Following the trend for slimmed down, light machines with good battery life, the Samsung X520 is setting its stall out in a crowded marketplace, notable competitors are MSI and Acer. To stand out, it has a dual-core processor and build in DVD burner.
Handling, design and build: wide keyboard and matte interior
In common with all current Samsung computers, the X520 has a very sobre, all-comer appeal. Too much so maybe, as it lacks any originality. All the same, inside, Samsung has happily avoided the bling aspect of the all too glossy models offered by much of the competition. Matte black is predominant, which means it won’t get dirty too easily. The lid of the screen is all-glossy however. Get ready with your rag!
The keyboard takes up almost the entire width of the machine and includes a number pad. Large keys (15 mm on the upper part and 18 mm on the lower) make for comfortable typing. They have a nice supple, responsive feel and a dry, reduced keying sound.
The touchpad is a small one for a machine of this size. We would have liked to see it bigger. It is nevertheless very precise and responsive, as we’ve come to expect from Samsung. The click buttons are also good quality.
The webcam is ok. Fluidity is good, as are the colours. Note however that overexposed zones get burnt out and the contrast could be better.
The X520 is quiet. A slight whirr can be heard when the fan accelerates during heavy processing (photo/video). However it remains pretty quiet.
Connectivity comprises 3 USB 2.0 ports, with a DVD burner on the right hand side. If you often use your optical drive, you’ll find this solution more practical than an external option. On the other (left hand) side of the machine, you’ll find the power socket, 1 RJ45, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, a headphone and a mic.
Under the laptop, two panels give access to the RAM and the hard drive.
|Power socket, RJ45, VGA, HDMI, headphones, mic
||Touchpad and clicks
|Lid and DVD burner
||3 USB,s DVD burner and antitheft
Processing power: patience needed for photo/video opeations
Windows 7 index: 3.4. Details: CPU 3.9 - Memory 4.8 - Graphics 4.1 – Gaming graphics 3.4 – Main hard drive 5.7.
The Intel Pentium Dual Core U4100 that equips the X520, has not been designed to break performance records. It’s an entry-level, low energy model that will handle office docs, Internet, video play and a little photo work. With 2 cores, it will diversify as long as you’re patient with demanding tasks (video encoding for example). It scores 51 on our index, or 2 times down on our reference machine (100 on the index), the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400).
With Windows 7 Family Premium 32-bit, the X520 takes 56 seconds from start-up to desktop and 12 seconds more to finish loading the main programs (antivirus installation). It shuts down in 12 seconds.
The processor can handle HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) on its own. It is however recommended to use the decoding capacity of the graphics part (hardware acceleration). From 95% usage levels on the CPU, you drop down to 10%, while power consumption falls from 26.5 to 19 Watts (screen at 100 cd/m², Wi-Fi disactivated).
Gaming in 3D: restrict yourself to very old titles
Don’t expect to do any current 3D gaming, the Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics chip is very limited. Only certain very old games are playable, or of course 2D.
Audio is average. The sound lacks bass as do so many laptops. The headphones out is nice and clean however and gives much better results than the machine's built-in speakers.
Battery life and portability: among the best
The Samsung X520 manages to outdo the MSI X-Slim X600 with 4H49 video play (screen at 100 cd/m², Wi-Fi disactivated and headphones plugged in), which is 1H19 more than the MSI. This is still 31 minutes down on the Acer Aspire Timeline 5810T but a very good score, approaching what you get on most netbooks.
Although wider in the girth than its competitor from MSI, the X600, the Samsung X520 remains fairly slim and compact in spite of a 15.6 inch screen. It is similar in size to the Acer, with its weight under control – your shoulder won’t ache too much under the strain. Another good point: the charger is relatively compact.