Samsung Sens X1 LTM 753 review

£1199
Price when reviewed

With the Sens X1, Samsung has dared to think different. Since time immemorial, the notebook’s keyboard has been positioned close to the screen. And if a notebook had an optical drive, it was accessed from the side. With the X1, Samsung has put the optical drive at centre stage, and not just physically: many of the notebook’s key features have clearly been determined by DVD movie entertainment.

The first obvious sign of this is the screen. It uses the glossy type of display, which makes DVD movies look fantastic, providing you position the X1 so it doesn’t reflect light sources. Colours look richer too, giving photos a lot more impact. Sensibly, Samsung has also opted for a widescreen TFT, offering 1,280 x 768 pixels (a 15:9 ratio).

The downside is that it can look grainy, especially when using apps that have a white background like Word and Excel. With this particular implementation, we also noticed smearing when watching movies; this notebook screen is some way behind desktop displays like the Acer AL1951Bs.

Samsung has also done its best to create speakers worthy of a dedicated DVD player, including an SRS boost that can be activated by a press of a button, but don’t expect miracles: even with SRS activated, they lacked bass and depth.

Yet another sign of this notebook’s entertainment aspirations is the remote control found nestling inside the Type II PC Card slot: press the AVS button, and Samsung’s AVStation Premium program appears. This is designed to be used from several feet away and will let you watch slide shows of your photos, listen to your music collection and watch movies. The implementation isn’t as slick as Media Center – for instance, navigation elements and text are too small when viewed from several feet away – but it’s far less fiddly than trying to control playback in Windows.

In order to accommodate the DVD drive, Samsung has changed the typical layout of the keyboard, effectively chopping off the top row of function keys. The main character and numeric keys have stayed in their customary position, but the function keys are placed down the side. There are also keyboard shortcuts labelled Music, Photo and Movie to the right of the keyboard, along with volume control buttons.

We soon got used to the new function keys’ position, but we’re less convinced by the forward positioning of the keyboard as a whole. Although you can still use the Sens on your lap, it has to be that little bit further away from your body to give you space to type; in the tight confines of a plane, train or conference, you may not have that luxury. The mouse keys are also a little small for comfort, but we found the trackpoint to be accurate and responsive.

There’s one other big benefit of moving the DVD drive to a position atop the notebook rather than on its side: it reduces the height of the X1. It’s ludicrously thin at 23mm, and a weight of 1.7kg means it won’t be a burden even after a long day’s travel.

We were also impressed by the trouble Samsung has gone to over battery control. Few people ever bother delving into Windows’ power management to tweak the finer settings, but Samsung’s Battery Manager is just a click away and lets you customise everything from automatic dimming of the backlight after a certain amount of time to tweaking the graphics chip into power-saving mode.

Even without this advanced tweaking, the X1 lasted a respectable amount of time in our rundown tests: three hours, 35 minutes under light use and two hours, 29 minutes under intense use. If battery life is your priority, though, choose Sony’s VGN-TX1XP, which lasted for almost seven hours under light use.

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