If the middle-of-the-road performance of the Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C gives you pause, the fact it’s cool and quiet should cheer you up. There’s only one noticeable hot spot – a small vent around where your right knee sits when using the Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C on your lap. It doesn’t get too hot, around 39 degrees celcius during normal use and 44 degrees when playing games, and no other point exceeded 35 degrees during our benchmarks with most much lower than that.
We don’t measure noise as precisely, but in normal use the Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C is rarely audible and not bothersome when it is. Games and intensive tasks are another matter, but it’s no louder than other laptops in the same Ultrabook category.
See our best ultrbook round-up for comparisons.
Connectivity is decent. There are three USB ports, one a USB 3 port that supports standby charging – useful for charging phones and tablets. There’s an SD card reader and HDMI, too, but there are a couple of wrinkles. The VGA video out requires an adapter (not supplied) and there’s just one combined headphone and mic jack – no use if you have a headset that needs one of each.
Like most laptops this size there’s no built-in optical drive and no external one, either. That’s not a big deal, but for the price a 500GB hard drive isn’t overly generous. It’s enough for one or two people's collections of videos and photos, but we've seen cheaper laptops have more space.
The speakers sound a little flat, but they reach decent volumes and are good enough for watching TV dramas and online videos. For most music, however, they’re too imprecise and muddled.
The battery isn't removable – a common trait these days. Batteries lose some capacity as they're used, though Samsung claims its Samsung BatteryLife Plus technology means the battery retains 70 per cent of its capacity after 1,500 cycles / three years.
There’s no shortage of 13-inch laptops, whether they’re Ultrabooks – Intel’s name for slim and light laptops – or not. The Toshiba Satellite U940 is £50 cheaper and noticeably faster, but its poor screen is a serious mark against it. If a touchscreen laptop is what you desire, Sony does a touchscreen version of the Sony VAIO T13 as well.
Perhaps the best alternative is another Samsung laptop, the near identical Samsung Series 5 NP530U3C. We haven’t reviewed it yet, but it’s basically the same laptop without the touchscreen. That means it has a non-reflective screen – it’s also 170g lighter (it weighs 1.52kg) – and costs just £530, £120 less. That’s a serious difference.
If none of those options appeal to you, take a look at our best Windows 8 laptop round-up for our top picks.
Does a touchscreen laptop make sense? If you think so then the Samsung Series 5 NP540U3C is a good bet – it delivers in most areas, even if the screen doesn’t inspire. But if, like us, a touchscreen laptop doesn’t work for you, there’s no shortage of better options.