LG X110 review
With built-in 3G and impressive build quality, the X110 is well worth considering if you want a constant connection - just note the poor out-of-box battery life.
When Asus launched its first netbook back in the autumn of 2007, it could hardly have imagined just how many other companies would be joining the party. Not just all the laptop makers, but Epson in Japan, UK specialists like PC Nextday and Research Machines, and now LG Electronics - the last keyboard-based device we saw from the company was the Phenom way back in 1998.
It hasn't decided to build the whole machine itself. Instead, this is a rejigged and restyled version of MSI's popular Wind chassis. This shouldn't be seen as a negative as LG has made an excellent job of it, with a solid wristrest, well-protected screen and a stylish finish. You can even, if you wish, choose this eye-catching pink version, but we suspect most people will opt for black or white.
At first glance it may seem like the specifications are nothing special, with the netbook bread-and-butter components of Intel Atom N270 processor, 1GB of RAM, 802.11bg WLAN and - in our review sample's case - a 160GB hard disk.
Spot the difference
But the difference is that it has included integrated 3G, with an Ericsson F3507g mobile broadband module promising support for up to 7.2Mbits/sec. Connecting via 3G wasn't quite as easy as we would have liked. LG uses Ericsson's Wireless Manager, which can't match dedicated mobile broadband software, such as Vodafone's Mobile Connect, for sophistication. For instance, there's no way to tell how much data you've used and, when we had a problem connecting, there was no easy way to troubleshoot it.
Worse still, the bundled IP Operator software is embarrassing. Bizarrely, it doesn't even support WPA, just the much-maligned WEP, so the first thing you should do is uninstall it and let Windows handle your network connection.
This may seem picky, but we had high expectations from LG. By now, it's a well-established consumer brand, so we imagined ease of use would be a priority. Sadly, we'd be inclined to delete almost all the pre-loaded software. The sole exceptions are CyberLink's YouCam - which lets you shoot video up to 320 x 240 resolution with the device's webcam - and PowerDVD 5. That said, the latter isn't terrifically useful unless you plug in an external DVD drive.
Aside from the styling, LG doesn't alter much of the recipe that has made MSI's Wind such a success. The keyboard is among the best you'll find on a netbook, and touch typists should find it possible to reach quite a pace. The only irritation is that the touchpad, placed very close to the spacebar, is easy to hit with an errant thumb, which can move the cursor when you don't want it to.
The screen is a mixed blessing. Measuring 10in diagonally, it's home to a netbook's typical 1,024 x 600 pixels, and its brightness counteracts the slightly mottled appearance. As with the Wind, this is only obvious when you're using an evenly coloured background - such as the white background of Microsoft Word - and you'll struggle to notice it when web browsing.
A far bigger disappointment was the X110's battery life, which measured a measly 2hrs 10mins under light use. Before you dismiss the X110 entirely, though, we should add a couple of caveats. For a start, you can already buy extended batteries, with a 7,200mAh unit costing £45 exc VAT. Also, our benchmarks suggest you'll obtain over one-and-a-half hours' life even if you push the processor at full belt. So while it's arguably a mistake not to include a larger battery as standard, it isn't fatal.