Occasional hiccups like the Samsung Series 3 aside, the Korean company has seriously impressed us with its recent laptop efforts, like the super-affordable 17in RV720 and MacBook Pro-beating Samsung Series 7 Chronos. However, it has been a little quiet on the Ultrabook front until now. The Samsung Series 5 530U4B is a 14in Ultrabook that’s eminently affordable and offers a few rare touches, most notably a Gigabit Ethernet port and optical drive.
Just to clear up any possible confusion, an Ultrabook is Intel’s idea of the ideal ultraportable. Though Samsung’s superb Series 9 easily matches any Ultrabook on the market, it came around before the standard was introduced (much like the MacBook Air) and therefore isn’t classed as one.
Ultrabooks are loosely defined, but there are a few standard characteristics. They all sport stylish and (so far) metal or part-metal chassis, use Intel Core i3-i7 CPUs, have a minimum of 4GB of RAM, use SSD or hybrid SSD storage, are less than 1in thick and tend to weigh under 1.4kg.
The latter is obviously not a strict guideline, since the Samsung Series 5 530U4B comes in at 1.78kg. However, it gets away with this due to its larger screen plus optical drive and, on some models at least, dedicated Radeon graphics – making Samsung’s Series 5 the first Ultrabook range to support something other than Intel’s mediocre integrated effort (not counting the Sony S2 with its external graphics dock).
If you’re thinking that the extras might have caused Samsung’s latest ultraportable to become a little podgy, worry not. It’s still under 21mm thick, and its sleek, tapered edges make it appear even slimmer. However, it does share more DNA with the Samsung Series 7 Chronos than Ultrabook rivals like the Lenovo IdeaPad u300s or Toshiba Satellite Z830. This is clear to see in the easily visible and accessible connectivity, which is certainly no bad thing but doesn’t have that MacBook Air je-ne-sais-quoi.
Build quality is solid, if not quite up to Samsung’s own Chronos or indeed Series 9 – but don’t forget that at around £850, this ultraportable is far cheaper. It still manages to feel premium though, thanks to its anodised aluminium lid and palm-rest. Both of these are nice to touch and don’t pick up fingerprints, an immediate advantage over some competitors and predecessors. The keyboard surround is plastic to keep the weight down but looks and feels as nice as the metal bits, so we won’t complain.