I seem to spend a great deal of my time reviewing notebooks. There's something about being able to carry all the computing power you need in your bag that I find quite compelling. Although I can fully appreciate the merits of a high-power desktop replacement machine, it tends to be the slim and light notebooks that always catch my eye. Models like the Sony VAIO VGN-S1VP and the Toshiba Portégé A100 are lovely machines, and I lamented the passing of each of them as the review process ended. But now Samsung is set to prove that it can produce a notebook every bit as sleek and slim as Sony and Toshiba.
There's no denying the fact that the Samsung X10 Plus looks the part - finished in matt sliver, the case has a stylish, but slightly understated look to it. The lid is adorned only by a single Samsung logo, which is orientated so that it's the right way up when the machine is open. There is a single central clip that holds the lid in place, with the words "wireless communication" positioned mysteriously below it.
Opening the lid reveals more matt silver, along with a dark grey keyboard and touchpad. The input devices on a notebook are crucial to a comfortable and productive working environment. The keyboard can often be a point of compromise on a slimline notebook computer and can ruin an otherwise excellent machine. Thankfully however, the keyboard on the X10 Plus is a pretty good one, and I was happy typing on it for extended periods. The keys are a good size and there's a surprising amount of travel. The break is solid, with quite a forceful spring back helping you achieve a fast typing rate. There is a degree of flex, but not enough to take issue with. The layout is good with the Return, Backspace, Shift, Tab and Caps Lock keys all usefully large. The cursor keys are also dropped away from the main keyboard. The Ctrl key could do with being in the bottom left corner as with a desktop keyboard - instead the Fn key has been placed in the bottom left corner, but to be fair this is common on notebooks.
Above the keyboard is an array of buttons - there's a large round power button, a button to activate and deactivate the WiFi adapter (it glows blue when activated) and three shortcut buttons for launching your email, web browser and calculator. To the left of the shortcut buttons is a speaker with the rather surreal phrase "Digital Freedom" embossed on it.
Below the keyboard is the touchpad, which is nicely recessed into the palm rest to avoid any inadvertant cursor movement when hitting the Spacebar. Although I prefer TrackPoints to touchpads, this is a very good example, and I found pointer manipulation to be simple, fast and accurate. The far right section of the touchpad can be used to scroll up and down through documents and web pages, although there is no physical indication of this. Below the touchpad are two selector buttons, both of which respond with a reassuring click.
But lurking between the two touchpad buttons is something particularly interesting - here you'll find a fingerprint scanner. Unlike the pre-production IBM ThinkPad T42 that I looked at recently, this is a touch scanner rather than a swipe scanner. It did however work very well, and I was able to lock the X10 Plus down at BIOS level using my fingerprint. If there's one issue with this scanner, it's that dust tends to collect on it, so you have to wipe it regularly in order to get an accurate read from your fingertip. Whether or not you believe that biometric security is safer than a password is dependant on the user and the password policy, but it does avoid those awkward moments when a password can completely slip a user's mind.
The screen is a 14.1in affair and is a very fine example of a good TFT display. Unfortunately, the resolution is limited to 1,024 x 768, which is a little disappointing considering the physical size. I know that this resolution is the norm for slim and light notebooks, but when you're getting a 14.1in screen, you might as well get a high enough resolution to make the most of it. I don't mind being limited to 1,024 x 768 if I'm working on a device the size of the IBM X40 or the Sony X505, but the X10 Plus really needs more desktop real estate to make the most of it's dimensions.