Samsung Series 5 530U3B review

28 Mar 2012

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

Price when reviewed: 
765(£765 inc VAT)
4

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/m[sup]2[/sup], 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.

Details

Price ex VAT £638
Price inc VAT £765
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Performance 3

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 316 x 219 x 18mm (WDH)
Weight 1.430kg
Travelling weight 1.7kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i5-2467M
Motherboard chipset Intel HM65
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3
SODIMM sockets free 1
SODIMM sockets total 1

Screen and video

Screen size 13.3in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 3000
Graphics card RAM N/A
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 500GB
Hard disk usable capacity 466GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Hard disk Hitachi HTS545050A7E380
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive none
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
FireWire ports 0
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
MMC (multimedia card) reader yes
Smart Media reader no
Compact Flash reader no
xD-card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad
Audio chipset Realtek HD Audio
Speaker location Underside
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no
Carry case no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 6hr 34min
Battery life, heavy use 2hr 9min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 14fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.46
Responsiveness score 0.59
Media score 0.47
Multitasking score 0.33

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
OS family Windows 7
Recovery method Recovery partition
Software supplied N/A