Samsung X360 review

19 Dec 2008

Very light and very beautiful, but there isn't enough here to threaten rivals from Lenovo and Sony.

Price when reviewed: 
1,207(£1,388 inc VAT)
3

Ever since the hype-driven launch of the MacBook Air, the biggest players in the laptop market have been striving to launch their own luxury ultraportables. Sony and Lenovo have been most successful, the former with the VAIO Z-Series and the latter with the superb ThinkPad X300.

The similarly named X360 is Samsung's entry into the fray. Tipping the scales at a particularly svelte 1.29kg, it undercuts the Lenovo X300 and MacBook Air - although not by enough to make your bag feel significantly lighter. It's thicker than both its rivals, however, with the X360's 32mm losing out to the Apple's 19.4mm and the Lenovo's 27mm. That said, most of the extra bulk stems from the battery at the rear; at the front, the X360 measures just 17mm thick.

The ultra-compact dimensions and emphasis on making the X360 "lighter than Air" - as the marketing slogan goes - haven't made the machine feel flimsy. The main body is sturdy and, while the screen exhibits a certain amount of flex, it isn't as pliable as the A-Listed Sony VAIO VGN-Z21MN/B (see p28). If ruggedness is your prime concern, though, note that the X300's lid gives more reassuring protection.

The keyboard shamelessly borrows the Scrabble-tile design from Sony and Apple's ultraportables. We found it easy to get up to a speedy typing pace thanks to the large tiles, even if it takes a little time to get used to the reduced amount of key travel compared to a normal keyboard. The trackpad follows in a similarly comfortable vein. What it lacks in fripperies - there's only a scroll button and, unlike the ThinkPad X300, there's no trackpoint - it makes up for in accuracy and responsiveness.

We were less convinced by the screen, however. While the resolution of 1,280 x 800 ensures that detail is sharp and clear on the 13.3in screen, the glossy finish and narrow viewing angles mean it's hard to strike a decent balance. Place the panel at a position to minimise reflections and colours appear too pale, with little difference between shades at the extreme ends of the colour scale. Conversely, position the panel for the best possible colour and the screen could prove too reflective.

Samsung also makes compromises to the core specification. The processor, an Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile SU9300, is a low-power part that runs at a mere 1.2GHz, and performance isn't blazing. It scored just 0.67 in our 2D benchmarks - identical to the Dell Latitude E4200 (see p48). Like the Dell, we wouldn't recommend the X360 for demanding applications such as video editing, nor for gaming - Intel's integrated GMA X4500 graphics managed a mere 11fps in our low-quality Crysis benchmark. Nevertheless, the X360 is more than capable of being an executive's main PC in the office.

The Samsung's corporate credentials are reinforced further by a 128GB SSD hard disk - the largest solid-state drive we've seen in a laptop. This offers more security for data on the move due to having no mechanical parts, and Samsung backs it up with decent security features. The X360 comes complete with a TPM 1.2 module and a fingerprint reader.

The only item missing is an integrated optical drive, which rival machines from Sony and Lenovo build in. Samsung does include an external USB DVD

writer, however, so you can leave the extra weight of the drive in the office if you want to.

And it's out on the road that the X360 shows its true colours. The concentration on low-power components contributes to seriously impressive battery life figures. In our light-use test, the Samsung lasted 19 minutes short of seven hours - good by any standard.