Describing its X360 as 'lighter than air', Samsung is looking to persuade potential buyers that there are alternatives to the MacBook Air. At 1.29kg, the X360 is only a smidgen lighter than the Air, but it's also substantially cheaper than the equivalent SSD MacBook, at around £1,300, and includes a host of features that Apple charges extra for.
With its smart red and black chassis, the diminutive X360 makes a good first impression, and it's clearly designed with portability in mind. Ports are kept to a minimum, with the chassis home to just VGA, HDMI, gigabit LAN and three USB sockets. These are joined by a 34mm ExpressCard slot on the left and a multi-format card reader on the right.
Open the lid and you're greeted by a very Air-esque keyboard, with each key poking out from its own slot in the chassis. The keyboard isn't particularly comfortable, however. We found the flat, plasticky keys too slippery to type on at speed, while the cramped shift and arrow keys on the right-hand side proved similarly tricky to master. If you're prone to forgetting passwords, the fingerprint reader, at the bottom right of the keyboard, lets you log on with nothing more than the swipe of a pinky.
Like the £1,760 MacBook Air, the X360 comes with a 128GB solid-state drive. Although the actual performance benefits of SSDs are debatable, they place less of a demand on the battery compared to traditional hard disks. They're also very expensive, however, so Samsung has done well to include a 128GB model at this price.
Another power-saving feature is the display, which uses an LED backlight. Measuring 13.3 inches and with a resolution of 1,280x800 pixels, it's impressively bright -- your eyes will soon start complaining when it's at full whack. Horizontal viewing angles are also good, but vertical angles aren't so impressive -- tilt the screen up or down by even a small amount and clarity will be lost.
Being a Centrino 2 laptop, you also get 802.11n Wi-Fi, while other extras include Bluetooth and a built-in webcam.
Samsung was clearly aiming for decent battery life with the X360, and the Intel Core 2 Duo U9300 certainly doesn't place much strain on the six-cell battery. But, while it's not particularly power-hungry, neither is it going to impress performance-wise. With a clock speed of just 1.2GHz, this processor won't thank you for troubling it with intensive applications such as video editing. That said, multi-tasking more basic applications within the installed Windows Vista Business isn't a problem.
Combined with 3GB of RAM and Intel's GMA X4500 graphics chipset, the X360 scored 3,322 in PCMark05 -- had it not been for the SSD, its score would most likely have been much worse. It really suffered in 3DMark06, though, only managing a miserable 676. Needless to say, playing the latest games on this laptop isn't an option.
If battery life is more your thing, the X360 will most definitely appeal. Samsung quotes up to 10 hours of use from a single charge, and, in Battery Eater's undemanding Reader's test, we managed 9 hours and 31 minutes. If you plan on doing more than slowly scrolling through a word document, around 6 hours' use is more likely. Battery Eater's more aggressive Classic test exhausted the battery in 5 hours and 6 minutes, which is hugely impressive for such a light laptop.
The Samsung X360's lightweight design and extra-long battery life are its main attractions, and, while Samsung couldn't squeeze a DVD drive into the chassis, it has found room in the budget for an external model. Similarly impressive, at this price, is the inclusion of a 128GB SSD.
Build quality is acceptable but, if you're expecting something similar to the aluminium-clad MacBook Air, you'll be disappointed. On the whole, though, this is a decent effort from Samsung.
If you can stomach a slight drop in screen size, however, Sony's Vaio TT series is well worth a look. Only slightly heavier, the TT has the bonus of a built-in DVD drive, which may be enough to swing it for some.
Edited by Charles Kloet