Thanks to AMD and my involvement in the AMD Tech Mom program, my most recent laptop acquisition is the Samsung NP535U3C, an ultra-portable A6 machine machine. This compact laptop is designed to compete against the Intel UltraBook line as well as the MacBook Air. It features a 13.3” LED screen and a 500GB hard drive.
Weighing in at 3.4 pounds, this very lightweight computer packs solid mid-range power and speed. Unlike a Netbook, where performance has been substantially compromised, this machine delivers good performance in an efficient size. The 13.3” screen has the same screen resolution of many 15” laptops (1366 x 768) so you’re not losing screen real estate by picking a small machine.
How light is 3.4 lbs? Let’s compare! Apple’s MacBook Air weighs less at 2.96 lbs but costs a lot more. Compared to other machines, the Samsung is quite light. 15” laptops typically weigh about 5 lbs or more. A 13” MacBook Pro weighs 4.5 lbs and your old clunky PC Windows laptop running Windows XP probably weighs at least 6 lbs or more… without the AOL disk inside the CD drive.
Samsung produces the NP535U3C in 3 colors. I have the dark silver metallic finish. It’s darker than a MacBook but not quite charcoal gray. Samsung calls it “Light Titan.”
Above the razor-thin screen is a 1.3 megapixel webcam. Along the front edge of the laptop are some very small indicator lights for power, WiFi, and battery status. Samsung did a nice job making these lights rather dim but still quite attractive and functional. Some laptops feature obnoxious flashing LEDs with laser-like intensity that are distracting and a nuisance.
The Samsung NP535U3C comes with Windows 7 Home Premium and features a 2.1 GHz AMD A6 processor. The A6 is a dual-core processor and includes AMD Radeon Graphics. It has 4 GB of RAM pre-installed and can be upgraded to 8 GB if desired.
For ports, there’s not a lot of room on a laptop of this size. The system has 2 USB 2.0 ports and a single high-speed USB 3.0 port. For video, it’s got an HDMI out port as well as a connector for a VGA dongle. It has Gigabit Ethernet for wired networks and a memory card slot for reading in pictures from a digital camera. There is no CD/DVD drive on this computer. There simply isn’t room for one but with streaming Netflix, iTunes, software downloads, and USB sticks, who really needs a DVD drive anymore?
For wireless connectivity, it’s got Bluetooth 4.0 as well as a dual-radio 802.11 a/b/g/n dual-stream WiFi card. This is a Qualcomm Atheros WiFi card that supports the higher-bandwidth and less crowded 5Ghz WiFi bands.
Like most laptops, the Samsung NP535U3C comes with windows 7 Home Premium, and Microsoft Office Starter 2010. It also comes with 60 days of Norton security. I uninstalled it and replaced it with Microsoft Internet Security Essentials that caused the Samsung Easy Application Manager to tell me repeatedly that I was missing “Essential Software.” In order to get the messages to go away, I had to disable all essential software notifications.
Samsung’s literature claims that this machine can boot in 20 seconds. The “Samsung Fast Boot” mode is disabled by default from the factory and needs to be enabled in the “Easy Settings” application. When I tried a cold boot it took 40 seconds to get the user login screen from pressing the power button.
It claims to wake from hibernate quickly as well. When I tried that option, I got a fatal Windows error and a black screen. After powering down and trying to boot again, it offered to repair the system. I tried the hibernate test again, and it brought the system back to live in 18 seconds which seems faster than other Windows 7 systems. Regardless, my advice would be to pretend the fast boot options don’t exist and don’t mess with them. I guess the moral is that many people promise magic boot times but it’s just not a reality.
Other than fast boot options, the Easy Settings app has some neat options. For example, there is an option to control whether the USB ports provide power when the computer is turned off. This is quite nice for being able to charge your phone and other devices from the computer. There is also an option to tailor power consumption to reduce fan noise.
The trackpad on the unit feels good to the touch and its buttons make an audible clicking sound. Upon first using system, the trackpad click noise was reassuring. After some use, I wondered if it would be bothersome in a library or classroom. However, your house is likely not as quiet as a library and the sound wouldn’t be audible over the cabin noise on an airplane.
Overall, this is an ultra-portable mid-range machine. It’s not as fast as full-sized laptops with an i7 processor, but it’s quite usable. It has a good-sized screen, full-sized keyboard, and packs enough punch to handle most tasks. It’s a good balance between size and power and it doesn’t have the poor usability issues you would find in a typical netbook. It would be great for a student to carry around a campus because of its size and weight but you’ll need to plug in after a few hours.
The Samsung NP535U3C is available for $599 at Amazon.
As an AMD Tech Mom, I receive complimentary products for review purposes and am compensated for my involvement in the program.