- Review Date: 05/17/2013
- Bottom line: The Samsung Series 3 NP300E5E-A05CA balances performance with price, making it a smart bet for mainstream shoppers.
- Pros: Solid performance, thanks to an Intel Core i5 CPU. Spacious 1TB hard drive.
- Cons: No USB 3.0 ports. Plastic construction only looks like brushed metal.
When shopping for a laptop, it's easy to find a PC that offers all of the necessary performance and features—it's find all that at an affordable price that's difficult. As affordable mainstream laptops go, the Samsung Series 3 NP300E5E-A05CA ($699), available in Canada, manages to balance the demands of performance and pricing fairly well, offering a laptop with solid performance at a reasonable price. While it's not perfect—the port selection could stand to gain a USB 3.0 port—the overall package is quite good, making it our Editors' Choice for mainstream laptops in this batch of Canadian systems.
The Samsung Series 3 NP300E5E-A05CA measures 0.98 by 14.8 by 9.8 inches (HWD), with a silvery plastic lid and a matching plastic palmrest, both of which look a lot like brushed aluminum. The palmrest is textured with a dimpled pattern that matches the perforated speaker grill running along the top of the keyboard, and a similar pattern is seen on the glossy black bezel surrounding the display. The entire laptop weighs 4.85 pounds, which might be a bit too heavy to carry with you while traveling to work or school every day, but it's not so bulky that you'll be stuck in one place whenever you use it.
The 15.6-inch display has 1366-by-768 resolution, and though it's glass-covered, an anti-glare coating reduces reflections considerably. Joining the display are two 1.5-watt stereo speakers, offering decent volume and crisp, bright sound, but little to no bass.
The chiclet keyboard is full size, with a compact numeric pad, perfect for the occasional number crunching task, but the narrow keys may not be great for anyone who spends a lot of time in Excel. The accompanying touchpad, on the other hand, is wide and smooth to the touch, and offers support for Windows 8 gestures. Separate right and left mouse buttons mean that you won't have to deal with unresponsive or inaccurate clicking, but the buttons are a little stiff.
The Samsung Series 3 has a fairly basic feature set, with three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI and VGA output, an integrated card slot (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC), a headset combo jack, and a tray-loading Super-Multi DVD +/-RW drive. While we would like to have seen at least one USB 3.0 port for faster data transfer when connecting an external drive, the ports that are present will still do the trick for most peripherals and flash drives.
An Ethernet port and 802.11n Wi-Fi will let you get on your network easily, while Bluetooth 4.0 provides a wireless connection for syncing your phone, or connecting some wireless peripherals. One welcome addition to the usual feature set is WiDi, Intel's wireless display, which lets you stream HD video to your TV through a receiver like the Netgear Push2TV.
The Samsung Series 3 offers plenty of storage space, thanks to a spacious 1TB 5,400 rpm hard drive. That's about as much as you'll find offered in any midrange 15-inch laptop, and offers plenty of space for all of your files, movies, music, etc. The Series 3 comes with Windows 8 (64-bit), which includes a dead-simple recovery utility, but it occupies a large chunk of the drive. Out of the box, you'll have 866GB available, with the remaining space taken up by the recovery partition and preinstalled software.
Included on the system is a free copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements 11, giving you a fairly full set of photo-editing tools. A 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security provides some protection against viruses and malware, and Microsoft Office Starter 2010 offers limited versions of Word and PowerPoint served up with a side of Microsoft ads. For an ad-free experience with full functionality, you'll need to pay to upgrade to the full Office suite. You'll also get a few apps on the start screen (Amazon Kindle, Evernote, Jamie Oliver's Recipes, Netflix, Skype, StumbleUpon) and several proprietary apps and utilities from Samsung for media management and sharing (S-Player, S-Gallery, and S-Camera). Samsung also covers the Series 3 NP300E5E-A05CA with a one-year warranty.
The Samsung Series 3 stands out in the batch of Canadian systems we've reviewed, as it is equipped with a 2.6GHz Intel Core i5-3230M processor, a dual-core CPU paired with 8GB of memory that leads the category in terms of productive capability and raw processing power. In PCMark 7, it took the lead with 2,828 points—the closest competitor was the value-priced Lenovo IdeaPad N581 (2,573 points). Similarly, it took the lead in Cinebench, scoring 3.0 points, while competitors like the HP Pavilion M6-118-CA (2.04 points) and the Lenovo N581 (2.49 points) fell behind. In multimedia tests, the Series 3 continued to lead, completing Handbrake in 1 minute 11 seconds, and Photoshop CS6 in 4:35. The closest competitors were, again, the Lenovo N581 and the HP Pavilion M6-118-CA.
Equipped with Intel's integrated graphics solution, the Samsung Series 3 will support all the web-browsing and apps expected to run on a mainstream system—as indicated by 3DMark 11 scores, 1,243 points at Entry setting and 2267 points at Extreme settings—but high-end gaming is out of the question. Though it ran our gaming tests, the Samsung was unable to produce playable scores in either Heaven or Alien vs. Predator. You will find this to be one area where AMD-equipped systems pulled ahead, but even the top scoring HP Envy M6-1188CA can't meet the 30 frames-per-second threshold that indicates playable performance.
We tested the Samsung Series 3's battery with our rundown battery life test, which involves playing a 24-hour looped video (All three Lord of the Rings films, extended cuts, looped back-to-back-to-back). In this test, the Samsung lasted 5 hours 11 minutes—less than the HP Envy M6-1188CA (5:59) but still longer than the Lenovo N581 (4:43), and the slim and portable Acer Aspire V5-571P-6627 (3:37).
The Samsung Series 3 NP300E5E-A05CA is an attractive, moderately priced mainstream laptop that offers solid performance and battery life without breaking the bank. While not perfect—I wish it had at least one USB 3.0 port—it's still a smart buy, making it our Editors' Choice for mainstream laptops in this batch of Canadian systems.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.