The Samsung Series 5 530U’s connectivity is simply superb by Ultrabook standards. Only the Toshiba Satellite Z830 comes close, and still doesn’t offer an optical drive. On the left we have a Gigabit Ethernet port to start with, which is a little too fat to fit and therefore uses the same hinged flap system we saw on the Samsung Series 7 Chronos and Series 9. It’s a nice solution, though under rare circumstances it could prove a potential snagging or even breaking point.
The Ethernet port is followed by twin USB 3.0 ports. These are a little close together for comfort, but there is a third USB port on the laptop’s other side. Next up is good old VGA, which we hoped we had seen the last of on Samsung’s machines with the adapter-using microVGA port on the Chronos. For a consumer laptop, we would argue having it in its original form is at best an eyesore, but we guess it’s there if you need it. Of course HDMI is also available for video output, followed by a microphone/headphone combi jack.
On the right there’s an SDXC memory card reader, single USB 2.0 port, and the attractively recessed optical drive. For video conferencing there’s the 1.3MP HD webcam with noise-cancelling microphone and, last but not least, on wireless duties we have those two good amigos, Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 3.0.
Samsung keeps the ball nicely rolling when it comes to usability. Though not backlit on account of the Series 5 530U’s affordable price, the well-laid-out chiclet keyboard is still great to use, with the thicker chassis allowing more travel than most and a satisfying click to its key action. Only the Lenovo IdeaPad u300s is nicer to type on, among Ultrabooks.
The touchpad breaks from Ultrabook tradition by offering distinct, physical buttons, but doesn’t suffer for it. The touch area is large and smooth, and never feels less than responsive. Its buttons may be semi-glossy but still manage to avoid fingerprints, and their feedback is just as positive as the keyboard’s.
So far the Samsung Series 5 530U has done really well, but screens are a traditional weak point for Ultrabooks, which - despite their premium build, specifications and prices - still use ‘cheap’ TN panels with inherently poor viewing angles.
As is becoming ever more popular, the Samsung Series 5 530U4B-A01 squeezes a 14in display into what is essentially a 13in chassis (it measures 33cm across where your average 13in Ultrabook is 32cm). It also sports a matt screen finish, and Samsung has said that all of its laptop screens will be matt going forward. This is a brave decision for which we can only applaud the company, as it cuts down on annoying reflections and glare.
This, combined with a high brightness rating of 300nits, makes the screen usable outdoors in moderate sunshine. Only the resolution is ordinary, with the usual 1,366 x 768 pixels. But then, the Asus Zenbook UX31 is one of the only Ultrabooks to buck this trend with its 1,600 x 900 display.
Otherwise the 14in 530U’s screen continues to impress. Dark detailing is excellent, with even the subtlest tonal variations showing up in gloomy movies and games. Colours too are reasonably accurate and vibrant - for a matt display, anyway. Backlighting is even with no noticeable bleed and there are no nasty artefacts.
Last but not least, though vertical viewing angles are as weak as on any other TN panel, horizontal ones are good. We’re yet to see a laptop TN display to match the superb example on the Series 9, but the Series 5 530U is still up there with the best of the rest.