LG Electronics is new to the North American notebook market, but not new to making exciting and stylish products. Within North America the LG X-Note LM50 notebook is only available in Canada at the moment, LG has a non-compete with IBM in the U.S. until 2005, but for those in Canada that want a thin-and-light notebook (2.4 Kg/4.8lbs and under 1" thick) with amazing battery life, extended wi-fi via a 4-antenna system, good style and unique cooling features the LG LM50 might be for you.
LG X-Note LM50 Overview from LG Electronics
For long distance travellers concerned about battery life, the X-note's standard battery can provide up to 6.5 hours of service, with an extended life version that gives up to 10 hours, depending on the program and content being run. So business people that need to work on the go and still have a notebook that has a large enough screen to view should definitely give the LG X-Note LM50 a look.
Designed to make a style statement, the premium model (LM50) features a sleek, titanium and carbon fibre case for light weight and rigidity. At just under 1" high, and only 2.4 kgs (4.8 lbs), it's one of the slimmest and lightest on the market.
According to Ross Snow, Director of Sales and Marketing for the IT Products, the LM50 notebook model "will appeal to the business traveller who spends more time in the air than on the ground". He continues, "We realized that putting just another notebook on the market wasn't going to make much of a wave, so we packed it with features and industry leading performance to satisfy the most demanding user".
Heat is typically a problem in notebooks, so LG designed its unique Heat Tubes system, which employs two gel-filled tubes which collect and channel heat to the cooling fan. The result is cooler operation and more comfortable use.
For maximum viewing versatility, the 15" TFT screen offers a 120 degree viewing angle for presentations to multiple viewers with no loss of image quality.
To meet the rapid growth of Wi-Fi wireless access via Hot Spots, the X-note line also features a 4-antenna system that picks up even the weakest signal, and does it from any direction. Current laptops usually employ a single antenna that has to be positioned toward the hot spot transmitter in order to pick up the signal, which can be awkward.
Link to Full Specs: http://spirit.lg.ca/xnote/brochures/lm50.pdf
On to the Review...
First things first, if you are looking at buying an LG notebook in Canada, buy it from Online Electronics Inc. They are based in Ontario, but from what I understand they do or will soon sell to the United States. (As a side note, LG will be coming to the US in the next 3-4 months after their non-compete with IBM ends).
The guys at Online Electronics Inc. (http://onlineelectronicsinc.com/) were absolutly great while I was looking into this. They did everything from installing Linux on a notebook to test for me (couldn't find any info if it worked or not), promising no-dead pixels, to passing on several price drops from LG to me and saving me a couple of hundred bucks - after I was already buying the notebook. They went the extra mile, and were great to deal with. I think this is important when spending the kind of cash notebooks cost these days. Ask for Jeff! They are putting up pricelist stuff soonish, right now their site doesn't have info on the LG's, but you can contact them for pricing.
Anyway, on to the notebook. It arrived and as promised, no dead pixels. Beautiful screen...at least as bright as the Sony XBrite, but without the shiny reflective screen. It's a 200 nitt screen, for those keeping track. Very crisp - probably due to the SXGA+ (1040x1500... sooo nice), and very vibrant colors, they just jump right out. I actually turned the screen brightness down while using the notebook in low-light conditions because it was so bright. The screen has 8 brightness settings.
My only initial concern here was that 1040x1500 would be too high a resolution for a 15", but those concerns were dissolved when I saw it - it's perfect. No eye strain at all, just seems right. Viewing angle is good also, haven't had any problems with this at all.
Keyboard - this is an important feature for me, since I'm a programmer and I type a lot - and the keyboard is also great. The keys have a nice feel, they are sturdy, full sized keys and well spaced. Page up/Page down buttons are their own buttons, not needing a Function button push, and surprisingly it took no getting used to at all - I find I am able to just type without any more thought than on my desktop, with the small exception of the left Ctrl. button (function button is far bottom left, ctrl is to the right - but i think this is fairly standard). I stumbled a couple times on that, but it became normal very quickly.
Buttons - The only buttons on the notebook other than the keyboard buttons is a power button and a dedicated volume up/down (pushing both at the same time is mute).
Look - This leads into the look of the laptop, which follows the same concept as the buttons - clean, no clutter or glitz anywhere. It won the IF Design Award, and it's easy to see why. It's a nice silver with a black keyboard. There is a slight piano black accent around the top lid which makes it look fairly slick when closed, but other than that it's very simple. It's perfect. Very nice looking unit, had a few people at work walking around saying "damn, i want to sell my notebook and get one of those", and they were were only half-joking.
Hardware - The hardware itself is all high quality components, I'd list it all off but as I write this the LM50 is in in the middle of installing Gentoo (Gentoo is a version of Linux, http://www.gentoo.org/main/en/about.xml)! From poking through the PC info in windows though, every peice of internal hardware is high quality. No low grade stuff in here that i could find. For ports it has 3 USB 2.0 ports - 2 on the left front, and one on the right rear (the single one for the mouse). There is a hidden drawer which opens to reveal a plug for an external monitor and a parallel port, S-video on the back, and on the right/front there is a firewire port, SD Memory card slot, and a pcmia slot. All the plugs seem very well positioned. Power, modem and ethernet are located on the back as well. The wireless b/g is a mini pci card - It's built into the notebook, so it's not something you can access easily, but i would assume that with a screwdriver you could pop it out and upgrade once the next wireless band comes along.
Lights - Above the keyboard is where all the indicator lights are, but you can't really see them unless they are enabled. I'm not going to bother listing these off, as I assume the functionality of these lights doesn't change much, but they are green and not obtrusive. The speakers are front and center and create an interestingly designed vent shape on the front of the notebook.
Touchpad - Touchpad is simple, a synaptics touchpad with 2 buttons - no scrollwheel, but of course you don't need it, you can scroll with your finger on the pad. Anyone who's used a synaptics touchpad will be familiar with the software, it let's you setup all kinds of crazy stuff.
Sound - Sound is nothing to write home about, but it's pretty good for a laptop. You can get some pretty decent volume out of it, but as expected the bass isn't that great - and with grungy music it can distort at higher volumes. (playing with the graphic equilizer in my media player was able to mostly resolve that, though)
Case - The case is made of a magnesium/carbon fiber alloy, so it's fairly light for a 15" screen notebook - 2.2kg (4.8 lbs) with the 6 cell / 6 hour battery in. I got the 9 cell / 10 hour battery so it's a bit heavier, but it still seems light. It's definitly a "thin and light". As for thin, it's about an inch tall closed... Just slightly thicker than my friends powerbook, mostly because of the feet (which are not removable, they are part of the case).
Cooling System - The cooling system in this notebook is primarily heat piping. There are 3 ACPI fans, but they are very quiet. Apperantly they are able to keep the fan speed and usage (and noise) down because of the heat piping. The notebook only ever gets warm during 100% CPU usage and when that happens it seems like some of the heat is actually released through the keyboard like a mac powerbook. Overall though this notebook is very cool running and heat just isn't an issue with the piping system LG has put in place.
Battery Life - Battery life as I mentioned depends on the battery, you can get a 6 or 9 cell (9 cell protrudes out a bit from the notebook, but it doesn't get in the way or look bad, so it's worth it) - LG claims 6 hours on the 6 cell and 10- hours on the 9 cell... Bold claims, to be sure. After a full charge, i unplugged it and let it sit for a bit, Windows informed me I had 12 hours batter life left - unplugging it drops the screen brightness to about half, after cranking it up to full brightness and leaving it for awhile the battery life ETA dropped to about 6 hours. I'm able to get about 5-8 hours out of the battery when using Llinux with a 9 cell battery, the variation in hours depends on what I'm using the notebook for of course.
Performance - I haven't done any benchmarks or anything - but the LM50 is very fast and very responsive in terms of "perceived" performance (and by this I mean how fast it feels compared to other computers I've used). It's a 1.7ghz (745 Dothan) centrino, and i got the 80gb drive - specs are here:
Software - The LM50 came with a bunch of software and of course the quick restore cd, all of which remains in the box (it's windows software, I'm not running windows). There are no partitions on the drive for any weird system tools or whatnot.
Mouse - The LM50 came with a miniature usb/optical mouse
AC Adaptor - The charger/ac adaptor is nice and small/light, just a little black box and a cable.
Warranty - The LM50 comes with a 3 year warranty. I was not offered any "extended" warranty - the base warranty from LG just covers it all, so there is no need for such things. I didn't even have to send the warranty card back to LG to register for the warranty like I had to with my old fujitsu, I just have a peice of paper that you are susposed to write your serial # on and keep - you just send it, with the notebook, if something breaks. Amazing service and warranty provision there!
So, the bad? - Well, i can't really say i've found much bad yet - the only thing i can think of that they could really do would be to up the HD speed. I think it's 4200. I honestly haven't noticed any speed issues, at all, but that's something they could speed up anyway.
Also, I've found that the wifi detection won't work in linux yet, although I'm still working on it.. for windows users there won't be any problems. Basically what it is is three hidden blue leds on the outside/top cover which come on when there is a wireless signal picked up - makes it easy to tell when you are near a hotspot (or somebody who has an open wifi connection)
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