Pop quiz: which of the following is being marketed as an Ultrabook? Behind door number one, we have a 2.5-pound wisp of a laptop with a 13-inch screen, Core i5 CPU and 128GB SSD. Next up there’s contestant number two, a 3.94-pound notebook with a 14-inch display, 500GB hard drive, and DVD burner. If you guessed the latter, well, congrats on reading that headline correctly, though we’d understand if you said that first option sounds like the Ultrabook.
Indeed, Samsung’s Series 5 Ultrabooks are a tad plumper than most, and look especially oversized next to the Series 9, that other ultraportable we’ve been describing. But it’s not just Samsung using loose parameters to decide what counts as an Ultrabook. If Intel’s own forecast is correct, half of the 75-plus models that go on sale this year will have 14- or 15-inch screens, and we’ve already seen a sampling of contenders from HP, Acer and Toshiba. The idea, say PC makers, is to lure in a more old-fashioned kind of customer, shoppers who aren’t quite ready to ditch their DVD drive, and who aren’t keen on stepping down to a too-small screen. At the same time, these laptops are thinner and lighter than similarly sized laptops, last longer on a charge and hold the promise of faster performance — three reasons manufacturers can get away with charging more than they would for a plain ‘ol laptop.
In a nutshell, that’s the value proposition behind the 14-inch Series 5, which costs $ 949 and comes bearing a Core i5 processor, 500GB hybrid hard drive and, of course, a DVD burner. But do the benefits of a bigger Ultrabook outweigh the annoyances? And how does it compare to regular 14-inch laptops that aren’t classified as ultraportables (and that don’t command the Ultrabook tax)? Let’s find out.