Samsung Series 3: Impressive Performance

Samsung is on a roll with its new "Series X" line of laptops. The is a high-price, high-style ultraportable that provides real competition for the Macbook Air. The was the first Google Chromebook to go on sale, and while we're not fans of Chrome OS and don't recommend it, it's a nice piece of hardware and an aggressive release by Samsung. Now, the Series 3 rounds out the line with a nice everyday laptop for everyone. It's highly portable, performs well, and the price is right at just $750.

Our test configuration (full model name: NP350U2B-A01US) comes equipped with a 2.3GHz -2410M processor, 4 gigs of RAM, and a 500GB 5400RPM hard drive. The system is sleek - less than an inch thick in most places, and less than 12 inches wide and 8 inches deep. In fact, it's thin enough that there is no optical drive. Samsung's stats put the screen at 12.1 inches, diagonally, but our measurements show it to be 12.6 inches. At this diminutive size, with a weight of only 3.1 pounds, it's easy to toss in a bag and forget about until you need it.

The design is a cut above most laptops in this price range. The bottom is a single smooth plastic base (the battery is not meant to be easily replaced), and the lid has a nice brushed aluminum look. The inside keyboard deck looks like a mix of metal and plastic. While Samsung's more expensive laptops rely on premium materials more than the Series 3, and the overall feel of this ultraportable is a little on the cheap side, I'm accustomed to seeing a lot worse in systems of this size and price.

The keyboard is quite large, filling up the entire width of the inside deck. The island-chiclet style keys are spaced well and allow for quick and accurate typing, but there's very little "travel" to them; they activate on a very short press. It takes a little getting used to. The touchpad is a decent size for a very small laptop, and it tracks smoothly and evenly, but I'm no fan of the button bar on it. It's a single wide bar that acts as a rocker switch - press the left side for a left click, and the right side for a right click. The problem is, pressing near the middle is like pushing down on the center of a teeter-totter: it doesn't move, and nothing happens. A two-button design may not have looked as slick, but it would aid usability.

Ports and connection options are fairly standard for really small, lightweight laptops. The power plug, HDMI, and a single USB port (with sleep-and-charge capability) are located on the left. Along the right edge, you'll find another USB port, and SD card slot, a single headset/mic jack, and a small proprietary connector for an included dongle that lets you plug in a VGA monitor. The Series 3's base, I presume, is too thin to accommodate a VGA plug, so this is a good compromise.

Performance is impressive for a three-pound system under $800. Our Series 3 test unit scored 110 on . That's not nearly at the top of the range of scores we've seen, but it's higher than most laptops this size and weight. The integrated battery lasted just under 6 hours in our run-down test. Don't expect to use a Series 3 for any games you play outside a web browser, though. 3D gaming frame rates from the Intel integrated graphics are too slow for serious games. Video, on the other hand, plays smoothly and looks great.