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Samsung Series 5 Ultra 13.3-inch review: Samsung Series 5 Ultra 13.3-inch

It might not have the backlit keyboard or the ultra-long battery life of some of its competitors, but the Samsung Series 5 Ultra is a pleasing laptop all the same.

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Craig Simms
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Craig Simms

Special to CNET News

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

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The Samsung Series 5 Ultra is a rather nice laptop.

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8.0

Samsung Series 5 Ultra 13.3-inch

The Good

Matte screen. Good connectivity. Good touch pad and keyboard. Easy accessibility to upgrade.

The Bad

Heat management could be better. Battery life is outdone by the competition. Backlit keyboard is sorely missed.

The Bottom Line

It might not have the backlit keyboard or the ultra-long battery life of some of its competitors, but the Samsung Series 5 Ultra is a pleasing laptop all the same.

OK, so it has a boring resolution of 1366x768, but it does have a matte screen, and the colours are vibrant — so long as you're within optimal viewing angles. It should be noted that vertical viewing angles in particular could stand to be better, but it's no worse than the rest of the laptops out there.

It also has a reasonable keyboard, beautiful touch pad that allows double finger tapping to represent a right click, a 128GB SSD and enough ports to keep the majority of Windows users happy. Ethernet, USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, an SD card reader, HDMI out and VGA out through an adapter are there, as well as a headset jack. For the size, it's very well apportioned.

The interior is dark, gun-metal grey, at first appearing quite stark, but it grows on you. The speakers are amazing for a device of this size — one of the few instances where we've been impressed by the audio on a laptop.

A single Phillips-head screw removal and a bit of prying will get you into the hard drive and memory bay, should you choose to tweak it. A single DDR3 slot is available, should you wish to expand, while the existing RAM is on-board. Samsung has clearly put a fair amount of energy into making a decent laptop.

As a bonus, you can turn the laptop directly into an access point as you would a mobile device. 802.11n is offered on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz spectrums, and Bluetooth is included, as well.

Application performance

Choose a benchmark: Handbrake | iTunes | Photoshop | Multimedia


Straightaway, we can see that the Samsung suffers from some slight overheating, just like the Folio 13 does. It doesn't really raise its head until you hit all the cores at once with a heavy Handbrake encode, but nonetheless it's there. Samsung does have something called "Silent mode", in which it will allow the temperature to rise a little higher before the fans kick in — we ensured that this was disabled for our tests.

While we doubt that many people will be doing Handbrake encodes on the Series 5 Ultra, it's important to know that the limitation is there.

Battery life

Battery life (time)

  • Heavy battery test
  • Light battery test
  • 2h 15m3h 21m
  • Asus ZenBook UX21 (Core i7 2667M, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)
  • 2h 42m2h 54m
  • Acer Aspire S3 (Core i5 2467M, 4GB RAM, 320GB HDD)
  • (Longer bars indicate better performance)


    While the battery life isn't anything to sneeze at, there are definitely longer-life laptops out there.

    Conclusion

    It might not have the backlit keyboard or the ultra-long battery life of some of its competitors, but the Samsung Series 5 Ultra is a pleasing laptop all the same.