Some laptop shoppers turn and run at the thought of swapping an Intel processor for one from AMD. Of course they shouldn't do that, even though many times an AMD-powered version of a laptop will not offer battery life or application performance on par with a comparable Intel system. The trade-off in price is sometimes worth it, and AMD laptops can have excellent graphics performance at all price levels.
This AMD-powered version of the 14-inch Samsung Series 5 uses AMD's high-end A10 processor, and in everyday use, it felt perfectly speedy and would work fine in most scenarios. That said, the price discount one would expect to see over a comparable Intel system isn't there. Samsung offers this system for $849, which makes me wonder if Samsung has actually seen what kind of laptops you can get today for $849.
Checking online, I did find this system on Amazon for $670, which is more reasonable for a thinnish 14-inch laptop with an optical drive, big 750GB hard drive, and Radeon HD 7620G graphics. Meanwhile, Samsung has a couple of Intel Core i5 14-inch Series 5 laptops for $799 to $849.
Price considerations aside, Samsung's Series 5 and Series 7 mainstream laptops are well-built machines with good ergonomics and stylish designs. If you can find it for a decent discount off of Samsung's official price (as noted above), this is a reliable 14-inch everyday laptop with an optical drive, but I think you'd have to seriously consider an Intel version instead if the price was the same or very close.
|Price as reviewed||$849|
|Processor||2.0GHz AMD Quad-Core A10-4655M|
|Memory||4GB, 1,333MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||750GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Radeon HD 7620G|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.1 x 9.0 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14.0 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||4.0/4.7 pounds|
There are two ways to look at the Samsung Series 5. It's either a thick fauxtrabook (our term for laptops that are close enough to be an ultrabook, but for a variety of reasons don't carry that official designation, which is a trademarked Intel marketing term) or a reasonable 14-inch midsize laptop.
The Intel version of this 14-inch Series 5 is physically identical, and actually is an official ultrabook. Earlier in 2012, I criticized the Intel version for pushing the boundaries of what should be considered an ultrabook, saying at the time: "The ultrabook -- a concept built around mimicking the best parts of Apple's MacBook Air -- has now become so broad that nearly anything qualifies, at least if this latest example from Samsung is any indicator....Ultrabooks are supposed to rely on solid-state drive (SSD) storage; this model skirts the issue by adding a 16GB SSD for quick bootup to a standard 500GB hard disk. And the tray-loading optical drive does nothing for thickness and weight."
With the official Intel ultrabook label removed, the laptop is the same -- still a bit on the hefty side -- but it makes more sense when pitched as a mainstream 14-inch.
The matte aluminum finish does a great job of resisting fingerprints and looks sharp, but there's a lot of design competition in the second half of 2012 in this price range, especially from HP's entry-level Envy laptops, or the HP Pavilion m6.
The keyboard has the same island-style layout found on other recent Samsung laptops (and almost every laptop released in the past couple of years). The keys have a matte finish to them, and have absolutely no flex under the fingers, even with heavy typing. Shift, Enter, Tab, and other important keys are large and easy to hit, but the spacebar is a little on the narrow side.
Multimedia functions are mapped to the alternate function of the F-keys. Some laptops, including most recent HP models, swap the F-key and the alternate F-key commands, giving you easier access to volume and brightness settings, for example.
The large touch pad is responsive to single-input commands, but it has separate left and right mouse buttons below it. Many new laptops are switching to a buttonless design we call a clickpad. Multitouch gestures, such as the all-important two-finger scroll, felt a little sluggish, a common enough problem for Windows laptops in general.
The 14-inch display has a standard 1,366x768-pixel native resolution. For under $1,000, that's still acceptable, although 14- and 15-inch laptops with that native resolution are starting to feel a bit dated. Midsize laptops come off much better with 1,600x900-pixel screens (or even 1,920x1,080). Still, the screen's matte, antiglare finish was welcome, as were the wide viewing angles.
|Samsung Series 5||Average for category [midsize]|
|Video||VGA plus HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||2 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||DVD burner|
The VGA and HDMI ports poke out from a recessed side panel, and the Ethernet port has a tiny door that flips open to fit in a Cat5 cable, similar to designs we saw on tiny Netbooks years ago. Otherwise, this is a standard collection of connections, including the now-standard dual USB 3.0 ports.
The nearly identical Intel version of this 14-inch Series 5 (reviewed in March 2012), used a low-voltage Intel Core i5-2467M CPU. In contrast, this version uses an AMD A10 processor, which is that company's current high-end model. Both versions ran our multitasking benchmark test in nearly the same time, but the Intel version was faster at single-app tests. This system is going to be a bit slower than the typical low-voltage ultrabook, but it's still more than adequate for everyday use, such as Web surfing, HD video streaming, or basic office tasks.