- ✓Superb wide-aspect screen
- ✓ultra-thin and portable
- ✓excellent battery life with the optional extended battery
- ✓can run multimedia software without booting Windows XP
- ✕Top-loading optical drive means there is no wrist-rest
- ✕speaker volume is a little low
Samsung’s notebooks are generally impressive, but the X1 takes things a step further. With its ultra-thin design and fabulous wide-aspect 14in. screen, this sub-2kg notebook is right at the cutting edge in terms of design and portability. It performs creditably and has good battery life, particularly with the optional extended battery, making it an excellent option for mobile professionals seeking a stylish travelling companion with good multimedia features for those off-duty moments.
At first glance, it's the Samsung X1's slim dimensions that capture your attention. At 1.7kg the X1 is hardly a featherweight, but considering that it measures 33cm wide by 26cm deep by 1.9cm high at the front, stretching to 2.3cm at the back, Samsung has done well to keep the system as light as it is.
The most significant features of the X1 are its screen and keyboard. The 14in. wide-aspect screen is superb, delivering a native resolution of 1,280 by 768 pixels (WXGA) and a bright, pin-sharp picture. Samsung's SuperClear LCD technology makes the X1's screen more usable outdoors, but it is quite reflective, which occasionally makes it difficult to work indoors if there's a light source such as a window behind you.
The keyboard has a novel design, thanks largely to the location of the optical drive. This sits between the keyboard and the screen, on the right-hand side, and has a lid that opens vertically. The lid feels a little flimsy and you should take care not to push it back further than its preferred angle of repose. This top-loading optical drive design reduces the X1's desktop footprint compared to a traditional slide-out tray, but has a number of implications for the keyboard.
For a start, there isn’t space for the usual row of function keys above the QWERTY and number keys. However, the screen's wide aspect means that there's room to the left and right of the QWERTY keys, so the function keys sit in two columns on the left-hand side. This arrangement feels perfectly ergonomic after half an hour or so of use.
More difficult to get used to is the fact that there's no wrist-rest area beneath the keyboard -- a pointing stick sits between the G H and B keys, mitigating the need for a touchpad. The left and right mouse buttons sit right on the front edge of the system, and although they function well enough, we found their position a bit awkward. We also missed the wrist-rest, particularly when working with the X1 sitting on the knees rather than on a table. The keyboard itself feels reasonable, although the keys offer a little less resistance than we generally like when touch typing.
There is a single column of keys to the right of the QWERTY area. As well as the Insert and Delete keys, there are three keys dedicated to launching the provided AVStation Now software -- one each for music, photos and movies -- plus a volume rocker.
AVStation Now can be run without booting up Windows, and Samsung provides a small PC Card-format remote control unit for directing media playback. Audio, delivered through stereo speakers at the back, is impressive in terms of quality but a little short on volume.
The Samsung X1 is powered by Intel's 1.2GHz ultra low-voltage Pentium M 753 processor with 2MB of Level 2 cache. Graphics are handled by the GMA900 module within the 915GM chipset. Our review unit came with 512MB of DDR2 RAM, expandable to 2GB. Up to 128MB of this system memory can be commandeered by the integrated graphics as needed. Wireless connectivity is present in the shape of Intel PRO/Wireless 2915ABG and Bluetooth modules, and of course there's wired 10/100 Ethernet too. Hard drives come in 40GB or 60GB capacities, our review unit having the latter.
The back of the system is devoid of connectors because this is the location for the battery pack. The standard 2,600mAh battery sits flush to the system while the 5,200mAh extended-life battery (which is an optional extra) protrudes by about 2.5cm and adds a little to the weight. Both batteries have a button that fires up indicator lights showing how much charge remains.
The left-hand side carries external monitor, modem (RJ-11), Ethernet (RJ-45), USB 2.0 and FireWire ports, plus microphone and headphone connectors. There's also a single Type II PC Card slot here. On the right-hand side sit two more USB 2.0 ports and the mains power connector. At the front, just to the right of the mouse buttons, there's a card reader that accepts Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, SD and MMC cards.
In addition to the AVStation Now software, Samsung provides Norton AntiVirus, Nero Express for writing to CD and DVD, and FirstWare Recover Pro, a system recovery tool that provides both incremental recover functionality and complete recovery from a system crash.
Performance & battery life
The Samsung X1 is built more for portablility and battery life than for speed, but that said, its 1.2GHz ULV Pentium M 753 with 521MB of DDR2 RAM will handle mainstream business applications and undemanding multimedia programs quite easily. Its MobileMark 2002 productivity score of 166 with the standard battery fitted is on a par with Dell's Latitude X1 (177), although both of these ultraportables are well behind the fastest notebooks we've tested, which score well over 200.
Battery life is good -- and in our tests exceeds Samsung's claimed timings. With the standard 2,600mAh battery fitted, the X1 lasts for 3 hours and 14 minutes (Samsung claims 3 hours), while with the optional 5,200mAh extended-life battery it keeps going for an impressive 6 hours and 45 minutes (Samsung claims 6 hours). We tested with the system in desktop mode and with the screen at a middling brightness level; with more stringent power management settings, you should be able to get even more battery life from the system.
The standout features of the Samsung X1 are its superb wide-aspect 14in.screen, good multimedia features and lightweight, stylish design. The top-loading optical drive is novel, and has some plus points, but we found that the lack of a wrist-rest made fast touch typing a little uncomfortable. If you carry both the standard and the optional extended-life battery, you'll have a highly portable system that lasts for around 10 hours – a full day's work and then some -- away from the mains.