We don’t all have wads of cash burning holes in our pockets, and unfortunately that means we can’t all afford MacBook Airs or top-end Ultrabooks like the Samsung Series 9 900X3B. However, Samsung still has a very stylish offering for those after a more affordable 13-inch ultraportable: its AMD-based Series 5 535U3C.
Available for under £500, the Samsung Series 5 535U3C-A01 certainly doesn’t look like a cheap laptop. It sports a lovely brushed metal chassis and a matt screen, while on its inside we have some decent specs including a 2.1GHz AMD A6 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive. Can this slim and light ultraportable laptop win us over?
While not quite as stunning as its Series 9 laptops, it must be said that Samsung’s Series 5 535U3C need not be ashamed to be seen amongst rivals costing twice as much. At just 17.6mm thin at its thickest point and weighing just over 1.5kg, this is a remarkably slim and light ‘budget’ ultraportable made to look thinner still by its gently tapering edges.
Its materials also look the part with a brushed aluminium lid and fiber-glass re-enforced base. Fingerprints are not really an issue, though grease marks can be visible from certain angles. Basically, in terms of aesthetics the Series 5 535U3C shares a lot of its DNA with the Series 7 Chronos, and that’s no bad thing.
Build quality is concurrently good. Naturally it can’t match the solid slabs of aluminium that make up the Air and Series 9, but there’s no sign of unwanted creak or flex, panels are beautifully fitted, and it all feels very sturdy. The only exception is the hinge, which did protest audibly on occasion with our sample but still offered good action.
Connectivity is generous for a slim laptop. On the left you’ll find a slim Gigabit Ethernet jack, a USB 3.0 port, HDMI for video output, and a 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack. There’s also a discreet microVGA port which works with the included adapter.
On the right we have twin USB 2.0 ports along with a full-size SDXC card slot. Wireless is handled by the usual Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi N combo.
Thankfully, this Series 5 offers a pretty nice typing experience and excellent layout that’s very similar to that found on most of the company’s other 13-inch laptops. As you might expect, what’s missing here is keyboard backlighting, but at its price point that’s forgivable.
The matt black chiclet keys give a decent amount of travel with a nice click, and though it doesn’t live up to the superb keyboards on most Lenovo laptops, it’s still ahead of some of the competition.
Unlike its higher-end siblings, the touchpad doesn’t integrate its buttons, an approach many will actually prefer since it prevents accidental clicks. There’s still plenty of room for multi-touch gestures on the comfy pad though, and its large buttons depress with just the right kind of click.
The Series 5 535U3C’s 13.3-inch display is fairly good as budget laptop screens go, despite being at first glance a rather disappointing TN panel with a bog-standard 1,366 x 768 resolution. For starters, as we already mentioned it sports a matt finish, meaning no annoying reflections. Viewing angles, while nothing to write home about, are also decent by TN standards, so you can watch a movie when sitting off-angle as long as you tilt the display right.
Colours are fairly punchy and, though blacks are far from deep, at least dark detailing is superb. Topping it off is even backlighting with no obvious bleed, making this Samsung Series 5’s screen one of the better budget laptop efforts we’ve seen. Still we can’t help but hope that the superior, high-resolution IPS panels so common in even affordable tablets like the Google Nexus 7, will soon become standard on laptops too.
On the audio side of things the Series 5 535U3C holds up well too. Though they’re short on bass and suffer from the occasional bit of distortion, this ultraportable’s stereo efforts produce audio that’s loud, has a sense of depth, and decent clarity at the mid and high end; headphones are recommended but not required.