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Samsung Series 5 NP535U3C: AMD takes on Intel's Ultrabook

Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | Aug. 13, 2012
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.

Design: Chassis, Keyboard, Trackpad

The 13.3-inch Series 5 model that we evaluated looks a lot the rest of Samsung's Series 5 lineup. It has a solid, slate-gray aluminum cover with a small, understated Samsung logo. The muted gray aluminum of the interior is just a few shades darker than that of the Apple MacBook Air. The minimalist keyboard deck contains a small power button in the upper right corner, speakers just above the keyboard, and tiny blue lights at the front for Wi-Fi, power, and battery.

The keyboard and trackpad are comfortable to use, but they have some of the same drawbacks as those on the Samsung Series 5 Ultra, which I reviewed in March. The keyboard's widely spaced, island-style matte keys are very quiet but offer weak feedback. The trackpad is smooth and accurate, and it supports multitouch gestures such as a surprisingly responsive pinch to zoom. The two discrete mouse buttons below the trackpad, however, feel flimsy and cheap.

Port selection on the Series 5 is adequate for an ultraportable laptop. On the left side are a gigabit ethernet port (which pops out, to avoid disrupting the machine's slim profile), a USB3.0 port, an HDMI-out port, a combination headphone/microphone jack, and a mini-DisplayPort. On the right side are two USB 2.0 ports and a four-in-one card reader.

Screen and Speakers

The Series 5's 13.3-inch matte LED-backlit display has a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. The screen features SuperBright Technology, which in our assessments appeared to live up to its name: The screen was quite bright, making it is usable even in very harsh lighting. Colors seemed accurate for the most part, though whites occasionally took on a bluish tint; text and images looked crisp. Off-axis viewing angles, especially the vertical angles, were poor, however, and viewing the screen from a less-than-optimum position yielded darker, contrasty images.

High-definition video looked reasonably good on the Series 5. Not everything was entirely smooth--especially in higher-definition streaming clips--but artifacting in video clips seemed to be limited to darker, fast-moving scenes, and choppiness was minimal.

The Series 5's speakers, though not very loud, produced very full sound, considering the size of the system.

The Bottom Line

You shouldn't write off the Samsung Series 5 NP535U3C just because it has an AMD processor instead of an Intel processor. Though Intel's Ultrabooks may outperform the AMD Series 5 overall, the Series 5's integrated Radeon HD 7500G graphics are slightly more impressive than Intel's HD 4000 integrated graphics. In addition, the AMD Series 5 is $100 cheaper than its Intel counterpart, and it has excellent speakers for the category.

So if you're looking for an ultraportable multimedia machine--and you're not too picky about startup time or branding--the Series 5 deserves a look.

 

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