It's only 0.7 inch thick, and it weighs just 3.35 pounds (3.8 pounds with power block), but the 13.3-inch Samsung Series 5 NP535U3C doesn't qualify as an Ultrabook. The reason? "Ultrabook" is a trademark belonging to Intel--and the Series 5 NP535U3C doesn't use an Intel processor. Instead, it has a 2.1GHz dual-core AMD Fusion A6-4455M processor. The crucial question: Can this ultrathin, AMD-based ultraportable laptop hold its own in an Ultrabook world? We tested it to find out.
Our review model, priced at $699 (as of August 6, 2012) as configured, sports an AMD Fusion A6-4455M processor, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, and a 13.3-inch screen. It also offers 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and a built-in 1.3MP webcam. The Series 5 runs a 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium.
Diehard AMD fans will be saddened to learn that the Series 5 NP535U3C doesn't quite match the performance of its Ultrabook counterparts. In PCWorld's WorldBench 7 benchmark tests, the Series 5 earned a rather puny 62 out of 100, meaning that it's speed was only 62 percent of our testing model's. The average WorldBench 7 score for the most recent three Ultrabooks we tested was 127.7.
To be fair, the WorldBench 7 tests take more than just processor speed into account, so components other than the AMD processor may share responsibility for the Series 5's poor showing. For instance, a major factor in WorldBench 7 tests is storage and startup speed; and one Ultrabook requirement is speedy boot-up times, which many Ultrabooks accomplish by using a small SSD caching drive plus Intel's Smart Response technology. This Series 5 doesn't have an SSD cache drive, so its startup time is comparatively slow (31.4 seconds versus 12.3 seconds for the much speedier Acer Aspire S5).
But some WorldBench 7 tests stress processor speed. In our Office Productivity tests, for example, the Series 5 managed a mark of just 950, while the Aspire S5 earned a score of 4039. And in our Web Performance tests, the Series 5 sustained 6.8 frames per second versus the Aspire S5's 12.8.
The Samsung Series 5's graphics performance was somewhat stronger, thanks to the integrated AMD Radeon-class GPU. In our Crysis 2 graphics tests, the Series 5 managed frame rates of between 11.3 (at high quality settings and 1366-by-768-pixel resolution) and 24.5 (at low quality settings and 800-by-600-pixel resolution) frames per second. This frame rate was slightly higher than the average for the last three Ultrabooks we've tested. All of the laptops we're comparing, including the Series 5, rely on integrated HD graphics.
The Series 5 has a disappointingly short battery life. In our tests, we managed to eking out a scant 5 hours, 2 minutes in our tests; all three of the most recent Ultrabooks we've tested held out for more than 6 hours.
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