by John Ratsey, England
Overview and Introduction
The Samsung NP-X60 (hereinafter called the X60) is a 15.4" widescreen notebook which follows on from the X50 series and includes the latest Intel mobile CPU and chipset. The X60 weighs in at about 2.5kg (5.5lb) with a 6 cell battery, which places it among the lighter notebooks with a 15.4" display. The version of the X60 reviewed here has the Core Duo T2300 CPU, the ATI X1400 GPU, a 100GB 5400rpm hard disk and a DVD burner. Other versions of the X60 are / will be available with the Intel integrated graphics or the ATI X1600 GPU and a higher resolution display.
Reasons for Buying
For the past year I have been using an Asus W3A (also sold as the Z63A) with a Pentium M 750 (1.86GHz) CPU and Intel integrated graphics. Comparisons are made in this review with the Asus. The W3A is a version of the W3V with Intel integrated graphics. Overall, I have been very satisfied with the W3A once I got over the initial shock of discovering that the true weight was about 2.5kg (5.5lb) whereas it had been advertised as 2kg (4.4lb). However, this weight included a 9 cell battery with a running time under light use of over 4 hours. I wanted to upgrade to take advantage of a dual core CPU and was also keen to try a display that is one size larger. I do a reasonable amount of traveling, usually to places where good IT support may be lacking, so portability, reliability and durability are key requirements, along with reasonable battery life to get me through the power cuts.
Asus hadn't yet released a lightweight 15.4" laptop (such as a widescreen version of the V1 series) and while the Sony FE series is getting into the right weight range, it uses the Windows Media Centre operating system, which sends the wrong message to me. I have been watching the Samsung notebooks for some time and my impression has been one of good quality products although there has been a shortage of in-depth reviews. The Samsung X60 appeared to fit my requirements so I bought one from Laptops Direct UK. This supplier had stock at a reasonable price (UK £1176.95 British Pounds including VAT), offered a deal for a free 3G data card and offered a very good price on the extended warranty.
Specification of X60 as Reviewed:
Specifications of Other Versions (Other existing or future versions of the Samsung X60 may contain other configurations including)
Design and Build
My first impression was that the X60 is substantially bigger than the W3A. The size increment between the 14" and 15.4" widescreen notebooks is much larger than between the 13.3" and 14" computers.
The X60's colour scheme is black and silver. There is a black bezel surrounding the display, black in the hinge area and black on the underside of the chassis. The remainder of the computer is finished in a silver metallic paint. Even the display back which is said to be magnesium alloy is painted except for the Samsung logo. The paint appears to be durable and scratch-resistant.
The build quality appears to be good, although structural weaknesses may not become evident until after many months of usage. The display back is a magnesium alloy and the display unit is very rigid. I am unable to apply sufficient manual pressure on the cover to affect the displayed image. The chassis is rigid: I can hold up the whole computer by one of the front corners without any flexing. The bottom of the computer is stepped, with protruding feet (about 5mm high at the back) which are not included in the official dimension data. These feet provide good airflow under the computer.
The layout of the computer is relatively good. The keyboard is centrally located and generously sized. Behind the keyboard is a black area covered with fine perforations and containing the loudspeakers. Two indicator lights, for mains/battery power connected and computer on, are at the front of the palm rest. A further five indicator lights are behind the insert and delete keys. These lights are not very bright. The power button is to the right of these lights and contains a blue light when the computer is on.
The bottom of the Z60 contains the socket for a 120 pin docking station and has two removable covers. One cover is for the RAM slots, which also exposes the Wireless network card and a socket for a terrestrial DMB tuner (for Korea only). The other cover is for the hard disk drive, which the manual says is not user replaceable. The battery has a charge status indicator. The RAM cover is metal but the HDD cover is plastic. There are also several air vents on the underside as can be seen in the photo below.
Overall, the port layout is good. Apart from anything plugged into the right side USB port, only the optical drive competes for the mouse space. However, a mouse mat will interfere with the drive opening. It would have been useful to have one or two more USB ports at the back of the right side as a manufacturing alternative to the serial or TV ports.
The display of this model of the X60 is a "SuperClear" glossy 1280 x 800 resolution (WXGA). Another model will have 1680 x 1050 resolution (WSXGA+). The brightness at the maximum brightness setting is sufficient although the default background white is not as white as the display on the Asus W3A (it looks much better after I changed the display gamma to 1.05). Brightness settings down to about 3 (of 8 steps) are usable when running on battery. The horizontal viewing angle is good and the vertical viewing angle is slightly better than on the W3A. There are no dead pixels on my display.
The X60 has high definition audio and two 2W speakers in the area behind the keyboard. These (combined with SRS) provide by far the best audio quantity and quality of any notebook I have used and contrast strongly with the feeble sound produced by the W3A. However, in spite of the SRS, the bass is still weak and the audio will sound better through good headphones or external speakers with a reasonable bass unit. Overall, the built-in speakers are good enough for DVD watching but become tiring for music.
Processor and Performance
This model of the X60 came with the Intel Core Duo T2300 CPU and 1GB (2 x 512MB) of DDR2-533 RAM (I have since changed one of the 512MB modules to a 1GB module). The dual core CPU means that the computer is more responsive because there is less queuing of tasks and overall performance is good compared to the previous generation of notebooks.
Below are the benchmarks for Samsung X60 (Core Duo T2300, 1.66GHz) with some comparisons to the Asus W3A Pentium M 1.86GHz based notebook:
|Notebook||Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits|
|Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)||1m 29s|
|Samsung X60 -- when also running Prime 95 torture test (1.66GHz Core Duo)||1m 39s|
|Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 16s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Dothan Pentium M)||1m 57s|
|HP dv5000t (1.83GHz Core Duo)||1m 17s|
|Sony VAIO S380 (1.83 GHz Alviso Pentium M)||1m 42s|
|Futuremark PCMark04 Scores|
|Samsung X60 (1.66 GHz Core Duo)||Asus W3A (1.86 GHz Pentium M)|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression||6.633 MB/s||3.285 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption||48.69 MB/s||26.06 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression||43.22 MB/s||24.257 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing||19.761MPixels/s||10.59 MPixels/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning||3609.605 MB/s||1733.669 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check||3.979 KB/s||2.976 KB/s|
|File Decryption||49.596 MB/s||54.966 MB/s|
|Audio Conversion||3536.432 KB/s||2946.057 KB/s|
|Web Page Rendering||5.014 Pages/s||4.028 Pages/s|
|DivX Video Compression||64.889 FPS||50.432 FPS|
|Physics Calculation and 3D||190.156 FPS||97.737 FPS|
|Graphics Memory - 64 Lines||2167.734 FPS||375.403 FPS|
The overall PCMark05 score for the X60 was 3456 (Asus W3A = 1916).
The 3DMark05 score for the X60 was 2264 (Asus W3A = 253).
Below is the graph generated by HD Tune, a hard drive benchmarking application. The performance curve has an interesting shape. The CPU usage seems relatively high and the maximum burst transfer rate is little over half the theoretical interface capacity of 150MB/s.
I used HD Tach for a second opinion. The results are below.
Another good benchmarking software is SiSoftware Sandra. The CPU performance is shown in the two graphs below. This software clearly shows the benefit of multi-cored CPUs. The T2300 is well ahead of both the Pentium M 770 and the 3.8GHz Pentium 4-E.
Sandra shows that the memory bandwidth is around 3500MB/s for the PC4200 RAM.
(view large image)
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard is centrally located and generously sized. Samsung claim that it has "enhanced water resistance". I have not tested this feature. A useful keyboard feature is a second Fn key at the right of the keyboard. The keys have very clear black (blue for the Fn key operations) markings on the metallic sliver background, reasonable travel and are comfortable to use. There is no significant flex. In front of the keyboard is a relatively small Synaptics touchpad with two buttons that are easy to use. I would have thought a larger touchpad could be feasible. To the right of the keyboard are two volume control buttons and three buttons which activate the music, photo and movie functions of the AV Station software.
The keyboard contains several function key shortcuts:
Samsung X60 keyboard view (view large image)
The X60 also comes with a simple infra-red remote control. This has navigation buttons and volume controls. Although primarily intended for use with the multimedia software, it can also be used to step through a PowerPoint presentation. The remote control is PC card sized and can be stored in the PC card slot.
Input and Output Ports
The front of the Z60 contains a 5-in-1 memory card reader, an infra-red receiver for the remote control and, on the left side, some ventilation slots. Two microphones, for which there is a software noise cancelling option, are located at the front of the palm rest. The right side contains, from front to back, a switch for the wireless network, a single USB slot, and the optical drive. There is an unused space at the back of the right side which may contain factory options of a serial port or a TV socket.
Samsung X60 front side (view large image)
Samsung X60 back side (view large image)
Samsung X60 left side (view large image)
Samsung X60 right side (view large image)
The left side of the X60 contains, from front to back, a PC card slot (which claims to be "Express-ready" whatever that means), headphone/optical out, microphone/line in, 1394/Firewire, modem, the fan exhaust and the VGA socket. The back contains a Kensington Lock slot, network, S-video, 2 x USB and the power lead socket. The bottom of the computer contains a docking station port.
The X60 includes the Intel 3945abg wireless chip on a module under the memory slot cover. The performance appears to be good. There is a hardware wireless switch in the right side of the computer. The Intel PROSet software was not installed by default which resulted in a message about no wireless connection every time I booted the computer if I had the wireless hardware switch set off. Once the PROSet software was installed, it could read the setting of the hardware switch and the unwanted messages ceased.
Bluetooth (version 2.0) is also provided. At present I have no Bluetooth devices to be able to test how well it works. A Bluetooth mouse is on order (and I hope will reduce competition for the USB ports).
Battery and Power Supply
The 6 cell battery is rated at 11.1V, 5200mAH, 57.72WHr. Samsung's headline battery life is "over 5.5 hours", but examination of the small print in the specifications reveals that this if for the 9 cell battery option, which would add 140g to the weight and protrude 20mm (3/4") out of the back of the computer. The claimed battery life for the 6 cell battery is over 3.5 hours. This could be achieved under favourable conditions. MobileMeter shows a power drain of about 15W for the CPU running at minimum speed, the backlight on the lowest setting (almost unusable) and no wireless or Bluetooth operating. Playing a DVD with the backlight on 50% brightness draws about 24W, so it should be possible to reach the end of a 2 hour DVD. I have not
The power supply for the X60 is a relatively heavy 90W unit that weighs almost 600g (including the mains power cable with cloverleaf type connector). This is inappropriate for a slimline computer. Why so heavy? MobileMeter shows a maximum charging rate for the battery as about 38W (Samsung claims recharge in 2 hours with the computer running). Running the Prime 95 torture test and the 3DMark05 benchmark concurrently draws about 45W, so it is feasible for the PSU to be called to deliver over 80W under extreme conditions. However, I would willingly accept a lower battery recharge rate in return for a lighter PSU.
Operating System, Software and Documentation
This model of the X60 has Windows XP Professional SP2. Three optical disks are provided with the X60:
The system software is listed below, or some specific comments regarding software:
The following documentation is supplied with the X60:
Warranty and Customer Support
Samsung provides a one year limited international warranty as standard. I haven't determined what the "limited" really means, but Samsung has fewer global service locations than many other computer manufacturers. Warranty extensions for one or two years can be purchased. I opted for a one year extension. The standard warranty is return-to-base. However, if the computer is registered within 30 days of purchase then the warranty is upgraded to "Fastguard" collect-and-return service. This Fastguard warranty is only applicable within Europe.
So far, my only encounter with customer support was to register the computer. After working through the various options on the telephone system, my call was answered immediately.
The X60 is a relatively cool machine. The underside of the computer contains several air vents. The fan can only be heard in a quiet room and the CPU temperature gets up to about 60 C under heavy load (MobileMeter picks up two temperature sensors). The fan seems to stay on permanently a low speed and becomes faster when the CPU temperature exceeds 55 C. The hard disk, located under the front right palm rest, reaches about 40 C under heavy load. The HDD seems to run 5 to 10 C cooler than the HDD in the W3 series. The underside of the computer becomes warm under heavy use, but not as hot as the W3. Under light use the base of the X60 stays relatively cool.
The X60 should be on the shortlist of anyone looking for a lightweight 15.4" widescreen computer (subject to the regional availability constraints). Build quality does not appear to be compromised by the low weight. The model reviewed contains the slowest of the Core Duo CPUs and an intermediate level graphics processor. Overall performance is well ahead of the previous generation of notebooks. Although the supplied HDD is nominally 100GB, there was only 86GB remaining after formatting and installation of the AVStation Now software.
So far, I have no regrets about my purchase which seems to satisfy my original objectives. I would have liked a faster CPU, but it is evident that the slowest of the dual core CPUs provides a substantial performance improvement. I would have liked a slightly higher resolution display (1440 x 900). The greatest disappointment has been the unnecessarily heavy PSU.
Samsung Notebook Discussion
Addendum (Added 10/6/2006)
This addendum contains additional comments and observations arising during the first six months of use, including international travel with hot ambient temperatures, and some commuting on a bicycle.
So far, the X60 has stood up fairly well to the travelling but there are now some signs of wear. The metallic finish is wearing off the left track pad button and a mark is developing on the right palm rest where it interacts with the display surround when the computer is closed (I had exactly the same problem with the Asus W3A).
Initially, the keyboard sounded loose at top left corner, particularly around the "1" key. Removal of the keyboard revealed a circular hole for the fan just under where the "1" key is located, which explains the hollow sound. I seem to have got use to this problem because it no longer disturbs me, or perhaps the keyboard has bedded down.
The standard battery contains a shallow depression in the bottom side. This is a good detail as it provides a finger grip when carrying the computer closed.
Recharge only takes place when the charge state is less than 97%. This should prolong battery life by avoiding frequent small charge top-ups. Running time of just over 3 hours on battery is feasible under light use with the display on less than 4/8 brightness. MobileMeter shows a power drain on battery that is usually between 16W and 18W (under light use), but occasionally drops down as low as 14W.
MobileMeter also shows the battery recharge rate. This is initially nearly 40W but reduces as the battery approaches 100% charge. I used a power meter at the mains socket to check the overall power use. With high CPU load and the battery being recharged the consumption was around 75W. This explains the provision of the 90VA power supply, but I would prefer to have a slower battery recharge rate and a smaller, lighter, PSU.
The bottom of the computer stays cool enough under moderate usage that it can be used on bare legs without discomfort. However, the left palm rest gets warm (at least as warm as the right palm rest on the Asus W3 series- a source of much discussion). The cause of the heat on the left palm rest is unclear (it may be the proximity to the CPU) but I have improved the cooling by leaving the PC card slot open. The under-side of the computer is cooler than the palm rest.
Using BIOS versions 06XA and 07XA, the fan was always on, at low speed, even when the computer is started from cold on battery power. BIOS version 08XA switches the fan on at about 54 C and off at a temperature of about 46 C. However, the left palm rest seems to get a bit warmer because of the reduced flow of cooling air. In a quiet room, intermittent fan operation is more noticeable than continuous operation. The etiquette mode raises the fan trigger temperature to about 57 C. However, this is insufficient to prevent the fan coming on occasionally and also causes the left palm rest to become even warmer.
The right palm rest (over HDD) stays much cooler and it is rare to see the HDD temperature exceeding 40 C. The low HDD temperature is a feature of the X60 design: I have replaced the 100GB Fujitsu HDD with a Seagate 120GB 5400.2 and the HDD temperature still only exceeds 40 C under prolonged heavy use. HD Tune shows that there is very little difference between the performance of the Seagate and Fujitsu HDDs.
Under light use the CPU temperature stays around 46 C to 54 C (the CPU is undervolted to a maximum 1.05V using the Rightmark CPU clock utility). The temperature graph in MobileMeter shows a progressive rise and fall over several minutes. The second temperature reported by MobileMeter usually reads 50 C or 55 C but sometimes 45 C. This sensor seems to work in 5 C increments.
The past six months has included some time working in ambient temperatures of around 30 C (86 F). There were no problems of overheating.
Colours look best when viewed at 90 but the background is brightest and the tonal range of a greyscale image is improved when the top of the screen is pushed back a bit further (similar to the display on my previous Asus W3A). The default brightness setting on mains power is maximum but is not excessively bright. The minimum brightness is only usable under very poor ambient lighting.
On the one occasion when I have used an external projector, I was pleased to discover that it was automatically detected and enabled when I resumed from hibernation after plugging in the projector. The infra-red remote control works fine for stepping forwards or backwards in a PowerPoint presentation. This avoids the need for the presenter to stay close to the computer.
One of my friends recently bought the Samsung X60. He wanted the same model as mine (ATI X1400 + 1280 x 800 display) but received ATI X1400 + the 1680 x 1050 display. Finding suitable settings to make the display usable (his eyes are older than mine) proved a little difficult. Lower display resolutions offered by the ATI driver did not include the correct aspect ratio. The Omega driver (from www.omegadrivers.net came to the rescue with resolutions including 1280 x 800, 1360 x 850 and 1440 x 900 and fast switching between these settings.
The memory card slot at the front is very convenient. It is also able to read xD cards, unlike some of these slots. The USB port layout could be better. The one port which is easy to access, near the front on the right side, tends to conflict with mouse territory.
I increased the RAM to 1.5GB and kept getting "insufficient resources" messages when trying to hibernate. I had previously encountered this problem on a few occasions on my W3A with 1.25GB RAM after hibernating and resuming many times. A Google search led to Microsoft KB909095 and after a call to Microsoft I was emailed the hotfix file (this file is now available to download). This fixed the resources problem completely -- no re-occurrence even after multiple hibernations. I believe this problem is more to do with Windows XP and is nothing special to Samsung.
Audio and DVD Playback
The audio volume is good by notebook standards and very satisfactory for watching DVDs without needing external speakers. Fn+F7 switches through the SRS options (WOX XT, Trusurround and Off). WoW XT is my preferred setting as it boosts the bass and gives louder overall volume, but Trusurround has impressive effects with DVDs.
Although the power supply output is a standard 19V, the connector to the computer is not one of the standard sizes provided with third party PSUs. This could create difficulties should the PSU die for any reason. As commented in the original review, the size and weight of the PSU are inappropriate for a lightweight notebook.
Hard Disk Capacity
The small available space on the hard disk (86GB on the nominal 100GB disk) meant that priority one was an upgrade. It is thought that the AVStation Now! Software grabs some space in a partition which is invisible to Windows. 120GB was the largest available in the UK (and still is at the time of writing although 160GB SATA drives are expected very soon). I used Acronis MigrateEasy for the upgrade and ended up with an extra 25GB. It seems that I have lost the AVStation Now!, but no problem since I never used it. The hard disk is easily accessible for upgrading.
It has been good to have a notebook with a large and easy to read display but which has a relatively low travel weight. Anything heavier would be less pleasant to carry around.
I knew that I wasn't going to get impressive battery life with a lightweight 15.4" notebook. However, 3 hours of light use has proved satisfactory for my needs. Was there something similar at the time I bought this computer which would have better fulfilled my requirements? So far, I didn't find it.
Six months is a long time in the computer industry. I see that the Samsung X60 can now be bought with the T7200 Core 2 Duo CPU, X1600 GPU and 1680 x 1050 display for about the same price as my computer cost 6 months ago. What reason can I find to upgrade to the new model?
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