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Samsung X420 review: Samsung X420

An ultraportable laptop that boasts impressive battery life, a 14-inch screen and a delightfully lightweight frame, the Samsung X420 has much to recommend it. But with high-end netbooks proving more and more compelling, does it do enough to justify its price?

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
4 min read

Meet the Samung X420: an ultraportable laptop that boasts impressive battery life, a 14-inch screen and a delightfully lightweight 1.78kg frame. You'll have to fork out for the privilege though -- at around £600, the X420 will take a sizeable bite out of your yearly tech budget. Is it a well-rounded enough machine to justify a purchase?


Samsung X420

The Good

Lightweight; full day's battery life; nice trackpad; HDMI port.

The Bad

Expensive; build quality isn't great.

The Bottom Line

The X420 is a decent ultraportable -- impressively light with great battery life, but also quite expensive. With some more powerful components and a higher build quality the price would seem more appropriate, but as it is, the X420 is hard to recommend over a high-end netbook or a more powerful thin-and-light laptop

Silver surfer
The X420 scores early points for style, at least on the outside. A sparkling silver lid and chrome edging give the X420 an attractive finish. Opening it up sadly reveals a more businesslike matte-black finish, although curved edges help make the interior a little more visually arresting.

That hot look unfortunately doesn't translate into solid build quality. Both the X420's lid and chassis twisted in our hands, and we noticed a high degree of keyboard flex when we applied a little pressure. The X420 certainly doesn't feel robust, which is quite an obstacle when you bear in mind it's designed to be your faithful companion on the road, and needs to be able to withstand a few knocks.

Light refreshment
It might not look as if it'll withstand much abuse, but the X420 really is small and light. At 1.78kg it's positively feathery for a 14-inch laptop, despite the six-cell battery lurking round the back. Sling the X420 in a bag and you'll barely notice it, even if you're carrying it around all day.

The keyboard is well designed but doesn't feel terribly durable. The trackpad is smooth and sensitive

The optical drive has been sacrificed to keep the laptop as light as possible. The X420 comes with an external DVD-RW drive which plugs in via USB, which is useful as you get to choose whether or not you really need it, but it has to be said it's not a particularly elegant solution.

The X420 sports a 14-inch LED 1,366x768-pixel resolution display, which was certainly easy on the eyes. The horizontal viewing angle is reasonably good, and means you don't have to be looking at the screen dead-on to see what's happening. While the display is sharp and bright, it does tend to look slightly drained of colour. When viewing an array of test photos and video footage it looked a little washed-out, and not as vibrant as we'd have liked.

Buried deep within the X420's nether regions is an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 CPU clocked at 1.3GHz, and backed up by 3GB of RAM. Those are middle of the road specs, which our benchmark tests reflected. The X420 achieved a score of 3,186 in PCMark05, and 853 when we ran 3DMark06 -- respectable but not particularly exciting scores.

So expect the X420 to handle most computing tasks with a minimum of fuss, including photo editing. Gaming, however, will be largely out of the question, unless your favourite games are a few years old at least. Ultimately we'd have liked to see a more powerful processor, considering the X420 is relatively pricey.

Easy on the thumbs
The keyboard has a sensible layout, and the keys themselves have a good travel distance. The large wrist-rest means typing for long periods of time and at speed is comfortable. More impressive than the keyboard, however, is the trackpad -- it's lovely and wide, supremely smooth and sensitive to boot. The click buttons are easy on the thumbs and won't cause any uncomfortable cramping if you have to use them for hours at a time. The trackpad also supports multi-touch for easy scrolling.

Battery life is indeed impressive. We subjected the X420 to the Battery Eater Classic test, which puts maximum strain on a laptop's processor, and found the X420 lasted a reasonable 3 hours 35 minutes. Running the Reader test, which simulates less intensive tasks you're more likely to undertake (think Web browsing and document editing), the X420 held out for 6 hours 57 minutes, which is rather less than the claimed 9 hours, but probably enough juice to last you a full day of use away from the mains.

The X420 comes with Windows 7 Home Premium and a 320GB hard drive. As far as outputs go, we're very happy to see an HDMI port for linking it to a TV with incredible ease. It's rare to see these ports on smaller machines such as this, but if you like streaming content online, the ability to quickly hook your PC to the telly will surely be appreciated. You'll also get three USB ports, Ethernet, VGA out and an SD card slot. 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a mic, in conjunction with a built-in webcam above the display, give the X420 real video chat-potential.

The X420 is a decent ultraportable laptop -- with just enough processing power to handle all your on-the-road tasks, impressive battery life and a frame so light you risk forgetting it's even in your lap. When you do forget, however, and you stand up -- propelling the X420 across your train, out the sliding doors and on to the tracks -- you'll wish the build quality was a just that little bit higher.

If you buy the X420 you probably won't be disappointed, but at £600 it's quite expensive for what you actually get -- although you might find cheaper versions online with lower specs, such as less memory or a smaller battery. If portability and battery life is what you're after, would you not be better off with a netbook?

Edited by Nick Hide