First look: Samsung’s ultraportable X-series – the 13.3″ X360 and 14.1″ X460
With netbooks stealing all the headlines in the sub-2kg market, it’s refreshing to see that the big manufacturers are still making premium ultraportables for £1000+ budgets. After all, netbooks might be fine for surfing the net or tapping out the odd email, but still don’t offer a combination of power, screen resolution and features which can truly replace a fully-featured ultraportable laptop.
It was only last week that we took a good, hard look at Sony’s latest business-focussed ultraportable, the VGN-Z11WN/B, and now hot on its lightweight heels is Samsung’s newly refreshed X-series.
We managed to get a closer look at two models from the range, the 13.3” X360 and the 14.1” model, the X460.
The X360 is a thoroughbred rival to any of the current crop of ultraportables. Weighing in at just 1.29kg and with a feature list to embarrass Cupertino’s fruitiest of rivals, the X360 is a show-stopper. And, with prices starting at just £1299 inc VAT, it’s actually one of the more affordable models too.
The X460 might not boast the ultra-light weight of its more diminutive cousin, but that’s not to say it doesn’t impress. Unlike the X360, it manages to squeeze a DVD writer into its 32mm high, 1.85kg frame, and with an estimated asking price of just £999, it’s very reasonably priced indeed.
Even before you tilt back their impossibly slimline lids, these are two laptops which look uncommonly attractive. A glossy black strip covers one third of the lid, and is adorned with a neat Samsung logo, while the bottom two-thirds are finished in brushed aluminium. Tilt back the dainty but sturdy feeling lids and the interior continues to impress. Both the keyboard and the screen are framed by a gloss black surround which, although sure to get a little smudgy over time, looks simply fantastic.
The other thing you’ll notice is that Samsung, just like Apple, have copied Sony’s scrabble-tile keyboard. It’s a design which excites rabid dislike by some members of PC Pro’s staff, but at least in my opinion, unreasonably so. The key action is very light, but there’s a fine, positive action and, just as with the Macbook Air’s example, adopting a lighter, more delicate cadence allows for rapid, comfortable touchtyping.
Some might be a little disappointed that both the X360 and X460 displays have a mere 1,280 x 800 native resolution, but the quality on offer goes a long way towards making amends. The LED-backlit panels are supremely bright, astoundingly so in fact, and while there isn’t the desktop space afforded by the likes of Lenovo’s superb Thinkpad X300, the larger pixels help keep text nice and legible. Try tapping out a document on the bumpy confines of a packed commuter train, and you might just be rather glad that you aren’t squinting at a higher resolution display.
Both models boast the latest Intel Centrino 2 hardware, but the X360 opts for Intel’s ultra low voltage platform to help eke out its claimed 6 to 10 hours of battery life. Intel’s GS45 Express chipset is partnered with an SU9300 processor running at 1.2GHz and backed up by a suitably generous 3GB of DDR3 memory, while Intel’s GMA X4500MHD chipset deals with graphics duties. Plump for the pricier £1499 specification, and you’ll also find a generous 128GB SSD heading up proceedings, but save £200 and you can go for a mechanical 1.8” 120GB drive instead.
Samsung’s X460 also has the full Centrino 2 certification, but forgoes the low-voltage parts for a more powerful specification. The Intel GM45 chipset is partnered with a 2.26Ghz P8400 processor, 3GB DDR3 memory and a standard 250GB hard drive. And for more graphical poke than Intel’s integrated solutions can offer, Samsung have opted for an Nvidia GeForce 9300M GS chipset. For just £999, that’s a pretty impressive core specification.
And, crucially, both the X360 and X460 boast a comprehensive array of features. 802.11abgn and Bluetooth 2.0 cover the wireless side of things (there’s no sign of integrated HSDPA as yet), and there’s Gigabit Ethernet too. Security is beyond reproach thanks to fingerprint readers and TPM 1.2 hardware, but there’s also room for HDMI, VGA, 3 USB ports, ExpressCard/34, a 7-in-1 card reader and support for Samsung’s P-Dock docking stations. And, while the X460 squeezes in an internal DVD writer, the X360 comes with an external slimline USB DVD writer.
If you’ve got £1500 burning a hole in your wallet then head on over to www.laptopsdirect.co.uk and you can put in your pre-order for both the standard and the SSD-equipped X360 models. If it’s the X460 that’s whet your appetite, then you’ll just have to be a little more patient as it’s not available from retailers quite yet. Samsung have assured us that production models will be available in the next couple of weeks, so we’ll be bringing you our definitive verdict just as soon as they land in PC Pro’s labs.