by John Ratsey, England
Overview and Introduction
The Samsung NP-X60plus is an enhanced version of the Samsung X60 series and includes the Intel Core 2 Duo. The X60plus is very similar to its predecessor and weighs in at about 2.55kg (5.5lb) with a 6 cell battery, which places it among the lightest notebooks with a 15.4? display. The version of the X60plus reviewed here has the Core 2 Duo T7200 CPU, the ATI X1700 GPU, WSXGA+ display, a 120GB 5400rpm hard disk and a Lightscribe DVD burner. Samsung aren?t completely sure what to call this new model. The label on the bottom of the computer says NP-X60 plus, and the logo on the inside, under the display has X60plus. For convenience, I am using X60plus, which will, I hope, avoid confusion by the search engines with other types of X60.
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Reasons for Buying
In March 2006 I bought the Samsung X60 with the T2300 CPU and ATI X1400 GPU. You can see the review for that X60 by clicking here. This review was originally posted in April 2006 and updated in October 2006.
Overall, I have been very satisfied with the X60 which offers a relatively large display within a slim body and relatively light weight. While the battery life (maximum 3 hours) is not generous, it has been enough for my needs. I do a reasonable amount of travelling, so portability and durability are key requirements, along with reasonable battery life to allow some work without plugging in to a power socket and get me through power cuts.
A further attraction of this computer is that Samsung still provide a PC card slot and have yet to migrate to the Express card slot. Perhaps one reason is that the small remote control can be stored in the PC card slot. I still have a couple of PC cards that I use whereas cards for the new format are still rare.
Samsung have now upgraded the product to use the Core 2 Duo CPUs and have enhanced the specification, for a price which is less than I paid earlier in the year for the previous equivalent model. The main specification changes are:
|Component||X60 March 2006||X60plus November 2006|
|CPU||T2300 (1.66 GHz)||T7200 (2 GHz)|
|GPU||ATI X1400||ATI X1700|
|Display||15.4? WXGA (1280 x 800)||15.4? WSXGA+ (1680 x 1050)|
|Optical drive||8X Super Multi||8X Super Multi + Lightscribe|
|Note: The new model also came with 120GB HDD while the old model has 100GB. However, Samsung UK insists that this version of the X60Plus should have 100GB.|
I expected the overall enhancement of specifications would give a useful boost to performance (for such times as one actually loads the CPU) and I also wanted the higher resolution display. It appears that Samsung have dropped (at least in the UK) the lower specification versions of the X60 where there is overlap with other models (such as R40 and R55) which also have the 15.4? widescreen display.
On this occasion I bought my computer from DigiUK http://www.digiuk.com who offered a competitive price and had been responsive to pre-sales enquiries about availability. The basic price of my X60plus was about ?£1,100 including VAT which is ?£70 less than I had paid for my previous computer 8 months earlier. I also bought a spare mains adaptor and a 2 year extension to the warranty. The spare PSU is useful when commuting to the same office for a while. Also, Samsung use a less common plug for the PSUs, so having a spare PSU is good for emergencies.
What?s in the Box?
The X60plus came in a plain brown box marked NP-X60TZ01/SUK. Inside this is a more colourful box, which holds the computer.
The box contents comprised:
Specification of X60plus as Reviewed:
Design and Build
The X60plus?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. A strip at the top edge of the display back appears to be plastic. I presume the wireless antennae are under here to avoid the signal being blocked. The display has two metal latches to hold it closed.
Samsung say that this computer has an adamantine magnesium chassis. Whatever this is, it results in a light but rigid construction. I can hold up the whole computer by one of the front corners without any flexing. The display back is a magnesium alloy and the display unit is very rigid. There is negligible wobble in the hinges. I am unable to apply sufficient manual pressure on the cover to affect the displayed image. 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 front of the computer is thinner than the back, which adds to comfort in use.
The layout of the keyboard area is relatively good. The keyboard is centrally located and generously sized. Samsung claim that the keyboard has enhanced water resistance. I hope I will not be testing this feature. The keys have very clear black (blue for the Fn key operations) markings on the metallic silver background, reasonable travel and are comfortable to use. There is no significant flex. The front edge of the chassis is slightly rounded so that it does not hurt the wrists. Behind the keyboard is a black area which is covered with fine perforations and conceals the loudspeakers. Two indicator lights, for mains connected/ battery 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. There are five buttons to the right of the keyboard. Two buttons control the volume and the other three start different modes in the AVStation software.
There have been some minor changes to some key functions since the previous X60 was released. The menu key has been replaced by a key which starts the default web browser. The F7 and F8 keys are now a different colour (why?). F7 activates the Samsung Magic Doctor software and F8 selects between three operating modes: silent, normal and speed. This appears to change the fan operating rules. There is no longer a function key to select the SRS audio mode. Shame! This was something I used.
The Synaptics touchpad is good, but could have been made slightly large within the available space. One consequence of the small size is that, even with the pointer speed set to maximum, it is difficult to get across the full width of the screen with one finger movement.
In front of the touch pad are two microphones. There is a noise cancelling function to combine the two signals and reduce machine noise in the audio.
The bottom of the X60 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 place where the terrestrial DMB tuner (for Korea only) would be. 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. Perhaps it is considered that a slightly flexible HDD cover improves impact protection. There are also several air vents on the underside as can be seen in the photo below. These are in the area of the CPU and GPU. The underside of the battery contains a shallow groove which conveniently forms a finger-grip when carrying the computer.
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 optical drive opening. It would have been useful to have one or two more USB ports at the back of the right side where there is an unused space. The hot air from the CPU is discharged at the back of the left side.
Left side from back to front: VGA port, fan exhaust vent, modem, Firewire (4 pin), microphone, headphone and PC card slot.
Right side from back to front: Optical drive, USB port and hardware wireless switch.
Back from left to right: Power socket, 2 USB ports, S-Video port, network, and security
The front, with the 5-in 1 memory card slot on the front and infra-red remote control receiver. For some reason, the centre front of the palm rest area is slightly higher than at the sides. The centre rubber pad on the display is slightly thinner than the ones at the sides to compensate for this.
The X60plus has high definition audio and two 2W speakers in the area behind the keyboard. These (combined with SRS) provide good audio quantity and quality by notebook standards. However, 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 X60plus came with the Intel Core Duo T7200 CPU and 1GB (2 x 512MB) of DDR2-667 RAM. The CPU is a significant step up from the T2300 in my previous X60, with 20% faster clock speed and internal improvements.
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Benchmarks for Samsung X60plus (Core Duo T7200)
SuperPi is often used as a test for raw CPU performance. The X60plus only needed 1 minute 2 seconds to complete the calculation to 2 million digits. This is nearly 40% less time than for my previous X60.
The table below compares the X60plus SuperPi score with some other notebooks
|Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200 with 667MHz memory speed)||1m 02s|
|Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.00 GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
|Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 16s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500, with 667MHz memory speed)||1m 22s|
|Asus F3Jc (1.73GHz Intel T2250)||1m 28s|
|Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Due (T2300) with 533MHz memory speed)||1m 29s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
SiSoftware Sandra from http://www.sisoftware.co.uk/ is another software package which contains benchmarking modules and includes a database of test results.
The results graphs for the CPU tests are given below.
You will see that Sandra shows a massive jump in the CPU multi-media performance for the T7200 compared with the Core Duo T2300.
Sandra now includes a power management efficiency benchmark. I believe this is a measure of comparison between computational work and power used.
The table below compares the PCMark05 test results with some other notebooks.
|Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700)||4,555 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)||5,597 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7400)||4,265 PCMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, nVidia GeForce Go 7400)||4,234 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, nVidia Go 7400)||3,646 PCMarks|
|Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo T2300, ATI X1400)||3,456 PCMarks|
The detailed test results for the X60plus for PCMark05 are:
|HDD - XP Startup||5.59 MB/s|
|Physics and 3D||184.51 FPS|
|Transparent Windows||415.45 Windows/s|
|3D - Pixel Shader||83.16 FPS|
|Web Page Rendering||3.03 Pages/s|
|File Decryption||54.94 MB/s|
|Graphics Memory - 64 Lines||1169.55 FPS|
|HDD - General Usage||3.69 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / Audio Compression||2226.28 KB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / Video Encoding||353.77 KB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Text Edit||135.81 Pages/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Decompression||28.06 MPixels/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / File Compression||4.86 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / File Encryption||26.11 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / HDD - Virus Scan||39.95 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Memory Latency - Random 16 MB||8.21 MAccesses/s|
The X60plus managed a score of 4,150 3DMarks, which is nearly double the score for my previous X60.
|Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB)||4,150 3DMarks|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)||4,236 3DMarks|
|Asus V6J (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7400)||2,918 3DMarks|
|Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||2,264 3DMarks|
|ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||2,092 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, nVidia GeForce Go 7400)||2,013 3DMarks|
The table below compares the 3DMark06 test results with some other notebooks. The results suggest that the ATI X1700 GPU does not provide any substantial performance boost over the X1600. I understand that it provides similar performance with less power consumption.
|Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, ATI X1700 256MB)||1,831 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB)||4,744 3DMarks|
|Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB)||2,144 3DMarks|
|Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)||1,819 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||827 3DMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||794 3DMarks|
Cinebench is a good rendering benchmark tool based on the powerful 3D software, CINEMA 4D. Its rendering tasks can stress up to sixteen multiprocessors on the same computer. It is a free benchmarking tool, and can be found at http://www.cinebench.com. The basic CPU test provided the following results. The results for the X60plus are very similar to other computers with the 2GHz Core 2 Duo CPU.
|Cinebench 9.5 Benchmark||Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)||MacBook Core 2 Duo (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)||Sony VAIO C140 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo)||Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz)|
|Rendering (Single CPU)||322 CB-CPU||331 CB-CPU||266 CB-CPU||327 CB-CPU|
|Rendering (Multiple CPU)||582 CB-CPU||596 CB-CPU||487 CB-CPU||592 CB-CPU|
Hard Disk Performance
The supplied hard disk is a Fujitsu MHV2120BH. The performance is typical for the current generation of 5400RPM 2.5? HDDs. The CPU usage is relatively low and the maximum burst transfer rate is little over half the theoretical interface capacity of 150MB/s.
The X60plus includes the TS-L532M optical drive which supports DVD-RAM and both +R and ?R dual layer. It also includes Lightscribe support. I haven?t yet tried this capability. Lightscribe media are much more expensive. Nero reports the following information about this drive:
The X60 includes the Intel 3945abg wireless chip on a module under the memory slot cover. The performance is good. There is a hardware wireless switch in the right side of the computer. Fn+F9 is also, in theory, a wireless toggle switch but brings up this message:
Bluetooth (version 2.0+EDR) is also provided and works well with my Logitech bluetooth mouse.
The display of this model of the X60plus is a ?SuperClear? glossy 1680 x 1050 resolution (WSXGA+). The specification in the manual lists WXGA and WXGA+ (1440 x 900) as being other options. This display is noticeably brighter than the WXGA display on my previous X60. Brightness settings down to about 2 (of 8 steps) are usable when running on battery. The horizontal viewing angle is good and the vertical viewing angle reasonable. However, I find that for photos or DVDs the best viewing is close to 90?° both vertically and horizontally. I can?t see any dead pixels on the display.
I bought the computer with some uncertainty about how I could adjust the high resolution display to be compatible with my old eyes. After some fiddling with font settings, I have found the best (so far) solution is to change the display DPI setting at Display Properties > Settings > Advanced. I?m using a custom DPI of 113% (108DPI). Some things, such as dialog boxes, don?t display correctly except at the normal setting of 96DPI. Fortunately, the slight difference I am using is not enough to cause serious problems. Coincidently, my display setting is very close to what would be 96DPI on a 1440 x 900 display, except I have better defined characters on account of more and smaller pixels. I have also enabled ClearType which makes a further improvement in visual quality. Previously, on lower resolution displays I had found that the grey pixels used in anti-aliasing reduced contrast and legibility, but at this resolution it works very well.
Battery and Power Supply
The 6 cell battery is rated at 11.1V, 5200mAH, 57.72WHr (but my new battery is showing 1% wear and capacity of 56.61WHr). The manual does not make any claim about the running time. On my previous X60 I could just about manage 3 hours with MobileMeter showing a power drain of 15W-18W, but the X60plus can?t get below 20W. Maybe the CPU is sucking more juice but I think the GPU may be to blame. The display on minimum brightness is noticeably brighter than my old X60, so this may also be using more power. However, the ATI PowerPlay function is nowhere to be seen in the supplied software and the latest ATI software won?t install. Playing a DVD with the backlight on 50% brightness draws about 30W, so it will not be possible to reach the end of a 2 hour DVD.
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 undesirable for a slimline computer. The maximum power draw I have measured is around 60W when running the benchmarks. I would willingly accept a lower battery recharge rate in return for a lighter PSU.
Heat and Noise
The fan on the X60plus seems to be noisier and runs more often than on my old X60. This is probably a consequence of the more powerful GPU having to drive more pixels but maybe the Core 2 Duo also sucks more juice when idling along compared with the Core Duo. There is the warming of the left palm rest which I noticed on my previous X60.
Fn+F8 overrides the normal fan operation. Quiet mode (called etiquette model on the previous X60) slightly raises the fan trigger temperature range to reduce fan operation at the expense of having a hotter computer. The left palm rest gets significantly warmer under this mode of operation.
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 two year extension. The standard warranty is a collect-and-return service.
The X60plus should be on the shortlist of anyone looking for a powerful but 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 represents, for the UK, very competitive pricing for the overall specification.
So far, I have no regrets about my purchase which seems to satisfy my original objectives. At present, my disappointment is that power consumption is slightly higher than the old X60. I think the cause is probably the driver software for the GPU which currently lacks the ATI PowerPlay module. The CPU may also assume more power when idling along.
Once I had adjusted the display dpi setting and enabled ClearType everything became much clearer. The change in text quality is similar to the jump from 150 dpi dot matrix to 300dpi inkjet or laser printers.
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