by John Le, Melbourne Australia
The new era has arrived for LG (as they enter the wonderful world of Notebooks) having an extensive history with both white goods and audio/video equipment, LG continues to turn heads as they enter the competitive world of notebooks.
(note to readers, the LG LS50 is not sold in the U.S. or Europe, it is currently most available in Australia)
LG LM50-8 (view larger image)
The LG LS50 is a 15" screen notebook series using the Intel Pentium M processor and a dedicated ATI Mobility video card. The LS50 series aims for performance computing in a thin and portable package. With a Pentium M 1.80GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and an ATI 9700 128MB graphics card, the LS50-8 is at the high end of the configuration spectrum for this series, and as such has the ultimate performance and speed for such a thin and light build notebook. The LS50 can be compared to other high end notebooks such as the Fujitsu E8010 and the Toshiba Tecra M2. I chose the LS50 over these notebooks and others due to the combination of style and high-end performance.
LG LM50-8 Specs:
Design and Form:
The LG LS50-8 is feature packed with many of the common requirements of today's computing needs. When opening the lid, you are confronted by a massive 15" TFT LCD. The hardware within the Notebook might give some hints to this being a desktop replacement, but don't be fooled by just the specs. The size of the notebook would make you think again. A sleek design, modern looks and brushed aluminum surfaces, really gives this notebook style points.
The outer shell of the Notebook is constructed of a hard and rigid, but also light weight plastic, protecting it from the harsh elements and the hussles and tussles of everyday life. Although made of durable materials, it's still not recommended to drop the notebook from any given height, this is note a "rugged" notebook per se.
The LS50-8's screen size is a generous 15" in diagonal viewing. It is not a widescreen format LCD as we're seeing so often these days, but rather a standard aspect ratio. The 15" screen makes a big difference to the smaller 14.1" found on older notebooks and the size I'm used to. The screen lacks a glossy look that is also popular today (such as the XBrite featured in Sony notebooks or TruBrite in Toshiba notebooks). However, the native resolution of 1400 x 1050 and bright screen makes for a great viewing experience nonetheless.
The speakers on the LS50 are not one of the notebooks stronger points. To start off, the speakers are positioned badly, they are angled down at the front of the notebook. A second problem is that, while the notebook does have two speakers for stereo sound, both speakers are placed centimeters apart and the net effect is practically a mono sound. Sound produced from the notebook speakers is crisp and clear. You can't expect any notebook to reproduce sound like a Dolby Digital theater. The notebook also comes equipped with Optical Digital out (SP-dif) which can be plugged into any sound system for reproduction of digital sound.
There are many different ways to get around poor integrated speakers. With integrated 16bit sound, the notebook just doesn't cut it to be a media center. So the recommendation of either head phones or external speakers would be a much better alternative than the integrated speaker.
Performance and Processor:
In 2004 Intel made major improvements in the mobile processor industry with the release of the second generation (dubbed Dothan) of its Pentium M chips for the Centrino platform. Earlier this year Intel introduced its 3rd generation (code name Sonoma) . The first generation (code name Banias) only had 1mb cache (L2). Whereas the second generation (Dothan) moved to the quicker bus speed of 400 MHz and a larger cache size of 2mb L2, and now the third generation (code name Sonoma) has an even quicker Bus speed (533 MHz), improved architecture for faster calculations, but the same cache.
The LG LS50 notebook features the Centrino Dothan Processor clocking in at a speed of 1.80 GHz. It's hard to physically perceive processor performance differences when clock speeds between certain notebooks are very similar, but by running a simple test that forces a computer to process the calculation of Pi to 2-million digits of accuracy we can see how it performs relative to similar processors. Below is a comparison table.
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|LG LM50-8 (1.80 GHz Dothan Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz Sonoma Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Banias Pentium M)||2m 23s|
|Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz)||3m 3s|
|Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Dell Inspiron 9300 (1.6GHz Sonoma Pentium M)||2m 04s|
So the LG LS50 is quite powerful in number crunching, even though it is not using the latest chip design from Intel. However this notebook wasn't just built for number crunching. Running games like Battle Field 1942 (Desert Combat Mod) is no trouble at all. The Ls50 makes smooth and effortless work of such games as they are processed by ATi's Mobility 9700 with 128Mb dedicated memory. The upside of having a dedicated graphics card is of course the fact that graphics processing doesn't share memory with the main system RAM which may have a negative effect on overall notebook performance.
With a high end processor and a high end graphics card, it would only come into full play when you have a good amount of RAM for main system memory. Having too little main system RAM when you have a great processor and graphics card is going to provide a weakest link effect -- your notebook can only perform as well as the weakest link. Thankfully LG realized this and the notebook has been equipped with 1024Mb (1gig) of ram running at 333 MHz, this is much more than a standard computer or notebook. With ample RAM, a fast processor and great graphics card you get the quick feedback and response that's required by some of todays most demanding software applications even.
LG LM50 keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)
One key aspect of a notebook is comfort and ease of use. A majority of people buy notebooks for business use which requires a lot of typing and mouse movement. The keyboard configuration is much like any other keyboard and is comfortable to type on and use overall. The main difference between this keyboard and a regular desktop keyboard is greater use of the "function" key (Fn), this key is used in conjunction with other keys to perform a variety of tasks. A down side of this is you have to press 2 buttons simultaneously to activate certain programs or tasks. I wish the Ls50 had more built-in hardware buttons for controlling such things as turning Wi-Fi on/off instead of requiring dual button pushes or navigating to a software application to perform a simple task. This is where the LS50 lacks, yes it does have a built-in volume control button but that's the extent of it for hardware control buttons.
Not too much to say on the touchpad. It's a Synaptics pointing device, which has been used in many other notebooks including Acer, Toshiba, and Fujitsu. It's only a two button mouse and has no scroll feature or button so that makes it hard to scroll through large internet pages. But with any non scrolling touch pad there are always virtual scrolling areas which you can adjust to your requirements. The touchpad really has precision cursor movement and is quite sensitive to a touch of your finger.
To accommodate the many notebook accessories that you may want to have, the LS50-8 comes with many different ports.
LG LS50 Right side (view larger image)
On the right side of the notebook you have the 4 in 1 card reader (MMC, SD, MS and MS Pro), 1 Firewire Port (IEEE 1394), 1 Type I and II PCMCIA Card Slot, 1 USB 1.1/2.0 and the Optical Drive for burning and playing DVD/CD's.
LG LS50 back side (view larger image)
The back of the notebook you have S-Video out, Kensington Lock socket, Battery, 10/100 Port (RJ45), V92 56k Modem Port (RJ11) and the AC Socket.
LG LS50 left side view (view larger image)
On the Left hand side you have Printer port, VGA out port, 2 USB 1.1/2.0 ports, Headphone/Optical Digital out and Mic in.
The LS50-8 features one of Intel's latest wireless built-in Mini-PCI wireless cards, the Intel PRO wireless 2200B/G that supports transfer speeds of up to 54Mbps. The LS50 has built in Dual Quad Band Antenna's so that picking up weak signals won't be a problem. The lack of Bluetooth and an IR port makes it hard to communicate with other wireless products like PDA's and Mobile phones. However, this can be a cheap fix by buying either a Bluetooth dongle or an external IR port. But users may not like bits hanging off of their notebooks, LG really should have looked to include one of these short range communication options as a built-in feature.
It is important to keep in mind that this is a mobile computer, which means it will be running off batteries quite often. The Ls50 incorporates a 6 cell and an optional 9 cell battery.
Running the Notebook from fully charged to 1% charge left on the battery took me about 4hrs. This test was conducted with the brightness at 50%, wireless on, and processor step speed activated, and that's just on a 6-cell battery. LG claims the 9-Cell battery to have an extended life of up to 10 hrs. Just remember that there are many factors that affect the battery performance.
Heat and Noise:
Having such a high clock speed, you would think that the notebook would tend to run hot and require a lot of fan blowing to cool the insides down. But think again, LG designed this notebook to stay cool via passive cooling and keep quiet under normal usage. However, once under a high load (let's say playing a game) the high speed fan kicks in and cools the system down. The fan seems to have 3 speeds, at low speeds the fan is quiet and only when it hits high speeds does the fan become audibly noticeable. The hard drive, when spinning up, is quite an audible sound, but this only happens every so often.
It seems that many people when looking for a notebook look for one particular thing -- value. Calling the LG LM50 a value notebook isn't correct as the price can be quite high, $3800AUD (Australian Dollars) right through to $4000AUD. This notebook has the potential to be a gamer's notebook and also serves well as an everyday business man's work station due to its thin, sleek design and good battery life.
No one can expect any single notebook to have everything, but LG could have included Bluetooth for the price that's paid on this device. Other factors that could have been improved would be little things such as the exhaust position and a better speaker placement.
If a particular person was looking for a high performance, portable notebook then I can recommend that they buy the LG LM50. Although it might be a bit heavy on the pocket, it sure will impress a user right from the moment they open the box.
Overall this notebook is a great and outstanding piece of equipment that really stands out. Minor improvements would have been liked but no one can have it all. But, for those seeking a cheaper option there are also the LS50 -5, -6, and -7 giving lower specs but same build and quality.
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