Samsung X50 HWM 760 review

Price when reviewed

Samsung is currently the world’s only laptop manufacturer to offer a 15.4in widescreen TFT in a chassis weighing 2.5kg or under. It’s an impressive feat alone, but Samsung aims to make the X50 even more appealing by squeezing in as much performance as possible to give the best of all worlds.

Samsung X50 HWM 760 review

With a score of 0.90 in our new benchmarks, it’s clear that this is a very capable machine. With its 2GHz Pentium M processor it’s more adept in office applications than in complex multitasking environments, but is no slouch in any area. Paired with Intel’s 915PM chipset, it’s ably supported by two 512MB sticks of PC3200 DDR2 SDRAM; this means there’s no room for expansion, but 1GB should be enough for this notebook’s life.

Graphics are handled by an ATi Mobility Radeon X600 with 128MB of dedicated memory. At our standard test resolution of 1,280 x 1,024 with very high detail, 4x anti-aliasing and 8x anisotropic filtering, it gave unplayable frame rates, but lower the settings and you’ll be fine. We recorded 34fps in Far Cry at 1,024 x 768 with AA and AF switched off, and detail reduced from very high to high. Half-Life 2 will also need to be lowered to a similar level to get any enjoyment out of it, so this isn’t a machine for avid gamers.

Running these 3D benchmarks gave us a good chance to view the 15.4in widescreen TFT, and it looked fantastic. Its 1,680 x 1,050 native resolution offers a huge amount of Desktop and the display is crisp and vivid; viewing angles are impressive on either side, but the colour deteriorates when you move away from the normal vertical eye level. Speaker volume is a little low, but the sound quality is good enough for background music.

The build of the machine is solid and sturdy, and this applies to the lid too; as such, the X50 feels like it could take knocks in the real world. In terms of design, it gleaned a mixed response from the PC Pro taste police: although everyone appreciated its sleek looks, half the team praised its brushed metallic effect finish, while others felt it was a bit plasticky.

The keyboard is a pleasure to use and hasn’t been miniaturised too much; the sizes are fairly consistent across the whole board and all the usual keys are present. The touchpad is smooth and the finish reduces the possibility of it becoming greasy with heavy use. The chassis also has several shortcut buttons for email and media applications, as well as the ever-useful wireless on/off button to conserve your battery.

Elsewhere, storage comes in the form of an 80GB Hitachi Travelstar hard disk, spinning at 5,400rpm. Alternative backup options are provided by the DVD-RAM drive; this format is better suited to backups than other DVD media, so is a welcome inclusion. Unfortunately, it will only burn discs – both RAM and DVD+/-R – at an unacceptable speed of 2x, taking the shine off it slightly.

The X50 has all the usual accessories, such as a V.92 modem and Gigabit Ethernet; wireless implementation is excellent, with support for the 802.11a/b/g standards covering all options. As well as a Type II PC card slot, there’s a 3-in-1 card reader at the front of the base, supporting Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro, plus SD cards. The full-sized FireWire port allows peripherals to be powered directly, unlike the mini-FireWire ports on most systems of this size, while three USB 2 ports complete the set.

The Samsung has one further ace up its sleeve, in the form of a fingerprint reader between the cursor buttons. Useful for business security, it’s also a convenient way to bypass typing in passwords in files and on websites. With the current fears over identity theft, it’s always good to see manufacturers such as Samsung and HP offering security alternatives on more consumer-oriented notebooks.

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