King of the Ultrabooks? A closer look at Samsung’s Series 5 Ultrabook

When we had a chance to fondle Samsung’s amazingly sleek Series 9 notebook last year at CES, there was just one problem: the price tag. At $1,649, the blade-like notebook made even rivals like the MacBook Air look cheap. Fortunately, the introduction of Intel’s Ultrabook platform has given Samsung a more affordable route to its super-slim aspirations, which makes the Series 5 one of our favorite notebooks of CES 2012.

Available in both 13- and 14-inch versions, the Series 5 retains the sleek metallic look that made the Series 9 so lustworthy, even with the dropped price. And at 0.69 inches thick on the 13-inch model – compared to 0.62 on last year’s Series 9 – the slim profile remains intact, too.

Unlike many Ultrabooks that only offer SSD-based storage, the Series 5 offers up to 500GB drives in the 13-inch model, and 1TB in the 14 incher. Since much of the performance of an Ultrabook comes from fast flash memory access, opting for a standard drive still scores you 16GB of ExpressCache , which is basically a tiny SSD built directly into the motherboard to speed up boot times. The result: Purported boot times of 20 seconds and resume times of 2 seconds on the 13-inch model.

In another interesting twist to set it apart from the avalanche of notebooks flooding the showfloor, the 14-inch Series 5 can also handle an optical drive. An anachronism? Perhaps, but for many people, a necessary one, and Samsung is one of very few companies to offer it on an Ultrabook. Along the same lines, you can opt for an AMD Radeon HD7550M with 1GB of video RAM.

As a matter of personal preference, we have to applaud Samsung’s decision to preserve hard mouse buttons, too, rather than going the depressable touchpad route. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a click.

We have to confess that we haven’t put the Series 5 through its paces yet, but among the Ultrabooks we’ve spotted so far, it’s definitely one to watch. The 13-inch model will start at $899 and the 14-inch with the $1,099 when they debut later this year.

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