Ever since Samsung's Series 9 ultraportable notebook arrived on the scene in mid-2011, we caught a glimpse of what the Korean conglomerate can do with their massive engineering and manufacturing capabilities. The Series 9 had everything going for it such as state-of-the-art design, materials (Duralumin), build quaility and was everything a Windows geek would want in a Macbook Air competitor.
However the Series 9 also fell short in some ways, with the most glaring one being its hard-to-swallow price. Even though it was revealed during 2011’s CES as an Ultrabook, Samsung refused to market it as such, instead insisting on calling it a premium ultraportable notebook and was tagged with a hefty price tag. Being the first mover at that point of time, we can't really fault Samsung for not pricing it down to earth, but they did lose the chance to dominate the market had they made it affordable to the masses.
So what does the predecessor have to do with the new Samsung Series 5 Ultra you ask? Well, plenty because thanks to the release of the Series 9 notebook, Samsung probably learned a few important lessons. Lesson one: people aren't willing to pay so much for a MacBook Air clone, pretty it may be. They’d rather just get a MacBook Air with the same specs and cost almost half as much.
Lesson two: Armed with a first-mover’s knowledge, Samsung now knows just what is the most important aspect of an Ultrabook - excellent battery life, and fantastic price. We’re sure Samsung probably gained a few more valuable insights, but those are probably geared towards the business side of things. What’s more important is that right now, the current product culminates all of those experiences in the brand new Samsung Series 5 Ultra (13-inch), which we're scrutinizing closely in this review.
The Series 5 comes in two sizes, a 13-inch version, which adheres to Intel’s Ultrabook guidelines, and the 14-inch version, which has discrete graphics engine and an extra optical drive. For this review, we’ll look at the 13-inch version Series 5 Ultra just so that we can compare it with 13-inch Ultrabooks from other manufacturers. Unlike most other Ultrabooks, this one uses a normal hard drive with flash memory cache combo (basically a hybrid drive) and not a pure solid state drive, which of course provides more storage at a lower price point and helps the value proposition of this notebook.
At first glance, Samsung’s first official Ultrabook, the 13-inch Series 5, looks fairly similar to its predecessor, the Series 9. It has the same sexy curves and metallic looking chassis, but comes in a light shade of gray. According to Samsung, the metal lid isn’t made of Duralamin that covered the Series 9 because it is extremely expensive to fabricate. Instead what you have now is just plain aluminum alloy, while the rest of the body is a plastic composite.
The Series 5 Ultra doesn’t have much features on the exterior save for a couple of status LEDs that show power, HDD, Wi-Fi and charge status. The Samsung Series 5 also has a good number of useful ports like 3 USB ports (two USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 variety), a mini-DVI, a full-sized HDMI, collapsible RJ45, and a 4-in-1 card reader.