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Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch review: Slim but sturdy, for less than you'd think

Review Sections

Connections, performance, and battery life
While many slim 13-inch laptops drop the Ethernet jack, the Series 5 manages to keep it, thanks to a hinged data-port connection that swings open when needed. It's disappointing that you only get a single USB 3.0 port -- the other two are of the slower USB 2.0 variety.

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The Series 5 performed well in anecdotal testing for Web surfing, video playback, and other everyday tasks. However, note that when compared with other Core i5 ultrabook-style laptops, from the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 to the MacBook Air, the Series 5 was slightly to significantly slower in most of our performance tests.

One partial explanation may be the slower 5,400rpm hard drive in the Samsung versus the SSD drives in the other systems. Samsung's proprietary software, such as the Quick Starter software dock, may also eat up some processing overhead. Despite this, the system was fine in hands-on use, and these slower benchmark results shouldn't be a deal breaker.

Battery life was a pleasant surprise. In our video playback battery drain test, the Series 5 ran for 6 hours and 2 minutes, which is very good for a 13-inch laptop, especially one that costs under $900. The 13-inch MacBook Air ran significantly longer (and costs significantly more, as well), and Lenovo's well-reviewed Yoga ran for about half an hour less.

I've looked at Windows 8 laptops that cost $1,300 or more, as well as ones that dip down below $600. The former tend to be very nice, but hard for everyday consumers to swallow, while the latter can be functional, but plasticky. For $849, the 13-inch Core i5 Series 5 makes a compelling argument, especially when you consider its 6-hour-plus battery life. Dell makes a similarly good case in this price range for its 15-inch Inspiron 15z if you need something with a bigger screen.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Load test (average watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test laptops.

System configurations
Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 500GB HGST5400 hard drive

Apple MacBook Air 13-inch (summer 2012)
OS X 10.7.4 Lion; 1.8GHz Intel Core i5; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Apple SSD

Acer Aspire S7-391-9886
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 128MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Intel SSD

Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Samsung SSD

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 180GB Intel SSD

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