Samsung X460 notebook

Following the staggering amount of publicity Apple’s super-skinny MacBook Air received, with Mac fanatics waxing lyrical about how you can stick it in an envelope and risk accidentally posting it, South Korean manufacturer Samsung decided it could do better with the X360 and X460.

We’ve finally got our hands on the 14.1-inch X460, a hero product that has something of a squashed laptop look about it. With the front of this machine measuring around 20mm, and a weight of just under 1.9kg, it’s the most portable 14.1-inch system we’ve seen so far, although the rear of the chassis does get considerably thicker to house the battery.

The display initially disappoints. The 1280 x 800 pixel resolution falls below that of the equally skinny and slightly smaller Lenovo X300, along with the latest ultra portable Sony VAIOs. At this price, it would have been nice to see a resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels, although images are still fairly crisp. Colour reproduction is a lot more impressive, with vibrant images making it a pleasure for watching movies on.

Brushed aluminium adorns the rear of the lid, and is also available in dark red and blue. Sadly, the surface inside of the X460 fails to live up to its premium price tag. Where rivals use brushed aluminium, magnesium alloy or even leather, Samsung sticks rigidly to plastic. Plastics that are remarkably similar to those found in the company’s £500 laptops, in fact. Here, the glossy finish looks out of place, quickly picking up fingerprints, scuffs and lacking a sense of occasion.

That’s not to say it’s all bad, however. The keyboard uses a similar design to its rivals, and proved one of this machine’s better points. The keys stick out through individual holes in the casing, reducing the chances of mistakes when typing. The keys are all well attached, and move responsively and quietly.

With an entry-level dedicated Nvidia GeForce 9200M GS GPU, 3D performance is impressive for such a lightweight device. We found it struggled with the latest games, but older games ran without trouble, and it also ran more complex applications – such as Adobe’s CS4 – with remarkable ease.

Processing power is equally impressive. The Samsung’s mid-level 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 3GB of memory isn’t anything out of the ordinary, but we found more than enough performance to run daily tasks, with little lag evident even when running a whole host of programs. There’s definitely no sign of compromise in the pursuit of that light weight, or slim dimensions, and battery life – at just under 5 hours – is also enough for most uses.

The X460 beats the MacBook Air hands down when it comes to features as well. Three USB ports, Gigabit Ethernet, VGA and HDMI-out ports are all in place, along with a fingerprint reader for added security. Wireless connections comprise 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The 250GB hard drive is reasonable for a corporate laptop.

Verdict

In taking on the MacBook Air, the X460 has a huge amount to live up to. In many ways, it succeeds, and then some. If you’re determined to get one of the lightest and thinnest laptops, without compromising on screen size, performance or features, then it’s definitely worth a look.

It can’t match the quality of its rival from Apple, however, nor the latest ultra portables from Sony. And therein lies the crux of the problem. With similar materials, design and performance to its cheaper siblings, we’re just not convinced it’s worth the extra money over “lesser” Samsung models. Such as the sublime Samsung Q310.