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Apple's MacBook Air isn't a popular thing around the office. Just the mention of its name sends Riyad into apoplectic rage, so much so that when our Apple-loving web developer suggested he might buy one, we had to bribe the local police with free tech support to make the charges go away. There's no denying its aesthetic beauty and lord knows we appreciate that in our technology, but its flagrant and deliberate lack of practicality is the epitome of Apple's excesses. There's only so much style over substance one can take before the logical part of your brain kicks back.
Thus when Samsung, a company that knows a thing or two about beauty and practicality, decided to wade in with an ultra-thin, ultra-light, ultra-portable notebook of its own it piqued ours and plenty others' interest. Our optimism was continued when a pre-production unit arrived in the office and now we have the retail sample, we're ready to decide whether it's the MacBook Air beater it proposes to be or something a little bit different.
From the word go the X360 shows it's nothing like its games console namesake. That much should be obvious; it isn't a games console after all, but the Samsung is a world apart from the unimaginative grey box styling of Microsoft's otherwise excellent console. We've got the solid state drive version here and on the lid it features a sumptuous two-tone red brushed metal and glossy black finish.
As eye-catching features go it's pretty spectacular. In fact, we infinitely prefer the bold red finish to the regular hard drive version whose brushed metal section is black. It's not even that much more expensive, either; the 120GB HDD version retails for around £140 less and that's with 1GB less RAM as well. Still, if an extra £140 to go SSD breaks the budget, the hard drive version is still a very good value alternative.
Inside, Samsung continues its penchant for glossy black and if you look very closely there are little flecks that, when viewed in the right light, shine red. This is kind of nice but given you have to look very closely to see the effect, it doesn't really add anything. More pressing is the resulting fingerprints and greasiness picked up by a glossy surface you constantly touch. We've almost grown used to such things, but it's a trend we don't approve of and plenty of people feel more strongly than us about it.
Nonetheless, the X360 is still a very good looking piece of kit and though it's not as thin as a MacBook Air, it still manages to be impressively svelte. At the front it reduces all the way down to 16.7mm thick and its thickest point of 30.9mm is largely due to the removable six-cell battery at the back that protrudes downwards slightly. And if it isn't thinner it is, as advertised, lighter than the MacBook Air. Or, at least, for the most part it is. At 1.34kg, as measured by our scales, it is lighter than the 1.36kg MacBook Air, but it isn't the 1.29kg (with six-cell battery and SSD) quoted in Samsung's literature. It's not a big deal, but a point still worth remembering.