. At $1600 Samsung's laptop is much more expensive than the MacBook Air, which runs for $1,299. For consumers looking for their next lightweight computer, however, it may not be all that significant at all.

There is a certain luxury premium attached to both of these computers, which by their very form factor, draw consumers in by taking features away. Both computers, for example, lack DVD drives and Ethernet ports, that are still present on significantly cheaper computers. So while the Macbook Air may be a few hundred dollars less than the Series 9, both computers are clear examples of products offering less for more, in a sleeker package, making price less of an issue than it initially appears.

That logic, however, doesn't apply to battery life. Because both computers are billed as ultraportable, battery life becomes the most significant specification next to size and weight. In most tests, Apple's computer edges out Samsung's by a large degree. By Laptop Magazine's measurements, the Air beat out expectations with over six hours of battery life. The Series 9 however,clocks in at just over five hours. Mossberg came to similar conclusions in his own tests, noting that while the Air did not quite meet Apple's battery life estimates, it still beat out the Series 9 by over an hour.

Other specifications were comparable in both machines. A top of the line MacBook Air comes with either 2 GB RAM or 4 GB, while the Samsung Series 9 sports 4 GB. The processors are rather different, with the fastest MacBook Air reaching 2.13 GHz and the Samsung only getting up to 1.4 GHz, but for most applications users won't notice the difference. The MacBook's storage is larger, at 256 GB vs. 128 GB for the Series 9.

Of course, Apple has a much longer consumer laptop track record than Samsung, which has only released a handful of computers. Still, Samsung does deserve accolades for nearly topping Apple in an area that it has previously stood uncontested. The Series 9, Mossberg said, is a very nice computer -- if you can afford it.