Exactly what made Samsung decide that now — Fall 2008 — was the prime time to enter the U.S. notebook business for the very first time, we’ll never know. In a weak retail economy and a presumably lackluster holiday season, Samsung launched five notebook lines. The X Series is, arguably, the sexiest. The X360-34P, the priciest. This is the machine Samsung sent us to test its mobile mettle.
Good thing, then, that the X360 makes an excellent first impression. Samsung’s fashion sense brings the X360 right to the top of the class in terms of high-end, fancy notebook retailers. This computer’s looks compare to those of Sony Vaios, Voodoo Envys and even Apple MacBooks and, unsurprisingly, those are its biggest competitors, which we’ll discuss more thoroughly later.
A contrast in lid materials gives the computer a black-tie look. About two thirds of the lid — from the hinge up — is made from a claret-colored brushed aluminum with a silky touch. The final third is a lacquered-up piano black. A tastefully small silver Samsung logo sits in the center of this shiny piece. In general, the two-tone effect is striking, but you probably don’t need to be reminded that the merest brush of skin against fresh piano-black lacquer leaves hideous streaks. Keep chamois at the ready.
Portions of the side and hinge are also covered in shiny black and so is the interior chassis, though the screen bezel and the keyboard’s immediate environs are not. When opening the notebook, you’ll notice that it has a bit of an under-bite: the lid doesn’t quite match up flush with the chassis and is about a centimeter off.
But it’s the feel of the X360 in your hands that Samsung wants to impress upon you most, more than its upscale looks. The company makes a point of blaring, in its marketing materials, “Lighter than Air.” Yes, that’s Air with a capital A — a direct reference to Apple’s manila-envelope residing ultralight machine. Voodoo (a division of HP) has also made Air references when discussing its Envy 133 notebook.
So, it is only natural that Samsung would get a bit sensitive about the X360’s size and weight. Everybody else out to compete with the Macbook Air has already given their machines a weight complex. Quickly, the details: The X360 weighs 2.8 pounds, and its dimensions are (W) 12.2 inches, (H) 8.9 inches, (D) 1.2 inches. The MacBook Air weighs three pounds, and its dimensions are (W) 12.8 inches, (H) 8.94 inches, (D) .16-.76 inches. The Voodoo Envy weighs 3.4 pounds, and its dimensions are (W) 12.7 inches, (H) 9 inches, (D) .7-inches.
Ultimately, the X360 is the lightest, the Air is the thinnest, and the Voodoo is a fatty — but is skinnier than the Air at a few points along its body.
A few things to consider, however. Rumor has it that Apple could soon begin using carbon fiber instead of aluminum to build the bottom chassis of the MacBook air. That could shave off key ounces to make the Air even lighter, while dethroning X360 as the lightest of them all.
Another point worth mentioning: While the X360 does feel sublimely light in the hand or on the lap, it is also a little bit, er, awkward since its weight isn’t evenly distributed. It has a hefty battery, and it feels bottom heavy. The front of the computer is nearly weightless, while the back bears it all.
Positioned on your lap, this weight-distribution issue doesn’t come into play. But when picking up the laptop, you feel it. We’ve lifted the Air, and while it is a tad heavier than the X360, it feels balanced.
But, when compared to the Air and Envy 133 (neither of which Tom’s Guide has formally reviewed), the X360 matches their build quality. All three machines are solid, and frankly, feel as expensive as they are.