The Samsung NP540U3C is a small, stylish ultrabook that ships with Windows 8. Part of Samsung’s Series 5 range, it’s worth diving in straight away to discuss one of its main attraction, a touchscreen.

See: more reviews of ultraportable laptops.

Like Windows ME, Windows Vista and the odd numbered Star Trek movies, Windows 8 has left many people unimpressed. But this Samsung NP540U3C-A01UK has a trick that might change your mind. It has a touchscreen.

One major criticism of Windows 8 has been that it’s neither a desktop OS nor a tablet OS. It’s a hybrid of the two, lacking in consistency in either mode. If that’s an issue for you, the Samsung may smooth over it. With input choices of touchscreen, trackpad and keyboard, users will no doubt evolve their own ways of getting around. 

Still, we noticed the incongruities. The charm bar would reveal itself unbidden when we moused up to application menus. Occasionally, Windows 8 native apps would launch in response to perceived swipes. This is not necessarily Samsung’s fault, though. It’s Microsoft’s. And running Windows 8 on a touchscreen ultrabook is the best experience we’ve had with the OS so far.

We have to wonder if Windows 8 contributed to a benchmarking score of 3691 points with PCMark 7. That’s a little lower than several similar Intel i5 Core notebooks we’ve used. Still, it seldom felt sluggish and breezed through our 3D game benchmark test with an average of 28 fps.

The Samsung NP540U3C comes with a 500 GB hard drive. As the ultrabook design that Intel borrowed from Apple is founded on solid-state technology, this is a cost-cutting decision rather than one to maintain the best user experience. There are dearer Series 5 notebooks with SSDs available though. This will suit folks who want to take more music, movies and images around with them. Samsung’s AllShare Play software enables you to stream your media wirelessly to other devices too. 

Samsung NP540U3C-A01UK impressed us too with its robust build quality and good looks. The upper case and keyboard tray are brushed aluminium, stained slate grey. The lower case is fibreglass, tough, smooth and durable. At 1.69 kg, it’s light for an older notebook and a little heavy by ultraportable standards – but it feels solid and balanced in your hands. 

Once we drill down to the smaller details some small niggles arise. The join between case and screen feels a little sharp, for example. When looking at ultrabooks, it’s difficult not to think of the Macbook Air, its beveled screen and the seamless transition between glass trackpad and aluminium.  

The Macbook Air comes back to mind when we look at styling too. The Series 5 machine is slim. At 19.9mm at its chubbiest point, tapering to 16.9 at the thin end of the wedge. The rounded edges, generous trackpad and recessed keyboard are all pleasingly familiar to the eye. 

We wished for something a little lighter in tone than the “Metallic Titan” finish, but Samsung has probably had enough contact from Apple’s lawyers for the moment.

For such a slender machine, there are plenty of ports. A pair of USB 2.0 ports and a 3-in-1 SD card slot on the right side. On the left there is gigabit ethernet, USB 3.0 and HDMI connectivity. The ultrabook may be compact, but these features make it a viable all-rounder stop-gap if required. 

Samsung NP540U3C-A01UK: Specs

  • 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 Processor 3317U (3MB L3 Cache)
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • 13.3in (1366 x 768) LCD touchscreen
  • 500GB HDD
  • 6GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM
  • gigabit ethernet
  • VGA, HDMI
  • 3.5mm mic in/headphone combo jack
  • SDXC Card slot
  • 103 x 70mm two button multi-touch trackpad
  • 52Wh non-removable lithium-polymer battery
  • 1.69kg
  • 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 Processor 3317U (3MB L3 Cache)
  • Intel HD Graphics 4000
  • 13.3in (1366 x 768) LCD touchscreen
  • 500GB HDD
  • 6GB DDR3 1600MHz RAM
  • gigabit ethernet
  • VGA, HDMI
  • 3.5mm mic in/headphone combo jack
  • SDXC Card slot
  • 103 x 70mm two button multi-touch trackpad
  • 52Wh non-removable lithium-polymer battery
  • 1.69kg

OUR VERDICT

Balancing portability with power, the 13.3in Samsung NP540U3C-A01UK is a solid ultrabook that’s flexible enough for home use or on the road. Suitable for media playback and productivity, the price isn’t too bad either.

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