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Samsung Series 5 review

Verdict

Samsung’s affordable Series 5 is the most sensible Ultrabook to date, but it’s seriously lacking in excitement

Review Date: 6 Mar 2012

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £711 (£853 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
3 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

While other manufacturers have been busily trimming the fat from their Ultrabooks, Samsung’s approach looks to be a little more sensible. Instead of shedding every last gram, the 14in £853 Series 5 places the emphasis back on the practical, putting back the ports and optical drive missing from its peers.

Those after the slimmest, sexiest Ultrabook on the market will come away disappointed. At 22mm from base to lid, this is no slender stunner. It’s more thick-set than your average Ultrabook, and a weight of 1.76kg is on the high side, too: every other machine in our recent Ultrabook Labs tipped the scales at less than 1.4kg. And despite the relative hefty figure, the Series 5 isn’t the sturdiest around. Grapple with the Series 5’s silvery chassis, and the flexible plastic is nowhere near as bombproof as Asus’s Zenbooks or Dell’s XPS 13.

Samsung Series 5

There’s plenty to like, though: the Scrabble-tile keyboard has an entirely sensible layout, with well-spaced keys and a seriously wide right-Shift key making it easy to quickly get up to speed. The slight bounce in the base puts it behind the best of the Ultrabook bunch, but the keys feel responsive enough for it not to matter.

The touchpad also sees the Series 5’s sensible streak shine through, and where rivals ape Apple’s Macbook Airs with their large clickable glass touchpads, the Samsung has separate, physical buttons. We’ve only seen one other Ultrabook include these – the Toshiba Portégé Z830 – and the Samsung’s are just as good. They’re pleasingly wide and respond with the same crisp click.

Samsung has packed in plenty of connectivity, too. Most of the ports are bunched up on the left side of the machine (the right-hand edge is largely occupied by the DVD writer), and there are two USB 3 ports, one USB 2, a Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI, D-SUB and a 4-in-1 card reader. It’s a welcome departure from the Ultrabook norm.

Samsung Series 5

Sitting above the keyboard is the Samsung’s 14in display. With a 1,366 x 768 native resolution and a seriously bright LED backlight – we measured it at 351cd/m2 – this matte panel delivers eyeball-searing images without the intrusive reflections of its glossy rivals. It’s great for more serious pursuits, with the high brightness and matte finish maintaining legibility even under bright sunlight.

Image quality could be improved, however, with greyish blacks robbing darker images of depth and detail. The Samsung’s contrast ratio of 158:1 is seriously disappointing. Colours aren’t particularly accurate, either, and the Series 5’s different screen modes only offer only a slight improvement. We found its “Sharp” mode to be the best bet: while it didn’t improve contrast or black levels, there was a slight improvement in colour accuracy.

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User comments

hmmm.... sounds like a contradiction, "sensible...but lacking excitement" can you have both?

By Namos on 6 Mar 2012

a 10/100 Ethernet port??

Add a nought?

By jmiii on 6 Mar 2012

Optical drive?

This seems a retrograde step, particularly on an ultrabook.

I'd much rather the space was used (with a bit of reorganisation) for a bigger battery.

I literally cannot remember the last time I used an optical drive on a PC.

By qpw3141 on 6 Mar 2012

Ultrabook?

I though Ultrabooks had to be thinner and couldn't have an optical drive.

A light weight notebook maybe, but at more than 21mm thick, I don't think it falls in with Intel's definition of what makes an Ultrabook.

By big_D on 6 Mar 2012

@ big_D

Tail wagging the donkey.... just a thought

By davidk1962 on 6 Mar 2012

Intel's definition of an Ultrabook...

..seems rather woolly, to say the least.

And the Series 5 most definitely does have Gigabit Ethernet. Fixed!

By SashaMuller on 7 Mar 2012

@Sasha

On Intels website, they say that it must be less than 21mm thick, which discounts this machine...

By big_D on 9 Mar 2012

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