Samsung Series 5 Ultra review
A quirky but good value ultrabook
Right at the bottom end of the Ultrabook market - less than half the price of the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A - is the Samsung Series 5, specifically, in this case, the Samsung 530U3C. However, when we're talking about Ultrabooks, which are all kept inside a narrow box with regards to the hardware they contain, what does low-end actually mean?
In this case, it means an Intel Core i5 3317UM 1.7GHz CPU, 6GB of RAM, and a 500GB HDD. That's not a mistake - the Samsung meets the Ultrabook specification by having a 24GB SSD 'cache', which allows it to meet the fast suspend/wake times required of Ultrabooks. Sneaky, but it explains the fantastic value the 530U3C meets. At £700, you won't find a cheaper Ultrabook around.
Storage isn't the only place the Samsung 530U3C looks suspiciously like it's not an Ultrabook. For example, it's 20mm thick, which is massive compared to some of its rivals and weighs 1.5kg, which isn't particularly high but still towards the top end of the weight range. Ultrabooks are supposed to be light and sleek. This is heavy and bulky.
It is, quite plainly, scraping through the Ultrabook specs on a selection of technicalities. Rather than aim at the high end (which, to be fair, the Samsung Series 9 devices are filling), the Series 5 gives people a low-priced way to get onto the Ultrabook ladder. It's an effective trick. A selection of mid-range attributes keep it hovering just above the minimum expectations. Battery life is average, appearance is average, but the low, low price makes all that easy to forgive. You could have paid twice the price for average battery life, after all.
The keyboard and multi-touch touchpad are both superior to most Ultrabooks - something Samsung has always been good at. The screen resolution is low (1366x768), but in that regard it's no worse than the Dell XPS 13. The big deal is the hard drive, though, which doubles the space available in most Ultrabooks. Don't be too easily seduced by it, because HDD access is a significant bottleneck to modern systems and you'll notice the decreased performance even with the SSD cache, but then again, the extra storage certainly doesn't go unappreciated.
• CPU: Core Core i5 3317UM
• SSD Size: 24GB SSD cache (+ 500GB HDD)
• Screen: 13.3"
• Weight: 1.5kg
• Thickness: 20mm
• Price: £699