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Samsung Series 5 530U3B review

Verdict

Far from the perfect Ultrabook, but considering the few compromises and the low price it has a lot of appeal

Review Date: 28 Mar 2012

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £638 (£765 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £404
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
3 stars out of 6

Slim, streamlined and as pretty as we dared hope, Ultrabooks are turning out to be a rather alluring bunch – at least they are if you have a grand or more to spare. After the splendour of its £1,199 Series 9, Samsung has lowered its Ultrabook sights to more modest budgets with the Series 5 530U3B.

We’ve seen a 14in Series 5 before, but this new one has a more traditional Ultrabook design – it has a 13in screen and no optical drive, for a start. That’s allowed Samsung to shrink it down to pleasingly portable dimensions – the silver chassis is only 18mm thick including its rubber feet. It’s slim, streamlined and pretty, as Ultrabooks were promised to be.

The smaller chassis makes all the difference to how classy the Series 5 feels. It’s still disappointing that the silver chassis is plastic, but where the larger model felt creaky in places, this one is more reassuring. Ham-fisted grappling still reveals some give in the base and the display above, but these are minor issues – this is a solid laptop for the money.

Samsung Series 5 530U3B

Connectivity is also great by Ultrabook standards. Two USB 2 ports nestle alongside a card reader on the right-hand edge, while USB 3, HDMI and a mini-VGA port are crammed in on the left. Neatly, Samsung has also made room for Gigabit Ethernet without spoiling the laptop’s nice clean lines: the socket’s jaws open out to accommodate a cable for those moments when the dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi doesn’t cut it.

Samsung’s move to matte displays across all of its laptops is a real plus point. Of course, there’s no room in the budget for a fancy, high-resolution panel like the one found in the Series 9, but the Series 5’s 1,366 x 768 panel gets the basics right. We measured brightness from the LED backlight at a maximum of 294cd/m2, making for a display that remains legible in most lighting conditions.

Like many of its Ultrabook peers, though, image quality leaves something to be desired. It may be bright, but viewing angles are a touch narrow; skin tones are dogged with a cold, bluish tone; and the greyish blacks make for a low contrast ratio of 185:1. If you want a top-quality screen you’ll have to pony up for the gorgeous PLS panel in the Series 9. That, or buy a MacBook Air.

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User comments

Viewing angles...

wide viewing angles are a matter of taste. Given that I spend half my time looking for extra filters to put on top of laptop screens to reduce the viewing angle, so that the user can't be "spied" upon on a train or plane by the person sitting next to them, having somewhat restrictive viewing angles on such a small device could be a plus factor. On a 13" screen, you will be generally using it yourself or connecting it to a large screen or projector for presentations.

By big_D on 28 Mar 2012

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