Samsung Brings an Optical Drive to an Ultrabook Fight

By Sam Cook

Samsung is ready to roll out two Ultrabook entries later this month, including a feature-heavy 14" model.

Samsung announced today that they’ll be entering the MacBook Air-challenging Ultrabook market with two new models: the 13” and 14” Series 5 Ultra. While the laptops are right in line with the thin-and-lightweight nature of most Ultrabooks, they go against the grain in several areas. Both models will have an option for a SSD/HDD hybrid drive (up to 1 TB), a rarity in a category defined by flash storage, and the 14” will also come with an optical disk drive and a Radeon HD 7550M graphics card option. Combined with the 14” model’s larger than usual screen size, that extra hardware knocks it over the 4-pound mark.

Samsung definitely seems to pushing the upper limit of the Ultrabook definition. Does that make it more interesting, or does it shoot past the idea of competing with Apple’s lightest laptop?

Both of the Series 5 Ultra models will use Intel Core i5 processors and be equipped with HDMI, Ethernet, and matte screens. Neither model will hit the magic sub-$1000 mark when they release in Korea later this month—the 13” will be about $1,300 and the 14” about $1,345. The question for Samsung’s first Ultrabooks is whether an optical drive is still a relevant feature at that size. Is it an overly bulky relic that’s unnecessary on such a portable device? Or are users of lightweight laptops hungry for the option to use optical media?