Samsung Series 5 (13-inch) - An Ultra-priced Ultrabook

Launch SRP: S$1288

Heavy on Plastic

Heavy on Plastic

Just like last year's very impressive Series 9 notebook, the Series 5 Ultra has a single (plastic) hinge that runs along most of the notebook's spine. This kind of hinge is aesthetically pleasing, but unfortunately you need both your hands to be free in order to pry the machine open. If the bottom of the notebook were heavier, you might be able open it single-handedly, but then you won't have an Ultrabook on your hands anymore.

The long hinge on the Samsung Series 5 Ultra looks good, and provides the assurance that it will work well even after a couple of years. However, this type of hinge is strong enough that it doesn't help you open the lid of the notebook single handed.

In terms of looks, Samsung also decided to play it safe with the design of the interior. Construction quality of the notebook is fairly good, and that's considering when almost everything is made of plastic (save for the palm rest) but yet carries the same look as the matte grey aluminum lid. Most of the interior has got the same shade of gray splashed all over, but broken up by the matte black of the chiclet keyboard design.

On the onset, the chiclet keys look like the normal variety you'd find on any other modern notebook these days, but there are a couple of things which we really liked about the keys on the Samsung Series 5 Ultra. Firstly, the chiclet keys are covered with a rougher matte texture than most other notebook keys we've seen on the market. This, combined with its very satisfying spring makes for a very comfortable typing experience.

The housing of the keyboard well is plastic so typing on the keyboard does induce some slight flex. However the excellent feel of the individual keys more than make up for this slight annoyance.

And then you have the relatively large trackpad, which most people who are accustomed to using conventional trackpads will appreciate. Because it’s not clickable, the trackpad comes with the conventional left and right click buttons that are springy and satisfying to use.

However, because we've been spoiled by other manufacturers and their huge clickable trackpad (ever the Samsung Series 9 had one) it's a bit sad to see that missing this time round. Perhaps it's one of the differentiating factors to set the Series 5 apart from the more prestigious Series 9 notebook (2012 version coming soon). Certainly costs come in to consideration since the Series 5 Ultra is targeting a different market segment.

We'd like our Ultrabooks to have large clickpads, however in order to keep the price of the notebook in check, Samsung opted for the next best thing - a large conventional trackpad that was also pleasant to use. 

While working with the machine, we found that the Samsung Series 5 had a slight design flaw. This is an oversight which we found on quite a number of earlier Ultrabooks, as well as on the MacBook Air, but strangely not 2011's expensive Samsung Series 9. The problem lies with the edges along the notebook which are really sharp and is especially problematic on the area where you place your wrists. When you use your laptop on your lap, your wrists would be lying right on top of the wrist slashing edge. That means you’d have to consciously adjust the position of the notebook so that your wrists won't be resting anywhere near the edge. 

The notebook looks pretty good when the lid is down, but to achieve that seamless look, the edges of the notebook are unfortunately really sharp. This is something you would need to keep in mind when using the notebook. As such, we suggest that you give the notebook a good trial at the reail outlet to assess if it's really an annoyance since personal tolerances differ from person to person.


Aside from that rather painful design flaw that we mentioned, the Samsung Series 5 Ultra notebook functions pretty well as a multimedia machine. It sports a coveted feature rarely seen outside of a business grade machine - a matte screen. If you're wondering what the fuss about matte and glossy screens is all about, here's a (very) brief overview.

Glossy screens are reflective and under bright environments, details onscreen would be hard to make out. However glossy screens usually make colors on the screen pop out, and appear much more vibrant. Matte screens are the exact opposite as they don't have a gloss finish. As such, viewing images on the Samsung Series 5 Ultra look a very slightly washed out and dull, but you won't be bothered by annoying and distracting reflections that you would otherwise need to be vary of (depending on your operating environment) when using a glossy screen.

Matte screens are really rare these days on mainstream notebooks, simply because they don't appear very appealing at the retail shelves. However, matte screens allow you stare at the screen for much longer comfortably without your eyes succumbing to fatigue.

Ultimately it's down to preferences, but most people prefer not to see a reflection of ceiling lights, the sun or their colleagues. And to be fair, if you don't put the Series 5 Ultra beside a notebook with a glossy screen, you probably wouldn't tell that colors on its screen aren't as vibrant. All things said, we definitely prefer matte screen based notebooks for most needs and purposes, so the Series 5 Ultra has chalked up yet another brownie point against other competing Ultrabooks.

Another feature that adds to the overall experience of a notebook are the speakers found on the machine. We've said it before, and we'll say it again - we really like how manufacturers manage to squeeze such capable speakers into the first wave of Ultrabooks. They aren't so loud that they'd wake patients in a coma, but the sound is crisp, clear and loud enough for you to enjoy video clips and music on your Samsung Series 5 Ultra. We don't mean quality audio that you get out of dedicated speaker systems, but they are sufficient, audible and clear enough for standard needs on the move. You definitely don't have a reason to complain.

Don't be misled by the heat vent found right under the screen. They aren't the speakers you are looking for. The speakers for the Series 5 Ultra are actually found under the machine, on the left and right sides respectively.

The Good
Good value
Matte Screen
Build quality
Pleasant keyboard to use
The Bad
Sharp edges near palm rest
Slightly heavier than other Ultrabooks