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Samsung 530U3BI review:

Samsung 530U3BI

Built-in stereo speakers situated above the keyboard do the job just fine; they're not stupendous, but for watching movies and having a Web chat, they're loud and crisp enough. The 1,280x1,024-pixel Webcam is better than average, with a sharp picture and good light sensitivity. Cyberlink YouCam software is included.

Samsung Series 5 Ultra 13-inch NP530U3B Average for category [ultrabook]
Video HDMI, VGA via optional cable VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone combo jack Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader 2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband
Optical drive None None

The Series 5 Ultra effortlessly includes all the important ports while still having a svelte design; pray tell, why can't other ultrabooks do the same? Ports are openly accessible at the rear of each side edge. You get two USB 2.0 ports, an USB 3.0 port, HDMI, an SD card slot, and a pull-down Ethernet port. No compromises. There's even Bluetooth. The 15-inch Series 9, by comparison, relied on dongles and specialized cables far too much. There is one specialized port that connects to an optional VGA-out, but few people will notice that feature.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For the price-conscious (which is, frankly, most of us), Samsung has offered Series 5 Ultra buyers a choice of SSD or hybrid hard drive in two different configurations. This is a trend that's spreading across previously SSD-only ultrabooks. A 128GB SSD version costs $999 (or less on some Web sites), while a version with a 500GB hard drive and small SSD cache costs $849. I'd personally choose to save $150 and get more storage, even if it meant slightly slower boot time and file access speeds (I only tested the SSD version). 4GB of RAM comes standard, and a Core i5 CPU is the only processor option currently available.

The 1.6GHz Core i5-2467M CPU matches what we saw in the HP Folio 13. It's a second-gen "Sandy Bridge" Intel processor, and not the third-gen "Ivy Bridge" version you'll see in just a matter of weeks in some laptops. Should you wait for Ivy Bridge? There should be some advantages to the next-gen processor upgrade in ultrabooks, notably in integrated graphics, which should transcode video and play games significantly better. You might want to hold off for a month or so to be sure. Still, the current CPU in this Series 5 Ultra performed well for all tasks we threw at it. Boot time was also fast at around 17 seconds, in part due to the SSD. As for waking up from sleep, sometimes the Series 5 did it quickly and effortlessly; other times, not so much. This is a problem with most Windows laptops, not just the Series 5 Ultra.

Juice box
Samsung Series 5 Ultra 13-inch Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent) 0.48
Sleep (10 percent) 0.65
Idle (25 percent) 6.47
Load (5 percent) 26.08
Raw kWh 28.68
Annual energy cost $3.26

Alas, here's the rub: the battery life on the Series 5 Ultra NP530U3B is a letdown. We got 4 hours and 37 minutes of continuous video playback, which puts it narrowly at the bottom of the pack of ultrabooks we compared it with. Recent ultrabooks have fared better. For example, the HP Folio 13 lasted 5 hours and 58 minutes in the same test, and the MacBook Air lasted 6 hours and 46 minutes. From an 11-incher, maybe, you could expect a battery life like that, but for a 13-inch ultrabook, it's deficient.

Samsung includes a standard one-year parts-and-labor warranty with the system. The company's support Web site offers an easy-to-use menu for finding your laptop model, and frequently asked questions and driver/manual downloads are easily accessible. Samsung's 1-800 service number is also prominently displayed, which isn't always the case on support pages.

The 13-inch Samsung Series 5 Ultra NP530U3B is, finally, Samsung's affordable mainstream ultrabook that the pricey Series 9 never was. That's great news, but it's not exactly a super bargain: many other ultrabooks cost about the same. You're getting good overall design and a slim build plus plenty of ports on the Series 5, but it's not as sexy as a MacBook Air. It simply isn't. Get one at a discount if you can. The Series 5 Ultra is a very good ultrabook, but it isn't a world-beater.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Samsung Series 5 NP530U3B

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Samsung Series 5 NP530U3B

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Samsung Series 5 NP530U3B

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Samsung Series 5 NP530U3B

Annual power consumption cost
HP Folio 13
Samsung Series 5 NP530U3B

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