In recent months, Samsung has been lying low in the U.S. notebook market. But its new X360 is an interesting contender among ultraportable models--sleek enough to take on the Lenovo ThinkPad X300 or even the ThinkPad X200. Though its sex appeal can't match that of the Apple MacBook Air or the HP Voodoo Envy 133, this slim little machine may have enough positives to win you away from Lenovo's competing models--if you have a spare US$2500.
That money buys you an ultraportable equipped with a 1.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U9400 CPU and 3GB of RAM. Despite its lukewarm configuration, the X360 still managed to eke out an average score of 73 on our WorldBench 6 test suite. But don't buy it if your intent on playing graphics-intensive games. Intel's integrated graphics system limps along in Doom 3 at a lousy 8 frames per second (at 1024 by 786 resolution). Hamsters on treadmills move faster. On the other hand, the X360's 128GB solid-state drive is fairly speedy; it is also largely responsible for the laptop's high price and low weight (only 3.7 pounds, counting the AC adapter).
The battery life of this ultraportable was most impressive, lasting a whopping 7 hours, 36 minutes in our stress tests. Lenovo's X200 still keeps the top spot on the endurance chart, however, at 8 hours, 54 minutes.
The X360 measures 12.2 by 9.1 by 1.3 inches, so a lot gets crammed into a fairly tight space. In fact it shares a lot in common with its big brother, the X460, despite having a smaller screen and lacking an optical drive. The 13.3-inch backlit LED on the X360 is amazingly bright. Good and colorful, without oversaturation, Samsung's new notebook is easy on the eyes. In fact, the screen makes for easy viewing under just about any lighting conditions, including direct sunlight. And the 1280-by-800-pixel resolution is perfectly reasonable for an ultraportable notebook.
Like Apple and Sony, Samsung opts for a cutout keyboard, on which the keys pop out through holes in the case. This arrangement gives the keys a more solid feel and creates good spacing between them. The result is comfortable, solid tactile feedback on every key press. Though the keys aren't especially textured, they don't feel flimsy.
You won't find superfluous multimedia shortcut keys on the X360. Instead, the laptop handles each special task through a combination of the 'Function' button and one of the F keys. (That's the only way to toggle the number lock and caps lock.) The only dedicated buttons are a shortcut to the Samsung MagicDoctor (a quick-fix finder for PC problems) and a speed-boost shortcut key (a toggle between basic power-saving settings and full speed). The mousepad is pleasantly sensitive, and the two buttons are well-spaced and solid to the touch.
The case is expertly built and ready for travel. Like the screen on its inner surface, the two-toned metallic lid stands out. The X360 squeezes a lot of ports into the case as well: VGA and HDMI for video, an ethernet jack, a modem, 802.11n Wi-Fi , Bluetooth., three USB ports around the sides, a five-in-one flash card reader, a PC Express card slot, and headphone and mic jacks. Throw in the 1.3-megapixel Webcam and the fingerprint reader, and you have a fairly robust package.
The sound is surprisingly big--strong enough to fill a small room and annoy cubemates. There's no proper subwoofer, but the mids and highs work well, and the volume reaches a high enough level that headphones aren't your only listening option.
People who loathe bloatware will appreciate that the X360 comes without much preinstalled software. It's not completely barren, however. Our test unit came with Samsung's one-step diagnostic and system recovery software, a quick troubleshooter for analyzing installation problems and getting you back to a factory-fresh state. You can also quickly reinstall important Windows files while keeping your data intact. The other programs on board consist of a speed-stepping shortcut that lets you quickly toggle between battery-saving and power modes, as well as the OmniPass security software, made to work in tandem with the built-in biometrics.
Samsung's X360 certainly doesn't come cheap. But with the 128GB SSD drive on board, you wouldn't expect it to be a huge bargain. Overall it's a solid machine for indoor and outdoor use. Lenovo's X200 now finds itself facing much stiffer competition.