There are two main things I consider when looking at Ultrabooks. Firstly there’s the style and form factor of the device, and secondly there’s the small matter of what’s actually under the hood. I’ve also seen laptops in the past that have tried to pass off as Ultrabooks (and failed miserably), and still others that shine in their category. Today I’m looking at the Samsung Series 5 Ultra touch Ultrabook (540U3C-A01) which is one of the company’s latest Ultrabooks.
Build quality & design
At first glance, the Series 5 looks very sleek in its brushed aluminum case. It’s slightly heavier than other Ultrabooks I’ve tested, weighing in at 1.64kg, but it’s dapper looks quickly distract me from this. It’s got quite a solid build overall, with no flimsy materials being used whatsoever.
The Series 5 manages to cram in a good number of ports, which other Ultrabooks tend to skip. You get a full-sized Ethernet port, HDMI, SD card reader, two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port. The laptop is also designed in such a way that it appears thinner since it tapers towards the trackpad, while the rear expands a bit to accommodate the various ports. Overall though, it’s a fairly well built piece of equipment.
Benchmarks & Performance
The Series 5 works perfectly as a mobile road-warrior, zipping through most applications with ease. While an i5 processor would certainly have been an advantage, the bundled i3 is enough for most office applications and Windows 8 apps. Sadly the Intel HD 4000 graphics means that you won’t be using the Series 5 for any kind of spectacular gaming. It was capable of running Guild Wars 2 at very low details and resolution, but this really takes away from enjoying the game properly.
Out of the box, my unit didn’t come with any bundled software which was great, but it also didn’t come with most of the drivers installed. Audio, trackpad, and a bunch of other utilities were missing, so I had to fire up the included ‘Software Update’ tool to connect and download what I needed. I do have to let you know that if you’re not careful, the software can download up to a whopping 2GB of programs, including Adobe Reader, various recovery tools, media players, and other programs, so be careful about what you select. Bootup times were fairly quick, with the machine taking about 8 seconds to resume from sleep back to the Start screen.
Screen & Audio
The display on the Series 5 is a 13.3” LED full HD display, with a 1,366 x 768 resolution. That’s enough for crawling through rows of spreadsheets and watching movies at a decent resolution. Although I have to note that viewing angles were tight on the Series 5 – stray too far from the screen and you’ll notice the colors start to wash out slightly. But overall, the display is great and very crisp, and the hinge it sits on is firm enough to avoid shaking the screen if you’ve got the device poised on your lap.
The audio on the Series 5 is a bit of a puzzler. While there appears to be a speaker grille just under the display hinge, that’s not actually where the speakers are. Instead you’ll find them on the bottom sides of the laptop – their position may be questionable, but they’re loud enough to fill a decent-sized room or office. If you find the audio a bit distorted at times, there’s a bundled audio app that you can fire up to help equalize the sound, which I found greatly improved the sound quality.
Keyboard & Mouse
I’ve typed on some great Ultrabook keyboards, and I’ve used some truly horrific ones. Sadly, the Series 5 keyboard seems to be a bit of both. On one hand, the keys are nicely spaced out and responded well to my furious key-bashing. But on the other hand, they didn’t give my fingers enough feedback, so at times I was double-tapping a key because I thought I hadn’t hit it properly. The keyboard is also not backlit, so wave goodbye to typing in low light areas or on an airplane in the dark.
My frustrations seemed to carry over when I used the trackpad – for one, the drivers weren’t properly installed, so after a few reinstallations I managed to get it up and running. Multi-touch gestures were for the most part spot-on, but I found that the trackpad was a bit overly sensitive at times. Even though it’s supposed to ignore when you’re resting your palm on the trackpad, there were several occasions when it didn’t, and my cursor happily jumped around the screen. You have the option of disabling the trackpad if you’re using an external mouse, which I suggest you do unless you want to be driven crazy by an erratic mouse. But gripes aside, the trackpad is actually quite spacious and overall quite responsive (and at time a bit too much) to your touch.
Battery life & Heat Levels
One of the key factors for an Ultrabook is how good the battery life is on the thing is. I’m happy to report that the Series 5 fell just shy of 7 hours of battery life, which in my books is quite good for anyone on the move. The laptop remained quite cool to the touch, and only seemed to warm up slightly when it was being used while plugged into the power socket to recharge.
The Samsung Series 5 Ultra touch Ultrabook is a slim little thing that delivers a fairly durable on-the-go experience for anyone looking for an Ultrabook to see them through most of their day. While there may be a few other Ultrabooks poking around the market that can squeeze out a little bit more performance, the Samsung Series 5 Ultra touch Ultrabook is still quite worthy of your attention, despite its occasional flaws.