New Samsung Laptops: The Series 5 Ultrabooks


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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.

New Samsung Laptop the Series 5 ultrabook Profile Side on

Samsung have finally thrown their hat in the ring with an officially recognised Ultrabook range in this new samsung laptop.

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.

New Samsung Laptop the Series 5 ultrabook matt Screen playing video

Matte screens are a rare find these days, but it's great to see one in an Ultrabook, which probably needs it most of all.

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.

New Samsung Laptop the Series 5 ultrabook optical drive anyone want to watch a dvd?

What do you call an Ultrabook with a DVD Drive? Not sure, but we'll just call it a Samsung Series 5 for now.

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.

For more details and specifications, please visit www.ultrabooknews.com for both the 13.3″ version and the 14″ model.

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.

Samsung Series 5 Chromebook: First Look

If you’re an 80’s kid like me, then you must have seen the original Ghostbusters movie. Aside from the actual creation of the Ghostbuster team, one of the other great sub plots was Sigourney Weaver’s character Dana Barett being taken over by a demon. In an especially memorable scene, Bill Murray visits Dana, who has turned a tad sexier and uninhibited and tells the Ghostbuster in no uncertain terms, that “There is no Dana, there is only Zuul.”

After spending a little one-on-one time with Samsung’s Series 5 Chromebook, I can almost hear this challenging piece of tech growling “there is no local storage, there is only a browser.” And I understand how Bill Murray’s character must have felt – strangely attracted yet not really sure what to make of it and if it would fit in my life on a full time basis.

Samsung’s Series 5 Chromebook has not yet made it to the Australian market (we’re looking at an early ’12 launch) and I was eager to take this cloud-based notebook for a spin. After a couple of days of use, I can see where cloud-centric platforms are headed, and how this could be a possible future of mobile computing. Although the Chromebook may not be a mainstream device just yet, it certainly makes a bold statement about PC functionality in the near future.

Samsung’s Chromebook is totally browser-based. The Chrome OS is an evolution of Google’s own Chrome browser; each tab is not just a website, but a web-powered application. To this day, programs are installed on your local computer, and if you don’t back up your computer from time to time, you could potentially lose all your work. With the Chromebook, the cloud is your storage space, and there are no programs to install, just apps and extensions to add to your browser.

The Samsung Series 5 Chromebook is, for all intents, a high end-netbook repurposed. It has a 12.1” matte display with 1280 x 800 resolution, which looks great in daylight (more notebooks should have matte displays), powered by an Intel dual core Atom processor, with 2GB of RAM and a quite tiny 16GB SSD drive for the operating system and some limited file storage.

The gloss white lid with the raised Chrome logo and rounded edges gives the Chromebook both a friendly and serious aspect. The contrasting black interior with the island keyboard, generous keypad and black frame around the screen keeps things simple inside. Samsung quote a battery life of over 8 hours, which I wasn’t able to test.

Just as the Asus Slider and Transformer took a standard keyboard and customised buttons for functions specific to the Android OS, the Series 5 has done the same thing, replacing function keys with common Chrome Browser functions such as back/forwards, refresh, group tab switching and brightness/volume controls.

Speaking of volume, you will probably want to keep the sound level low on this Chromebook as the sound is extremely flat. Playing any music clips from YouTube would not be advised because they’ll sound completely different to the quality you remember.

There are two words that the Chromebook says up front: “Trust me.” There is very little in terms of settings or control-panel type fiddling that can be done, just a few basic features to manage the user profile and notebook behaviour. (Handy hint: The one adjustment I made right away was the “touch-to-click” option for the touchpad – an option that most notebooks have as a default and is hard to break as a habit.)

The Chromebook is quick to boot up and shutdown, one of the first positive impressions of this notebook. Open the lid and it’s waiting for your login in a matter of seconds. Close the lid and it’s in standby mode in the same timeframe. It’s very quiet too, with no sign of fan noise, mostly due to the limited SSD flash storage it uses for the Chrome operating system and small amounts of file downloads that it permits.

Navigating the browser is the key to realising the potential of this Chromebook. Each tab is some kind of web address, even the settings page. Opening a new tab displays all the apps you have chosen to attach to your Chrome OS. Clicking one of those takes you to either the webpage or the app within the browser.

You can group tabs according to type of use as well. For example, you may have a bunch of social media pages that you want to keep track of, along with some business documents that you’re editing, as well as a few feeds from your favourite news sites. These groups can be switched between each other so you’re always dealing with groups of like sites.

So what is the beauty of the Chromebook? Because everything you are doing is on the cloud, there is no chance of losing your data even if something catastrophic happens to your notebook. You can just log onto another Chromebook and you’ll be back into your customised environment, with your particular apps and extensions beefing up your browser.

The other significant benefit is never having to update anything. Apps that you “install” will be updated automatically as code is written and launched via the app’s website. Antivirus is redundant because there’s nothing local to be at risk. Chrome OS itself is the only thing that will require updates, and that will be pushed through as a download to the device when required.

In many ways, most of what we do now is internet-based or internet-sourced. Facebook and other social media platforms, email, webchat, news feeds, and even games – most of this information is derived from data on the internet. The natural progression is for the PC makers to focus on the part of computing that most people do these days, which is live in the browser or use apps that filter content from the greater internet.

Who is the Chromebook for? Right now, I’d say corporations that want a low-maintenance, cost effective browser-based platform that utilises their own secure servers would definitely be interested. Indeed, Google have made moves in the enterprise space, recently updating Chrome OS to include VPN, secure Wi-Fi support and a new Citrix app that enables virtualisation, meaning access to a Windows environment through the Chrome browser.

Will the Chrome OS succeed? I think it will take time, but there is definitely room for this type of product for mainstream users in the future. That future is one where high-speed, ultra-reliable internet access sits alongside water and electricity as a utility, not a privilege. The NBN, a topic that deserves its own commentary in a future post, will assist in bringing us closer to a communications and entertainment backbone that anyone in Australia can draw on at affordable prices.

In this broadband Utopia, always being connected, and always flying at high speed for transfers and content consumption, will in many ways negate the need for reliance on local storage. Telstra is in talks now to become a secure cloud storage provider, and once large corporations like Telcos offer this service, the level of comfort will rise for a product like this.

Is Chromebook ahead of its time? A little. But by getting in the trenches now and learning from current usage patterns and having a base on which to improve hardware and software, a secure and easy-to-use cloud platform will emerge.

The Series 5 Chromebook is a great piece of technology. Those early adopters who want to embrace cloud computing and all its benefits and challenges will help create a more mainstream-accepted product offering in the not-too-distant future. I, for one, hope to spend a lot more time on this platform and report on its progress as Google rolls out updates and improvements to Chrome OS.

Are you a Chrome browser user? Can you see yourself moving to the Chrome OS in the future?