Samsung X20 Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (75,533)

by Thomas Schwab, Austria

Samsung badge on the X20 (view larger image)

Samsung is a Korean company known for building thin, light and fashionable notebooks.  The X20-Series is Samsung’s product line for users who want the best configuration for their money. There are many different configurations available in this X20-series. One of the newest is the 1730 (also simplified and called the 1700). With its 15″ SXGA+ display (regular not widescreen) it’s a very good choice for people who like a thin, light and compact notebook. Weighing just 2400 grams (5.29 lbs) it’s one of the lightest notebooks in the 15″ screen category.

Samsung X20 15″ screen notebook front profile (view larger image)

Technical specifications

  • 15″ SXGA+-Display without widescreen and glare panel
  • Sonoma-based (PCI-Architecture)
  • Intel Pentium M 730 (1,73 GHz)
  • 1024 MB RAM
  • 100 GB hard drive, 4200 RPM
  • ATi Mobility Radeon X600 128 MB
  • 8x DVD multiformat burner
  • Integrated modem
  • Wireless LAN
  • Gigabit LAN
  • VGA out
  • PCMCIA-Slot
  • 1x Firewire
  • 3x USB 2.0
  • TV out
  • MemoryStick/SD – card reader
  • Microphone Input
  • Headphone Output
  • Kensington Lock
  • Touchpad
  • Multimedia buttons

Software

  • Microsoft Windows XP Home with Service Pack 2
  • Samsung Tools (i.e. BatteryManager, NetworkManager, UpdatePlus, AVStationNow)
  • PowerDVD
  • Recovery-CD
  • Some unimportant programs by ULEAD

Reasons for Buying

Firstly, I wanted to buy an AMD Turion-notebook. Unfortunately, there were too few on the market to provide a good selection and I could not find a good one for my needs. So I decided to buy an Intel Centrino-based notebook. One day, while researching my purchase, I came upon the Samsung website (http://www.samsungcomputer.com/product/product.htm).  I had a look at the various models Samsung offered, and then I saw it: the X20 series! I watched the video on the product page and after seeing it I knew I’d be buying it. Of course, I continued my research and looked at other notebooks too, but the X20 was immediately my favourite.

Where Purchased

I live in Austria, but because this model is not being sold in Austria I looked up several websites in Germany (also, U.S. readers should know Samsung does not sell notebooks there either). I researched and found that a big chain of German stores called “MediaMarkt” were selling the X20 notebook for a really good price. Austria and Germany are neighbours, so it wasn’t a big deal for me to go to the next store across the German border. After getting there I found the store had several notebooks on display to watch and try, but the Samsung I wanted had the best screen, the best keyboard, the best design and the best build. The price was about 1400 EUR ($1,670 USD), which is really an OK price, so I took it home with me.

Build and Design

The Samsung X20 definitely looks very good. It is completely coated in a modern silver colour finish. The design is simple, but pretty and suitable.

The case is made nearly completely of magnesium, which is very sturdy. You need some strength to open the lid as it’s a bit stiff, but because of this it keeps the position you want.

The battery for this notebook is really quite compact, but that does not mean it is weak. The position of the battery is located on the bottom right under the display, it is away from any of the components that create a lot of heat so that’s better for preserving the battery in the long run.

Samsung X20 lide view (view larger image)

Samsung X20 oblique view (view larger image)

Right side view of DVD drive (view larger image)

Left side view (view larger image)

Samsung X20 underside view

Screen

The screen is nearly perfect. There are no dead pixels on the screen I have.  The resolution is an amazing1400x1050. I’ve never had such a high resolution but I’m finding I love it. The viewing angles are great on the X20, the screen can be read even from an 80 degree angle off centre. The backlighting is even except a small 3-millimetre band that runs the whole length of the taskbar region that appears very light, this is likely because the actual backlight is located here. It doesn’t look bad though and I can live with this. The whole display except this region gets the same amount of background light.

Samsung X20 screen, with a familiar website showing (view larger image)

An important reason for me for buying this notebook was that it has a “normal” panel and not a glare panel. But this depends on your own opinion as to whether that’s a good thing or not.

Speakers

The speakers are not very loud in general. They are loud enough for me to listen to music while on the train and having the laptop close to me, but not for more such as sitting several feet away and watching a film. Therefore, I recommend buying headphones or external speakers for better sound and higher volume. The sound quality isn’t the best, but you can’t expect much from these tiny things.

My tip: Buy external speakers. I bought myself a 2.1 System by Logitech and I’m very satisfied with them.

Processor

Samsung gave this notebook an Intel Pentium M 730 processor which runs at 1.73 GHz of speed.  Because it is a Pentium M it is a very powerful and stable processor that can be used for nearly any application. If you’re a normal user, you’ll never have to worry about running into limits with this processor.

Graphics

The X20 1730 model has an ATi Mobility Radeon X600 with 128 MB RAM. It’s enough for people who want to play the latest games, such as Half Life 2, with nearly all details. In one or two years you definitely won’t be able to play the latest games with this graphics card, but for now it’s very good and better than most notebooks of the same size.

The well-performing ATI X600 graphics card is included in the Samsung X20 (view larger image)

Benchmarks

We use Super Pi to get a benchmark of processor speed.  The Super Pi program simply forces the processor to calculate Pi to a selected number of digits of accuracy.  Calculating to 2 million digits is our benchmark:

Comparison of notebooks using Super Pi to calculate Pi to 2 million digits (plugged in):

Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Samsung X20 1730 (1.73GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 46s
Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 48s
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 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 28s

HD Tune Hard Drive Results are pictured below:


Keyboard and Touchpad

One of the most important reasons for me buying this notebook was the excellent keyboard. I’ve never seen and tried such a perfect keyboard on a notebook. It has everything you want, multimedia features included. You can set all settings like volume control or display brightness with it comfortably. There is really not a single bad thing you can say about it. It’s just a very good keyboard.

Media keys on the Samsung X20 (view larger image)

The touchpad is as perfect as the keyboard. It also has a nice feature included: a button to turn on and off. It is worth mentioning this feature because it’s one you won’t want to miss if you’re writing a letter or playing a game with a mouse.

Touchpad, notice the disable button in the middle at the bottom

Notice: If you buy this or other notebooks in Germany the keyboard layout isn’t the same as in English language countries such as the UK.

Input and Output ports

The notebook comes with three USB2.0 ports, two of them are on the right side and one of them is on the backside under the display.  Some other input ports are as follows: 1x FireWire, 1x PCMCIA, 1x LAN, 1x Modem, 1x Microphone. Output ports include: 1x Headphone, 1x TV out.

Samsung hasn’t built in any legacy ports. If you really need the legacy ports or a DVI-port, Samsung recommends buying the docking station called “X-Dock”. In my opinion this docking station is too expensive (about $250 USD).

A very nice feature is the included SD/MemoryStick card reader which is placed toward the front.

SD card and Memory Stick reader (view larger image)

 

Audio jacks (view larger image)

Wireless

Because the X20 1730 is a Centrino-based notebook it of course comes with integrated W-Lan. It works without any problems. You can activate and deactivate the wireless using a button located at the top of the keyboard.

For a better price Samsung left Bluetooth out of this particular model of the X20-Series. The notebooks from other X-series Samsung notebooks have Bluetooth included.

Battery

The marketing for this notebook claims that the battery life is over six hours. I never got this time. The first time I used the battery it lasted 5 hours 30 minutes. Now after some usage I find it lasts about one hour less than that, so 4 hours 30 minutes. Of course the battery life depends greatly on the brightness level you set on your display, W-Lan usage, the power management, what kind of applications you are running (office or games) and whether you run external stuff hard drives or other external peripherals.

Samsung X20 battery (view larger image)

Operating System and Software

The X20 1730 comes with Microsoft Windows XP Home Samsung OEM as the standard OS, although Samsung recommends Windows XP Professional. I replaced the Home edition with Professional edition.

A cool thing is the AV-Station Now functionality which is a little OS based on Linux for playing music, videos and viewing photos. Over the keyboard there is a extra button to start the AV-Station Now instead of a normal Windows OS boot. Samsung additionally gives you AV-Station Premium, a Windows-based program. It is a very large software program (over 500 MB) which isn’t made very well. It’s slow and buggy, I don’t use it, and so I removed it.

A smart tool is Samsung’s Network Manager. With this very clever tool you can handle your wireless connections easily, e.g. if you need sometimes a static and sometimes a dynamic IP-address.

The only non-Samsung and non-Microsoft program is PowerDVD.  You’ll get some other software tools made by Samsung, but it is not worth even mentioning them here.

Neither Microsoft Office or Microsoft Works are included.

Customer Support

Thank goodness I’ve never needed the technical support. So I can’t say anything good or bad about it.

Before purchasing I asked the general hotline (normal-cost) some questions about warranty and details. The operator talked to me for over 20 minutes and told me really everything I needed to know, so that was good.

Complaints

  • Missing Bluetooth
  • Sparely software package
  • CD drive (now fixed)

Praises

  • Perfect display
  • Very good build
  • Good keyboard
  • Function to turn off the touchpad
  • Very silent
  • Really thin & light

Conclusion

The Samsung X20 1730 is a very good product for people who want a simple, powerful thin & light notebook that can run just about anything. The pricing is more than just okay for the quality you get. I would definitely buy it again if I had to make the decision over.


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