[Updated Mar. 8, 2013 @ 11:03 a.m. ET: We noticed an number of our benchmark tests were a little funny, so we ran them again and found there was a big enough difference to change our opinion of the UltraTouch a bit. In our effort to deliver the most honest review possible, we have edited parts of our original review in order to reflect this change.]
The Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch combines the company’s Series 5 Ultrabook with a touchscreen covered in Corning Gorilla Glass, so you know it’s capable of taking all of your abusive pokes and prods for as long as you’re using it. The reason for the inclusion of a touchscreen is so you could make full use of Windows 8 on the laptop, which is able to recognize up to ten points of contact, meaning each finger will be recognized by the UltraTouch’s touchscreen. But does throwing a touchscreen on a laptop equipped with Windows 8 mean you should spend close to $1000 for it? That’s precisely the point of our review of the Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch. So without further ado, let’s get down to business.
When I use a laptop, I primarily use it for writing news stories, emailing and browsing the Internet. My main machine is a Macbook Pro, so any PC laptops that I use are specifically for those kinds of activities since I save my work-related items on my main machine.
Portability is extremely important for me as well as attending events on a somewhat regular basis means I want to travel as light as possible, even though my work bag could get pretty heavy with all of the gear I need to carry.
I’m a gamer, so that means I also want my laptop to have enough power to allow me to play whatever game I’m currently hooked on at the moment. I tend to play the majority of my games on consoles or handhelds, but from time to time, I like to dabble in some Diablo III or other titles I feel play better on PC.
Technical Highlights (as tested)
13.3″ LED HD, Touch Screen with 10 Finger Sensing 1366 x 768 (300 nit brightness)
Intel Core™ i5 (3317U 1.7GHz)
8GB of RAM
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit)
Wi-Fi a/b/g/n + Bluetooth 4.0 (low power)
HDMI, Mini VGA, audio in/out
1x USB 3.0 and 2x USB 2.0
Multi-card reader (SD/SDHC/SDXC)
315.1 x 218.9 x 16.6 ~ 19.9mm (12.4″ x 8.6″ x 0.66″-0.78″)
52Whr – 4-cell battery
The Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch is completely covered in a silver / gray color that makes it look like a premium laptop, without actually going the extra mile and making it completely made out of silver. When in use, the laptop gives off a nice feel as your hands easily slip and slide across the keyboard, trackpad and other parts of the UltraTouch while also allowing you to grip the palm rests comfortably when a long-typing session is in your future.
The location of the UtraTouch’s speakers isn’t in the most obvious location, which would be above or to the sides of the keyboard like most laptops. Instead, Samsung placed the UltraTouch’s speakers at the bottom of the ultrabook which I found enhances the sound by bouncing it off your desk or lap instead of just blasting it directly at you. The sound quality, when the speakers aren’t completely covered accidentally, offer a nice sound if you don’t happen to have any speakers lying around.
Weighing in at 3.73lbs means this is one of the heavier Ultrabooks currently on the market, although when you consider the touchscreen adds some weight to the UltraTouch, then you’ll probably want to consider if its additional weight is worth being able to swipe and interact with the UltraTouch like a tablet from time to time.
Keyboard: As I said earlier in this review, I spend a lot of time typing on keyboards, so that’s one of the most important aspects for me with any laptop. The keyboard on the Series 5 UltraTouch has a nice amount of space between the keys and doesn’t feel too clicky or too loose. My hands are in no way large, although I found too often when I navigate my fingers to the CTRL, ALT, FN or Windows key to input a keyboard shortcut, my palms catch the edge of the palm rest. The edge of the palm rest doesn’t feel too great on my palms as the thin film of plastic that connects the top of the palm rest to the rest of the UltraTouch is so thin that it feels sharp. If you consider your hands to be on the large side, you may have some trouble finding a comfortable position while typing.
The trackpad is a nice size as it’s just a tad larger than the space bar on the keyboard and should take you one or two motions to navigate your cursor across the screen, depending on your trackpad speed level. Two buttons are located at the base of the trackpad for left & right mouse clicks, both of which offer a plasticky feel and sound when they’re pushed. The trackpad has a nice, thin silver bezel that can help navigate towards it in low light and slightly catches your eye even when you’re not completely focused on your trackpad area.
When I first started using the Series 5 UltraTouch, I noticed my palms would run into the trackpad accidentally on numerous occasions, but after I had some more time with the UltraTouch, my palms started behaving and accidental trackpad usage has gone down quite a bit.
Ports: The Series 5 UltraTouch has three USB ports connected to its sides. On the left, you have the USB 3.0, while the two right USB ports are 2.0. The left side of the UltraTouch is where you’ll find the HDMI, Ethernet port, the AC adapter port, mini-VGA and an audio in/out port. In addition to the two USB 2.0 ports on the right side of the UltraTouch, you’ll find the multi-card reader.
Having just one USB 3.0 port means you’ll probably need to be cautious as to what USB 3.0 device gets preference on the UltraTouch. If you’re hooking up a hard drive to your UltraTouch and speed isn’t of importance, you can easily hook the drive up to one of the USB 2.0 ports.
I found the location of the ports to be nice as they add a slight thickness to the UltraTouch, but not to the point where it no longer feels thin.
Display (Nice and bright, but offers narrow view angles)
The Samsung Series 5 UltraTouch sports a resolution of 1366 x 768, which seems to be the norm for the majority of Ultrabooks these days. The LED HD display is capable of some nice colors and a comfortable brightness where everyday users will most likely find a comfortable level, although I found myself hovering around the 40% mark when I worked on the UltraTouch during the day as it offered just the right amount of brightness without being too bright.
The Samsung Series 9 had quite the narrow view angle, and I found the Series 5 UltraTouch suffers from the same problem as the colors look nice when viewing the display head on, but as you change the viewing angle, the image becomes distorted fairly quickly. Viewing the UltraTouch at its sides doesn’t offer as bad as a distortion in image quality as it does when the UltraTouch’s screen is adjusted ever so slightly from your original viewing range. It’s a good thing the screen’s hinge is really secure.
If you’re planning to use the Series 5 UltraTouch for some late-night webcam puppet shows, we recommend you don’t perform in low lighting. As you can see by the image samples taken with a single light source, the UltraTouch’s built-in camera performs extremely poor when compared to the 2010 MacBook Pro under the same conditions.
In a well-lit room, you can expect a decent image to take photos or conduct some webcam calls, but if image quality is a necessity to you, you might want to consider purchasing an external camera if a Series 5 UltraTouch is in your future.
If you’re in the market for an Ultrabook, you’re probably not looking for the most powerful machine money can buy as portability and ease-of-use probably rank high on your list. But a PC test wouldn’t be complete without taking a look at a machine’s benchmarks, so here’s how the Series 5 UltraTouch faired.
The PCMark 7 benchmark is used in order to simulate real-world tasks such as opening applications, booting up your computer and doing some mild graphical tasks.
In our testing, the UltraTouch scored a 3012 in PCMark 7 benchmarks, which is almost 1000 less than its Series 9 cousin and 2000 less than a MacBook Pro w/ Retina. This means the UltraTouch could offer a decent amount of reliability in its ability to perform simple tasks such as browsing web pages, writing emails and any other sort of PC use that would be considered easy lifting.
The 3D Mark 11 benchmark is a more demanding test as it’s primary focus is how well it’ll perform as a gaming machine. And we’re not talking Facebook games here as those tend to not demand so much from a system, but instead, actual games like Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed or any other current-generation games.
The UltraTouch didn’t do so well in its 3D Mark 11 benchmark due to its Intel HD Graphics 4000 Mobile graphics processor that’s embedded inside of the main Intel Core i5 chip. Its 3D Mark 11 score of 569 means you shouldn’t expect to get a lot out of it in terms of gaming performance as 3D-intense games will probably be completely unplayable on a machine like this, but low-level 3D games like World of Warcraft or basic games like Angry Birds should run just fine.
The final performance test we like to run on our machines is Geekbench, which is used as a math benchmark that gauges the CPU’s performance score. We always like to preface this test as being a benchmark purely of the PCs CPU and in no way reflects on its ability to run real-world applications.
In our test, the Series 5 UltraTouch’s CPU was pretty much standard with other competing ultrabooks with a Geekbench score of 4969. The UltraTouch’s raw CPU performance is between the raw CPU performance of an HP Envy 4 and a Lenovo Carbon X1 which means you can expect a nice amount of performance.
Value for the weight, price
We know when purchasing any PC, people tend to look at its internal specs and purchase a computer based on what they currently need. One factor many overlook is its weight as more powerful portable computers will most likely be heavier than PCs that aren’t as powerful. That’s why we also like to look at a PCs performance relative to its weight so we can see if all of that power is worth you breaking your back over or if a PCs weight isn’t worth its sub-par performance.
The Series 5 UltraTouch doesn’t quite give you the bang for your buck when compared to its Series 9 cousin as well as the MacBook Pro w/ Retina, but what it does offer is decent. The UltraTouch’s score certainly could have improved if it wasn’t for its 3.73lbs, although when you consider the extra weight is due to its touchscreen, then you’ll need to factor whether the extra weight is worth lugging around a decent touchscreen PC.
Battery (Very good)
What’s the point of buying an Ultrabook when it’s battery doesn’t keep up with your super-productive life? Ultrabooks should last throughout a person’s work day without requiring a recharge, and based on our research of literally having our laptops run while we stare at it for hours on end, the Series 5 UltraTouch will get you through a good portion of your day. Unfortunately, by the 5 hour mark, we noticed the UltraTouch was beginning to warn us of its needs for a recharge and only lasted about 6 hours from its fully charged 52Whr battery which is pretty much average for ultrabooks.
We also conducted some tests with the UltraTouch while watching some videos. In one test, we performed a video test watching a 1080p video saved locally to the hard drive and noticed battery dropped 19% with the UltraTouch’s brightness set to 50%. Watching a YouTube video for the same amount of time and video quality resulted in a 29% decrease in battery. This means you could probably get away with watching approximately 5 hours of video stored locally on the UltraTouch, or 3 hours of streaming 1080p video before needing to recharge.
Battery Charge Speed
Another factor we feel is important in our tests is the rate a ultrabook’s battery charges. We all have busy lives and the longer you’re waiting for your battery to charge, the less time you’re out living the good life.
In our test, we charge our computers to around a 93% charge as the majority of batteries have difficulty it their ability to charge from 90% to 100%. Charging the Series 5 UltraTouch was quite fast as its 52Whr battery charged from 0% to 93% in 2 hours and 9 minutes.
With batteries charging at a linear speed up to around 80% to 90%, we can tell you with the Series 5 UltraTouch, you can in most cases get your ultrabook to around that point in just a little under 2 hours.
The prospect of having a touchscreen ultrabook sounded like one that I would absolutely enjoy having. I use tablets and smartphones on a daily basis, so why shouldn’t my ultrabook incorporate that same technology so I could poke and prod my Windows 8 machine as much as I like. Considering Windows 8 was built with touchscreens in mind, it made absolute sense to me a touchscreen ultrabook would be a great idea.
With that said, my experience with the Samsung’s Series 5 UltraTouch was decent as its benchmark performances were pretty much standard with current generation ultrabooks. Some things I found to be annoying is its weight certainly holds it back from its overall value, its edges were too sharp to be considered comfortable when typing at times, and its display degraded images too quickly if they weren’t seen head-on. The UltraTouch’s webcam is also pretty bad.
The price of the Series 5 UltraTouch might entice those of you who are curious to try an ultrabook equipped with a touchscreen as its $849.99 price tag is certainly lower than competing touchscreen ultrabooks, which typically range closer to $1,000. For its price and performance, this would be a nice first step, but certainly won’t impress anyone who already owns an touchscreen ultrabook.