We got our hands on not just one, but two Samsung Series 5 laptops. One is an Intel Core i5 unit, making it a legitimate Ultrabook, while the other has an AMD 2.1GHz processor, making it not an Ultrabook (which is an Intel trademark).
And yet they look exactly alike. Can you tell which is which?
(Hint: The stickers are the giveaway. Intel on the left, AMD on the right.)
(Above) The backsides: no sorry, you can’t take out the battery. (Below) Left and right port arrays. The darker one is the AMD unit. Then again, does it matter?
The bottom line is that the cases for these two laptops are exactly the same, ports, accoutrements and all. So you won’t be able to tell one from the other from a surface level.
The question now is, will they differ performance-wise?
|OS||Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit||Windows 7 Home Basic 64-bit|
|Display||13.3″ SuperBright HD LED 1,366×768||13.3″ SuperBright HD LED 1,366×768|
|Graphic||Intel HD Graphics 4000||AMD Radeon HD 7500G Graphics|
|Storage||500GB S-ATAII with ExpressCache||500GB S-ATAII|
|Memory||4GB DDR3 at 1.6GHz||4GB DDR3 at 1.3GHz|
|Processor||Intel Core i5 1.70GHz||AMD Dual-Core A6 2.1GHz|
|Chipset||Intel HM76||AMD A70M|
A word or two. First, you’ll see that much of the specs are similar, down to the weight (unless you happen to get an Intel model with an SSD drive, in which case the weight gets even lower).
Second, you might think that the AMD model, by virtue of its having a 2.1GHz processor versus Intel’s 1.7GHz one, would be faster. And yet it’s the Core i5 that is considered as the higher end processor in this chart.
Here’s how the Intel Ultrabook version fared:
And here’s how the AMD version fared:
The AMD unit’s CPU shows a faster speed. Plus, it has the better graphic processor (AMD bought graphics maker ATI long ago, and it was quite a great investment for them).
On the other hand, the Intel offers faster memory access. And that counts a lot for performance.
But CPU speed is just that. In the end, it’s the total system performance that matters, and unfortunately there just isn’t any easy way to compare two systems from two different processor families. And I’m not sufficiently geeky enough to even try to do that.
What I can tell you, however, is that while they feel quite similar in terms of performance on daily use, I did notice that the AMD tends to “hiccup” every now and then, where things stall for a split second while the system fires up another task. So I’m gonna give the Intel a half-point lead on the issue of performance.
At any rate, raw processor speed alone isn’t the main reason for choosing a laptop. You gotta see the big picture.
Intel pulls away
Here’s where the Intel system does manage to out-spec its AMD twin. Let’s start with battery life.
Fire up the Intel Ultrabook unit and, at 98% battery life, it shows five hours of battery at your disposal:
I mean, exactly five hours. You’d begin to wonder (as I have) if Samsung just tweaked the meter so that it will meet Intel’s Ultrabook specification of five-hour battery life heheh.
But anybody who’s lived with laptops for quite a spell knows that these battery life figures are notoriously flippant. So revisiting the battery level a few minutes later:
At 85%, you get nearly 6 hours. That’s good news. Possible explanation for the earlier shortened life? It’s likely the drive-intensive initial boot sequence.
Then again, just a few more minutes later, we get this:
That’s a head scratcher, and a testament to how erratic battery meters can be.
The same can be said for the AMD unit… except that the battery life is noticeably shorter. For instance, on the AMD, the 84% mark translated to just 3 hours and 48 minutes on the battery meter, versus 4 hours and 3 minutes on the Intel version. Perhaps as the AMD isn’t an “Ultrabook,” then there isn’t as much pressure for it to hit the five hour mark?
From my experience: the Intel Ultrabook version lasted an average of five and a half hours on regular use (Excel, Word, that sort of thing). And the AMD version? About an hour less. I had to resort to battery-saving tricks just to get it to push five hours.
So if battery life is one of your criteria for a laptop, then one big point goes to the Intel Ultrabook version.
Intel was very strict in its specifications for quick-starting its Ultrabooks. In fact, gone is the option to “hibernate” your laptop, which was a trick that Windows users often did in order to resume their work where they left off without sacrificing battery life while in transit or so. Flip up the laptop lid and you’re ready to go, firing up in just a few seconds.
You can do that with the AMD unit too (sleep, that is), except that the battery noticeably goes down much faster. You can’t even consider leaving your laptop on sleep mode for a few days because it’s bound to drain quickly. Meanwhile, the Intel version manages to trickle its power supply efficiently enough to last several days on sleep.
So if you want to preserve your battery life on the AMD unit, you will have to hibernate it (yes, the option still exists here). But hibernating is a lengthy process so expect to tap your fingers a bit before it gets back to you.
A quick word of warning if you’re planning to use a Series 5 unit for Powerpoint presentations. Most projectors still don’t come with HDMI input, so you still have to use VGA cables. The thing is, these new slim Samsung laptops come with a mini VGA port that begs for an adapter.
The catch? The units won’t come with it. So you’re basically on your own for this. Ouch.
You’ll have to go to Samsung’s service center, at Ortigas Avenue right across Greenhills Shopping Center, to get one of these dongles. And you’ll be lucky if it’s in stock.
If you have fallen in love with the Samsung Series 5 13.3″ units and their attractive price points (thirty-something thousand pesos), then you should know the following in summary:
The question now is, would you go for cheaper… or would you go for efficiency and quicker startup time? That’ll be your call.
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