The Samsung Series 5 notebook is not, it must be said, the most original range of laptops. We looked at the 13.3in-screen version, and its smooth curves and metallic-grey finish are clearly inspired by Apple’s MacBook Air.

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The packaging has the word ‘ultra’ plastered all over it – ultra-light, ultra-slim – the only thing missing is the word ‘UltrabookTM’.

But, of course, the ‘UltrabookTM’ trademark is owned by Intel and is therefore off-limits for laptops like this particular Series 5, the Samsung Series 5 NP535U3C-A02UK, which is powered by an AMD processor.

It certainly fits into the ultra-portable category, though. Fold the 13.3in screen down flat and the Samsung Series 5 NP535U3C-A02UK measures around 18mm thick and weighs about 1.4kg, so you can easily pick it up with one hand and carry it around when you’re on the move.

The case is made out plastic but feels sturdy enough to cope with the occasional bump in a backpack, and the overall build quality is very good given the cheap £480 price tag – that’s less than half the price of the 13-inch MacBook Air.

The screen of the Samsung Series 5 NP535U3C-A02UK is nice and bright and, thankfully, has a non-gloss finish that cuts down on glare and reflection.

The 1366x768 resolution isn’t full-HD, but is fine for watching streaming video or browsing your photo collection. The viewing angles are not great, though. Brightness drops off pretty quickly as soon as you move away from a front-on position. It does have both HDMI and Mini DisplayPort interfaces so you can connect it to a TV or monitor.

The speakers sound tinny and, of course, there’s no room for an optical drive inside that slimline case. However, the keyboard and trackpad both feel firm and comfortable to use, so you can certainly get down to some serious work when you need to.

A Windows 7 version of the Samsung Series 5 was originally launched last summer, so this 2013 update – denoted by the ‘A02’ suffix – simply brings things up to date with Windows 8.

The rest of the specification remains nearly unchanged, with a dual-core AMD A6-4455M processor running at 2.1GHz, 6GB of RAM (down form 8GB of before) and 500GB hard disk. An integrated AMD Radeon HD 7500G graphics processor handles the graphics.

Samsung Series 5 NP535U3C-A02UK: Performance

It’s no speed-demon, producing a very modest score of just 1445 points with the PCMark 7 benchmark test.

But, to be fair, that score is partly down to the use of a slow hard drive that drags its overall score down quite a bit. In general use the 2.1GHz processor will be perfectly adequate for routine tasks such as web browsing or word processing.

It’s not much of a gaming machine either, as the Radeon HD 7500G could barely manage 9fps when running Batman: Arkham City at native 1366 x 768 resolution with DX 11 and High graphics settings.

Even dropping to 1280 x 720 with the lowest graphics settings only bumped that up to 20fps, so you probably won’t be able to do much more than play the occasional game of Farmville on Facebook.

Battery life isn’t particularly ‘ultra’ either. We only got three hours when using its Wi-Fi connection to stream video from BBC iPlayer.

Casual web browsing and office apps might allow you to eke another hour out of it, but this is one area where the low price has clearly affected performance.

Samsung NP535U3C-A02UK: Specs

  • 2.1GHz AMD A6-4455M
  • Windows 8 (64-bit)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB HDD
  • 13.3in (1366 x 768) LCD display
  • AMD Radeon HD 7500G
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • SD card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • 1.3Mp webcam with built-in mic
  • combined headphone/microphone socket
  • lithium-Ion battery
  • 314 x 218 x 18mm
  • 1.4kg
  • 2.1GHz AMD A6-4455M
  • Windows 8 (64-bit)
  • 6GB DDR3 RAM
  • 500GB HDD
  • 13.3in (1366 x 768) LCD display
  • AMD Radeon HD 7500G
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • SD card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • 1.3Mp webcam with built-in mic
  • combined headphone/microphone socket
  • lithium-Ion battery
  • 314 x 218 x 18mm
  • 1.4kg

OUR VERDICT

Producing an ultra-portable laptop that costs less than £500 inevitably involves some compromises, and the 13in Samsung Series 5 won’t win any awards for performance or battery life. Even so, it’ll handle most routine computing tasks perfectly well and its neat, lightweight design makes it a genuine ultra-portable without being ultra-expensive.

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