Samsung X22 review
A well-built notebook with a good specification - a great choice if you don't mind the less-than-vibrant screen.
While Vista improves on XP in various areas, many companies have concluded that the practical benefits don't justify the expense and upheaval of migrating. And so, in accordance with the time-honoured principle of giving the people what they want, Samsung has produced the X22, a new business laptop that proudly bears a "Designed for Windows XP" sticker.
Physically, the X22 is close kin to the R20, which last month achieved a place on our A List thanks to its professional specification, solid build and sub-£500 price. The X22 can't claim such a head-turning price, but it shares the compact 14.1in form factor, this time wrought in stylish magnesium alloy, and at 2.4kg it's almost as portable. The 1,280 x 800 screen resolution is nothing to shout about, but it's a sensible choice for a panel this size: any higher and text starts to become too small for comfortable long-term use.
Inside, a 2GHz Core 2 Duo T7250 powered the X22 to a respectable 2D benchmark score of 0.94 - enough to make short work of office applications. The provided 1GB of RAM lets XP achieve its full performance potential out of the box, although there's a free SODIMM socket should it need more. The 160GB hard disk offers plenty of space for work, with room beside for music and videos, and the dual-layer DVD writer boasts LightScribe support for automatically labelling discs at burn time.
Battery life's reasonable, too, at 4hrs 26mins of light use or 1hr 52mins of heavy use - enough to keep you productive for a decent train journey. A very neat touch is an LED on the underside of the battery that enables you to check how much charge remains without having to turn the computer on.
Surprisingly for a business-orientated notebook, the X22 also features a discrete DirectX 10 GPU - an ATi Mobility Radeon HD 2400 with 128MB of dedicated GDDR3. It's a low-end part, though, averaging 14fps in our low-detail Call of Duty 2 3D benchmark: executives seeking light relief will need to turn the settings down to enjoy even older games. Still, coupled with the built-in 1.3-megapixel webcam, HDMI output and bundled PowerDVD software, it gives the X22 potential to double up as an entertainment laptop.
The X22's small case doesn't leave space for a huge range of connection options, but all the essentials are covered: its three USB ports are backed up by an ExpressCard/54 slot and an SD/xD/MS card reader. On the networking front there's an impressively comprehensive combination of Gigabit Ethernet, Intel 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a 56K modem.
There's also a mini-PCI-E connector on the underside, although as yet there's very little on the market that will plug into it. For yet more options, you can dock the X22 into one of Samsung's X-Dock stations: the current model, the X-Dock III, costs around £80 exc VAT and adds a full range of ports, including DVI, S-Video, FireWire, parallel and serial, plus four additional USB sockets.
Although the X22 is a capable notebook technically, what really stands out in use is its excellent ergonomics. The machine feels exceptionally solid, with a sturdy lid that doesn't overly flex, a firm, responsive trackpad and a keyboard that's a delight to type on. Keys are perfectly weighted, with plenty of travel, and what's more Samsung assures us that they're infused with silver ion powder, supposedly giving them antibacterial qualities.
This may be nonsense, but the metallic component does make them slightly cooler to the touch than pure plastic. It's also good to see that almost every key is full-sized, making the X22 overall an excellent machine for typing on. It's just a shame that this uncompromising approach wasn't extended to the screen: the matte TFT panel is decidedly drab, with muted colours and poor contrast. It significantly diminishes what would otherwise be a very positive experience.