The X50 runs a Pentium M processor with an L2 cache of 2MB and a base configuration of 1GB RAM, expandable to 2GB. This offers more than enough chutzpah for Microsoft Office work and even mid-level Photoshop retouching and basic video editing work.
The 128MB ATI Mobility Radeon x600 card drives the X50's built in widescreen LCD at a resolution of 1680x1050 pixels. The screen is thankfully finished in an anti-glare coating, which makes it a pleasure to use, especially in comparison to the screens on laptops like the Toshiba Qosmio range. Shunning the recent trend for irritatingly reflective laptop screens, the X50 copes well in brightly lit environments. Even when the screen is completely black there is very little reflectivity, even under office strip-lights.
Basic video editing in Premiere is possible even with the X50s relatively discreet media credentials. Digital video can be captured over FireWire and the standard install of 1GB RAM is sufficient to throw around several tracks of video and audio. If you need to play back edited video on a projector or television, the X50's s-video and VGA ports output a video signal to most displays you're likely to come across. S-video output from the X50 was good, but obviously falls short of VGA and can't hope to match the pure digital source of DVI. While S-video won't cause problems on a projector -- they're extremely forgiving of lower quality sources -- you'll want to use VGA for any prolonged work on an external display.
The DVD±R drive built into the X50 will record movies or data onto writable, or re-writable discs. These played back on our regular consumer DVD player. When playing DVDs, sound is unremarkable. There's sufficient volume to fill a bedroom, but running a jack-to-jack lead from the Samsung's headphone socket into a stereo is the best way to get adequate volume and sound clarity from this laptop.
Battery life on the X50 is rated by Samsung at 4 hours and this accorded with our tests. As with all laptops, watching a movie on DVD or performing intensive graphics, like running a game, can reduce this to as little as 2 hours. Performance in applications like Outlook, PowerPoint and Word matched the performance of a fast desktop machine. Office suite is not very demanding of any modern processor, so this was of little surprise.
Eager to push the Samsung, we installed Battlefield 2. Really, this was too much for the poor thing to cope with -- although we could get playable frame rates out of low-resolution modes. It's unfair to expect a general use laptop like this to run a cutting-edge title, but it's interesting to note that it wasn't as overwhelmed as you'd expect.
The only major problem we encountered with this laptop is the level of screen brightness. To our eyes, the screen seemed dim when set to anything but maximum brightness. Your taste may be radically different, so we suggest you try this laptop out before you make a final decision.
Edited by Michael Parsons
Additional editing by Tom Espiner