The cheapest big-brand light laptop we have seen to date
The 'Ultrabook' is Intel's name for thin and light laptops that have long battery life and start up quickly, but most of the models we've seen so far, such as the Dell XPS 13, cost around £850-1000. Samsung's Series 5 Ultrabook is the cheapest model we've seen from a household name manufacturer – it costs just £630.
Samsung has made compromises to keep the price down and the most obvious is that this laptop is made out of dull grey plastic rather than metal. It doesn't look as glamorous as the metallic Dell XPS 13 and it's a bit creakier than we'd like, but it's still reasonably attractive and sturdy. At 1.8kg it's heavier than other Ultrabooks, such as the XPS 13 which weighs 1.4kg, but it's still light enough to carry around.
The plastic build is a bit thicker than other ultrabooks and that's because it has a 500GB hard disk instead of a solid state disk. Although the hard disk, with its moving parts, is more susceptible to physical shocks than a solid state disk (SSD), it does provide a lot more storage – the Dell XPS 13's SSD, for example, has just 128GB. Samsung has also included a small 16GB SSD to speed up starting up and resuming from sleep, so that the Series 5 isn't perceptibly slower at these tasks than the Dell XPS 13.
The thicker case does have its advantages. There's plenty of connectivity including three USB2 ports, a memory card reader and full-size HDMI and Ethernet ports – the latter two are often missing on Ultrabooks. Another unexpected benefit is the easy access to the hard disk and RAM slots – the 4GB of RAM can be boosted to 8GB. Other ultrabooks are either impossible or much harder to upgrade yourself.
Although the keyboard isn't backlit like the XPS 13's, it's otherwise very good. Almost all of the keys are full-size and although they don't have quite as much travel as we'd like, they're still very responsive and comfortable to type on. The touchpad is large and responsive and, unlike the XPS 13, has separate buttons rather than ones built into the pad itself.
Most Ultrabooks have glossy screens which increase brightness, but the glossy sheen reflects lighting easily which can cause glare which looks distracting. The Series 5 avoids this problem since it has a matte, anti-glare screen. The downsides are that the 13in screen isn't very bright and the resolution is an average 1,366x768 pixels, but it's good enough.
Applications performance is in line with what we'd expect since the Series 5 has the same 1.6GHz Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM as most other Ultrabooks. Battery life is disappointing though, lasting just five hours and 20 minutes in our light use test, which is noticeably less than almost every other Ultrabook we've seen.
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Battery life is disappointing, but otherwise this is a reasonably good choice if you want an ultrabook on a budget. Bear in mind that the superior HP Folio 13 costs only a bit more.
Low price; useful selection of ports; anti-glare screen; comfortable keyboard; large hard disk
Disappointing battery life
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