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While at the Samsung stand at the CES, we had a good look around the notebook area. Lots of new products were on display, and we’ll be producing some in depth reports on each of them as they come closer to launch and available for a detailed review. But what stood out for us was the new Samsung laptops named the series 5 Ultrabooks.
These are also the first new Samsung laptops that official carry that title Ultrabook. Available in both 13.3” and 14” and with hard drive and solid state options, these Ultrabooks are Samsung’s first foray into the Intel-created “thin and light” category.
With the Series 9 notebooks under the spotlight, it’s always going to be hard for other models to come out from the shadow of that impressive form factor and make its own mark. However, where the Series 9 is definitely more aspiration in market position, these new Samsung laptops make it much more accessible and affordable to own a Samsung Ultrabook.
The 13.3” series 5 sits right where we would expect a good quality, well featured Ultrabook to: 13.3” screen size, 2nd Gen Intel i5 processor, and a slim, silver body with no moving parts, unless you chose the hard drive model with 500GB of storage. It does add a little to the weight but for those who need it, it’s probably better than ensuring you’ve always got your portable hard drive on hand.
The screen was the most and refreshing one (pardon the technical pun) I’ve seen in a while – sporting a matte finish. Ever since we released details of the first Ultrabook, a matte screen request has come up in the comments section a few times and it’s great to finally see one in this category. Matte delivers much less reflection, and the 300 nit brightness means you can take it outside and use it in daylight without the massive light bounces.
This suits Ultrabooks in a huge way, because the lightness and slimness encourages mobility and field use. The 1366 x 768 resolution is standard for this size screen, and doesn’t replicate the Asus UX31 or Macbook 1440 x 900 high definition screen. The matte screen and high brightness does help compensate.
Ports are also wide and varied to support most connectivity needs as well, with HDMI, USB 3.0 and 2.0, Card reader, and onboard Ethernet. Wireless connectivity is also impressive, with Bluetooth, N Wireless and WiDi all onboard.
Design wise it’s a smart looking though conservative design. Curved edges take away any edginess and the chiclet keyboard is comfortable to type on. It’s easy to hold in one hand and sits between the Acer S3 and the HP Folio Ultrabook from a weight point of view.
The 14 inch Ultrabook is extremely interesting from a labelling point of view. Take away the Ultrabook tag and what we have here is a light, well designed 14” notebook with all the ports and media drives you need.
Place it in the Ultrabook category and it’s kind of like the guy who is always stooping down to walk under door frames and slouching in his chair to remain inconspicuous – suddenly the 14” Series 5 model is defined and measured by the relevant things around it, and it looks a little big in comparison to what we’d expect in an Ultrabook.
However Samsung have made sure that the 14” fits within the strict definition of an Ultrabook by using the required components, including processor and solid state, and sneaking under the weight and thickness limits by the smallest margin. For example, the thickness limit for a 14” Ultrabook is 21mm, and Samsung tip in at 20.9mm.
The one component I didn’t expect to see in an Ultrabook, regardless of size, was an optical drive, in this case a DVD Burner/Player. Although I can see where this might come in handy for those that use DVD media all the time, it is probably not what would be required in an Ultrabook.
Samsung have made sure it impresses in performance, with very fast measured boot time, blink-and-you-miss-it wake up from sleep or lid opening. Because the Intel guidelines change with screen size, one of these new Samsung laptops has also managed to offer a 1GB dedicated graphics option as well, depending on what model hits what region.
The two main competitors for the Series 5 14” model would be the Asus U46SV, and the Lenovo U400. Comparing against those two non-Ultrabook models, the Samsung is a very slim and light 14” notebook, easily beating both the Asus and Lenovo models in weight (both around 2kg with the Samsung at 1.64kg in SSD version) and thinness (Lenovo is closer to 23mm and Asus around 24mm).
So this is becomes the conundrum – should a slim notebook with awesome specs be shoehorned into a category because it exists, or will it succeed in its own right by having the optimum performance against its competitors?
My guess is that on a shop floor, against other 14” models, this new Samsung laptop will still be a strong choice because of its comparatively slimmer and lighter dimensions. A 14” notebook with optical drive and dedicated graphics that weighs only 1.64kg? That’s pretty impressive by any measure.
Here’s our run through of the Series 5 Ultrabook range covering both the 13.3” and 14” model, where we look at the features and discuss the definition of an Ultrabook:
Here is where we’d love to hear your thoughts! Would you prefer one of the new Samsung laptops named the Series 5 ultrabooks , and why? Feel free to ask any questions about the range as well.