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Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C review

Andy Vandervell

By
Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

7/10

User Score

Pros

  • Smart design and decent build quality
  • Outstanding keyboard
  • Cool & quiet

Cons

  • Screen very reflective
  • Iffy horizontal and vertical viewing angles
  • Touchscreen not that useful
  • Large premium for touchscreen

Review Price £649.00

Key Features: 13.3-inch, 1,366 x 768 touchscreen; 1.8GHz Intel Core i3 processor; 6GB RAM; 500GB hard drive & 24GB express cache SSD; 3x USB; 1.69kg

Manufacturer: Samsung

What is the Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C?

It's a 13.3-inch touchcreen ultrabook that, at 1.69kg, is light enough to carry around comfortably and handles day-to-day tasks with ease. It’s also known as the Samsung Series 5 Ultra Touch and Samsung NP540U3C-A02UK. It has an Intel Core i3 processor, 6GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive.

Should I buy the Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C?

The Samsung Series 5 NP5540U3C is a nice laptop, but not an exceptional one. It looks and feels the part, and the keyboard is outstanding. Its weakness is the screen. Viewing angles are poor and it’s very reflective. It’s difficult to make the case for a touchscreen laptop, too. It feels superfluous – we’d happily buy the same laptop without a touchscreen for £50 to £100 less. If a touchscreen laptop is exactly what you want, however, it’s among the best around.

For other options, see our best laptops round-up.

Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C 3

Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C – Design & Build Quality

You won’t be ashamed to be seen with the Series 5 Ultra Touch. Its dark grey, brushed metal exterior looks more expensive than the £650 asking price, while the slim tapered body has curves in all the right places. Build quality isn’t quite as good – the screen wobbles a tad too much when prodded – but for the money it’s a nicely put together laptop. At 1.69kg it's not the lightest laptop in its class, but it's light enough to carry around day-to-day without putting your back out.

Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C – Performance

PC Mark 7: 3,262

TrachMania Nations: 45.9fps at medium settings

Stalker: Call of Pripyat: 24.3fps at medium settings

The Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C doesn’t pull up any trees, but unless you throw taxing video encoding jobs at it, it copes just fine. It has a 1.8GHz Intel Core i3 processor – the low-voltage kind reserved for slim, portable laptops such as this – and a very generous 6GB of RAM, which is more enough to keep plenty of apps and browser tabs running at the same time.

There is no dedicated graphics card, just Intel’s competent but limited integrated kind. But Samsung combines a 500GB standard hard drive with a 24GB SSD – dubbed ExpressCache – to improve boot speeds without sacrificing actual storage space. It works a treat. The Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C starts from cold in between 10 and 15 seconds and from sleep in four or less.

Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C

In our PC Mark benchmark it scored a solid, but unspectacular, 3,262. That makes it 25 per cent slower than the recently tested Toshiba Satellite U940 – another 13.3-inch Ultrabook, albeit a cheaper one without a touchscreen. The difference, in this case, is the Toshiba has a faster Core i5 processor. In real world use it’s not a serious issue, but better performance for less is tempting.

Intel’s integrated HD 4000 graphics chip doesn’t totally preclude 3D gaming, but it will limit you severely. In our low intensity test (the fun and free TrackMania Nations racing game) the Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C managed 45.9 frames per second (fps) at medium settings. We recommend a minimum of 30fps, so it does fine here and it’s fast enough for higher settings, too. Our more taxing Stalker: Call of Pripyat benchmark, also run at medium settings, averaged 24.3fps. That sounds playable, but bear in mind it’s an average that includes dips into the low teens, which we’d deem unplayable.

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Chris Beach

May 9, 2013, 12:03 pm

heh, got the screen resolution, closed the browser tab...when will they learn!

andyvan

May 9, 2013, 12:07 pm

To be fair, I don't think that's much to complain about at this price. If it cost £750 / £800 or upwards, however, I'd agree.

David Gradwell

May 10, 2013, 5:04 pm

So, let's get this right Andy, you're opinion is that we need to pay £800 for a laptop with a decent screen? Why? The screen on my Nexus 7 is absolutely fantastic and it cost £200! It's crazy comments like this from reviewers that drive me potty. Like Chris Beach, I stopped reading the review after seeing the pathetic screen resolution.

andyvan

May 11, 2013, 5:47 am

Hey, don't shoot the messenger. That's the reality right now in laptops. You have to remember that laptops are more expensive to make. The screen's are larger, which is more expensive, and most of the other components cost more as well. Comparing a smartphone or tablet to a laptop is comparing apples and oranges.

Do I think that's right? Of course not, I'm on your side here!

It's worth remembering that resolution isn't the be and all, too. For example, I'd sooner have a high quality panel with a lower resolution than a high resolution one that isn't any good. In the case of this laptop, if it had a high resolution but the reflections and viewing angles were just as bad, I'd have given it the same score. Conversely, if it had the same resolution but solved those two problems, it would have got a much higher score.

PS: Just to illustrate my point about size and cost a little more, remember that a diagonal measurement of screen size doesn't reflect the actual difference in size very well. Going by those, this laptop's screen is only 48% larger than the Nexus 7. Going by the actual area, however, tells a very different story. The Nexus 7 screen is 132.85cm2. A 13.3-inch laptop is 488.02cm2 - 73% larger by area than a Nexus 7. It all adds up - it's the same reason you can't buy a 4K TV for a decent price now.

PPS: On the plus side, I believe Sony is making the right noises about ditching 1366 on laptops. Not sure what the pricing will be, though, as it has never traditionally competed at the low-end of the market.

Chris Beach

May 19, 2013, 7:13 am

Really??? I don't mean 1080p should be on the £400 laptops, but 1440x900, or similar should be. It was before this stupid HD branding appeared. If its £400+ and still 768p then it damn well better be an IPS too.

Given the *main* thing you use is the screen, letting them skimp out on it seems wrong.

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