- Review Date: 02/05/2013
- Bottom line: The Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch NP540U3C-A01UB is a solid touch-enabled ultrabook with decent performance and battery life.
- Pros: Touch screen and Windows 8. Large 500GB hard drive with 24GB flash cache. Sturdy hinge.
- Cons: VGA output requires adapter dongle. No keyboard backlight. Flat sound from speakers.
The Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch NP540U3C-A01UB gives you a 13-inch ultrabook, married to a touch screen display and Microsoft's touch-friendly Windows 8 operating system. While it may not flip and fold like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13, the Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch is still a slim and slick-looking laptop, with the latest touch interface for simple, intuitive control.
Even with the addition of a touch screen, the Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch is just as light and thin as a standard ultrabook, measuring 0.78 by 12.4 by 8.6 inches (HWD), and weighing 3.83 pounds—less than the 14-inch Asus VivoBook S400CA-UH51 (4.4 pounds) and HP Envy TouchSmart Ultrabook 4t-1100 (4.77 pounds), and only a touch heavier than the 3.4-pound Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13, which doubles as a tablet.
The 13.3-inch display has a 1,366-by-768 resolution, along with capacitive touch and 10-finger tracking. The touch interface gave us no problems, but the display itself washes out when viewed from an angle. The lid hinge is fairly sturdy, but still wobbles when you tap and touch the screen. To be fair, this is a problem we've seen on virtually every touch-enabled ultrabook so far, including the Lenovo Yoga 13 and the Editors' Choice Asus VivoBook S400CA. The Series 5 UltraTouch is outfitted with two stereo speakers, found on the underside of the laptop, which offer passable sound and decent volume, but even with Dolby Home Theater v4 software optimization, the sound was a bit dull and lifeless.
The Series 5 UltraTouch has a chiclet keyboard with firm keys that may be too stiff for some people's liking. While typing feel is subjective, I definitely wish that the keyboard were backlit. The touchpad supports all of the gestures you'll want for Windows 8, like swiping from the sides to access the Charms Bar or to cycle through open apps, but the discrete buttons will be preferred by some to the integrated buttons found on the Asus VivoBook or the HP Envy 4t-1100. Finally, the front edge of the palmrest, which sits directly below the wrists, has an uncomfortably hard edge. In all cases, I'd recommend shoppers try before they buy to gauge the comfort themselves.
The Series 5 UltraTouch has a full selection of ports and connections, including one USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports (one with Sleep-n-Charge), along with an Ethernet port, SD card slot (SD/SDHC/SDXC), HDMI output, and a mini VGA. For those who need full sized VGA output, there is a mini-to-full size adapter available separately ($29.99 direct). For those who want to skip the cables entirely, the Series 5 UltraTouch also offers Wi-Di wireless streaming to any TV via adapter. For other wireless connectivity, there's also 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
For storage, the Series 5 UtraTouch uses a combination of 500GB 5,400 rpm hard drive with a 24GB flash memory cache, which provides the flash memory needed for instant resume and quick boot times, as well as helping to provide optimal performance without sacrificing the larger storage space provided by a spinning drive. As with most ultrabooks, the Series 5 UltraTouch has no optical drive.
On the drive, in addition to Windows 8 (64-bit), you'll find a number of programs already on the start screen and on the desktop. There's Microsoft Office Starter 2010, which gives you limited versions of Word and Excel and a few ads, with the option of upgrading to the full-feature, ad-free Office Suite. A 60-day trial of Norton Internet Security also comes with a limited amount of free online storage with Norton Online Backup, but most of your security needs will be adequately met by the included Windows Essentials 2012. On the start screen you'll find plenty of preinstalled apps, including Evernote, Netflix, Amazon's Kindle Reader, and a collection of recipes from celeb-chef Jamie Oliver. Samsung also includes a number of proprietary and branded apps, like S Player for media, S Camera for taking and editing images, and S Gallery for photo viewing. Other apps are available through Samsung's Signature Store. Samsung also covers the Series 5 UltraTouch with a one-year warranty on parts and labor.
Like competing ultrabooks, the Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch is equipped with a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor and 4 GB of RAM—the same combination seen in the Asus VivoBook S400CA and Lenovo Yoga 13. But identical CPUs doesn't mean identical performance, which can be influenced by everything from the type of hard drive to internal heat distribution to the amount and type of software preinstalled on the machine. As a result, in PCMark 7, the series 5 UltraTouch scored 2,866 points, putting it at the bottom of the pile—the Asus VivoBook S400CA scored 3,013 points while the Lenovo Yoga 13 scored 4,417, thanks largely to its faster solid-state drive. Yet, when testing pure processor speed with Cinebench R11.5, the Series 5 UltraTouch scored 2.41 points, nearly identical to the Asus VivoBook S400CA (2.40) and ahead of both the Lenovo Yoga 13 (2.33) and the HP 4t-1100. (1.93).
While all of these results indicate similar performance in the sort of day-to-day tasks that don't put much strain on the processor, testing the Series 5 UltraTouch in multimedia performance provides a better idea of how the system will do under a heavier workload. Handbrake results show that the Series 5 UltraTouch completed our video encoding test in 2 minutes 3 secnds—ahead of the Asus VivoBook S400CA (3:00), but behind both the HP 4t-1100(1:37) and the Lenovo Yoga 13 (1:34). When run through our Photoshop CS6 benchmark test, however, the Series 5 UltraTouch led the pack, cranking through our test script in 6 minutes 22 seconds. As a result, your average experiences with the four systems would be relatively equal, while the Series 5 UltraTouch would be just a bit faster while editing photos or video.
Intel's integrated graphics processing solution—Intel HD Graphics 4000—may not be made to handle high-end games like Skyrim or Arkham City, but you'll still be able to enjoy all of your less demanding games, from basic games like Cut the Rope to low-end 3D games like Team Fortress 2. The Series 5 UltraTouch scored 1,063 points in 3DMark 11 (at Entry settings), putting it right in line with competing systems. Neither the Samsung or its competitors produced playable scores in our gaming tests.
The battery-life on the Series 5 UltraTouch also ranks well among 13- and 14-inch ultrabooks, lasting 5 hours 35 minutes in our video rundown test with its 52Wh battery. By comparison,t he HP Envy TouchSmart edged only a few minutes ahead (5:48, 52Wh) while the Asus VivoBook (4:18, 44Wh) and the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 (5:00, 54Wh) fell behind.
The Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch NP540U3C-A01UB has plenty to offer with its mid-range price, high-performance processor, sizable hard drive, and Windows 8 with touch, and the combination of solid performance and robust feature set should tempt many. The Editors' Choice Asus VivoBook offers similar performance and nearly identical specs for $150 less, making it the top pick in the category. Despite this, the Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch compares well to other competitors, though the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga also offers a convertible design that doubles as a tablet while the Samsung puts touch in a standard ultrabook.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.