Samsung unveils 13- and 14-inch Series 5 Ultrabooks, starting at $899 (hands-on)

Depending on your point of view, Samsung was either late to the Ultrabook party, or perhaps just a bit early. Although the 2.8-pound Series 9 was a sight to behold when it first came out last year, it arrived shortly before Intel kicked off its Ultrabook campaign, and failed to match all of Chipzilla's early-stage requirements. This year, Sammy's back with a redesigned Series 9... along with two laptops it's actually calling Ultrabooks. The notebooks, both of which fall under the company's Series 5 line of products, and which recently surfaced online, include your requisite 13-incher, along with a larger 14-inch model with an optical drive.

Both machines will have Core i5 processors, 4GB of RAM, eight-hour batteries and Intel integrated graphics, along with the same matte, 300-nit (1366 x 768) display that we loved so much in the Series 5 Chromebook. And though the 13-incher will have a 128GB SSD option, each comes standard with a standard 500GB 5,400RPM drive with 16GB of express cache for faster boot times and application-launching. You may recall this feature from the Series 7 Chronos laptop, except this time around, Sammy doubled the amount of flash memory paired with the HDD.

Another thing the two systems have in common: they're each denser than the early Ultrabooks we saw, with the 14-inch model coming in at 3.95 pounds, and the 13-incher tipping the scales at 3.5 pounds (a full fifth of a pound heavier than the HP Folio!). At least that girth comes with an unsparing port selection: Ethernet, HDMI, USB 3.0, two USB 2.0 sockets and an SD slot. And that's just the 13-inch version: its big brother adds an optical drive, VGA output and a larger memory card reader. The pair will be available January 30th, starting at $899 for the 13-inch model and $949 for the 14-inch version. (The 13-inch configuration with the 128GB SSD will ring in at $1,099.) We expect to get our hands on final review units soon enough, but since we've already scored a few minutes of hands-on time, we've got photos and first impressions for you to peruse right this second.

When we first met the Series 5 duo, they happened to be lying on a table alongside the new Series 9. Next to that 2.4-pound wisp of a thing, even the smaller of the two Series 5 machines looked like, well, a laptop. Not an Ultrabook, mind you, but a garden-variety thin-and-light. We were a bit surprised to learn that the Series 9 wasn't, in fact, the Ultrabook we had come to see (its $1,499 starting price alone could disqualify it). This all just goes to show that despite whatever specifications Chipzilla insists upon, "Ultrabook" is just a fancy name for a thin, lightweight laptop.

Still, even without that Series 9 there for unflattering comparisons, the two Ultrabooks feel heavy for what they are. We can remember a time when most of the Ultras we saw weighed three pounds, if not less, and a 3.3-pound machine like the HP Folio was pushing it. So we don't see a reason for the smaller of Samsung's Ultrabooks to weigh 3.5 pounds, even if it's not actually difficult to carry. (Our problem, we suspect, is that prices for Ultrabooks haven't begun to drop, and for now we're still paying for the privilege of toting laptops labeled as such.) The 14-inch Series 5 has a little bit more of an excuse, as it has a larger screen and an optical drive, but even then, the 14-inch Ultrabook Toshiba's showing off is expected to come in closer to three and a half.

To their credit, they do feel as well-made as you'd expect from a Samsung product. Granted, we only spent a few minutes poking around, but our first impression was that the aluminum lid and chassis feels solid and carefully put-together. In particular, we were taken with the tapering on the lower half, resulting in a somewhat unusual shape -- not a slab, but not a razer-thin wedge either. And the cover, so far as well can tell, does a good job of masking oily fingerprints. Overall, it has a blander design than, say, the Series 9, and shows less attention to detail, but none of that stops these from being handsome, well-made hunks of machinery.

It's also a little to early to weigh in on the (non-backlit) keyboard and trackpad, though we got the sense that the discrete touch buttons felt easy to press. What really left an impression, as ever, was that excellently bright, 300-nit display. Between this and products like the Series 7 Slate, Sammy's been on a roll in terms of panel quality lately, and we especially appreciate that it endowed its two Ultrabooks with matte screens, something you don't see enough of in this class of laptop.

And there you have it. We'll of course have to wait until a review unit shows up on our doorstep to see if these Ultrabooks' performance, battery life and ergonomics make up for their extra padding and relatively high prices (remember that you can get the Folio with a 128GB SSD for about the same price as the 13-inch Series 5 with a 5,400RPM hard drive). Until we get to spend some quality time with it, though, have a gander at our hands-on photos and video, and be sure to have a look at the new Series 9 while you're at it.

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Samsung's First Ultrabooks Offer Rich Feature Set, Sleek Design and the Option for a Built-In Optical Drive

LAS VEGAS, January 9, 2012 – Samsung Electronics America Inc., a subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, today announced their latest addition to the Samsung family of PCs, the Series 5 ULTRA, at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. A family of extremely portable, no compromise Ultrabooks, the Samsung Series 5 ULTRA sports a slim design profile with rich feature sets and an Intel® Core™ i5 processor. The Series 5 ULTRA exceeds expectations by offering users top-of-the line performance, with near instant starts using FastStart and innovative ExpressCache™ storage, all in an elegant aluminum package. Designed with consumer feedback in mind, the 14-inch model is also one of the first certified Ultrabooks™ on the market to feature a built-in DVD drive and SD card slot, giving users the ability to easily access software, movies, photos and more. The Series 5 ULTRA will be on display at the Samsung CES booth, #12004 in Central Hall, from January 10-13, 2012.

"The Series 5 ULTRA was designed to meet consumer demands for a thin and light laptop that offers advanced computing power and ample storage, while still remaining affordable," said Todd Bouman, vice president of product marketing at Samsung Electronics America. "We're confident that consumers will truly be impressed with the product's design and performance, as well as the fact that we are one of the first companies to release an Ultrabook with an optical drive, which brings a new level of productivity and entertainment capabilities to the category."

Eye-catching Design
Taking its design cues from Samsung's existing popular mobile PC lines, particularly the high-end Series 9, the Series 5 ULTRA features sleek lines and a cool, sophisticated design. This striking laptop is ideal for users looking to turn heads and make an impact everywhere, from the office to the corner coffee shop.

Weighing in under four pounds and thinner than the diameter of a U.S. nickel, the Series 5 ULTRA is an Ultrabook with a purpose. It was designed for mobile users who need the ease of portability without sacrificing an exceptional computing experience.

Whether you're sharing vacation photos with friends or giving a presentation to clients, images come alive on the Series 5 ULTRA's 13.3- or 14-inch 1366 x 768 high resolution display with Samsung's SuperBright Technology (300 nits). With 16 million color saturation and an easy-to-view matte screen, users enjoy the high quality visual experience in a wide range of environments, both indoors and out.

Powerful Feature Set
The Samsung Series 5 ULTRA is more than just a pretty face – it packs a serious punch when it comes to computing power. Featuring an Intel® Core™ i5-2467M processor and two storage options in the 13-inch – either a 128 GB solid state drive or 500 GB hard drive paired with 16 GB ExpressCache™ memory – the Series 5 ULTRA offers impressive speed and abundant storage for music, movies and photos. ExpressCache™ features enhanced overall performance, including the ability to boot up in just 20 seconds and wake up in around two seconds, as well as faster start times for frequently used programs and up to 50-60 percent quicker web browsing (using Microsoft Internet Explorer®).

As the first certified Ultrabook with a built-in optical drive, the 14-inch Series 5 ULTRA truly meets power users' needs by providing easy access to all of their software, music, movies and files stored on CDs and DVDs. To offer maximum connectivity, the 14-inch model also offers a variety of ports, including a full-size HDMI, VGA, two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0, a 4-in-1 multi SD card slot and an Ethernet port. The 13-inch model also features a full-size HDMI port along with one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, a 4-in-1 multi SD card slot and an Ethernet port.

Signature Samsung Technology
Perfect for road warriors, Samsung's exclusive Easy Settings make it effortless to connect the Series 5 ULTRA to new wireless networks, projectors and more by providing easy access to commonly used PC settings, resulting in stress-free business travel and presentations. Samsung Easy Migration allows users to seamlessly transfer existing files to the new laptop by connecting their old PC to the Series 5 ULTRA, launching and starting Easy Migration and letting the PC do the rest.

To ease the stress of finding a power source while on-the-go, the Series 5 ULTRA offers up to seven hours of battery life, keeping users connected to work and play all day. Additionally, the inclusion of Samsung Battery Life Plus technology means that the battery will retain 80 percent of its original capacity for up to 1,500 charges – giving users a battery that can last up to five times longer than other notebooks and works whenever and wherever they need it, even after three years of use.

Samsung's Support Center ensures all content stays safe and can help troubleshoot any particular problem. Accessible with a keyboard shortcut, the Support Center helps users manage their system settings or arrange for a tech-support web chat. Samsung's Back-up & Recovery Solution also allows users to create and restore back-ups of system data on the device, or on a network or removable storage device.

The Samsung Series 5 ULTRA will be available starting January 30, 2012. It will retail for $899 – $1,099. All Samsung mobile PC products are available through Samsung resellers and distribution channels. For a full list of retailers, call 1-800-SAMSUNG or visit