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Connections on the X520 include an Ethernet port of the non-Gigabit variety, VGA and HDMI video outputs plus headphone and microphone jacks, all along the left edge. Unusually, all of its three USB ports are located on the right edge, next to the optical drive. At the front, is an SDHC and MMC memory card reader.
Beating at the heart of the X520 is an Intel CULV CPU, specifically the SU7300 running at 1.3GHz. Don’t let the low clock speed fool you; this processor is significantly faster than any of the Atom CPUs you’ll find in most netbooks and will let you run efficiently-encoded Full HD video without problems (as long as nothing is running in the background).
This is backed up by 4GB of DDR3 RAM, which is pretty much standard for higher-end laptops these days and more than the installed 32-bit Windows 7 knows what to do with. With most systems these days coming with 64-bit versions Samsung’s choice here may seem a little odd, but in terms of application compatibility a 32-bit OS does still offer a few advantages.
For storage, the 5,400rpm hard drive is very generous at 500GB, which is pretty much the most you can expect on a single-drive laptop these days. To round things off the X520 is equipped with Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n), the fastest wireless standard available, and Bluetooth 2.1 plus EDR.
Inevitably, graphics consist of Intel’s integrated GMA4500M HD solution, meaning great battery life but rubbish gaming and 3D performance. As an example, this chip gets you an unplayable average of 13.8fps in TrackMania Nations Forever at medium detail and the screen’s native 1,366 x 768 resolution.
Speaking of the screen, despite the reflective coating we all love to hate, the X520’s 15.6in example is decent. As usual with anything but professional-grade laptop screens (like that found on the RGB-LED-backlit Dell Studio XPS), viewing angles suffer from severe contrast shift and greyscales lose distinction at both ends of the scale, meaning you may miss subtle dark and light detailing in photos, films and games.
However, aside from this there’s little reason for complaint. Banding is so minimal as to be unnoticeable and backlight bleed is absent altogether. Colours are reasonable and thanks to decent sharpness, even small fonts are readable without strain.
The X520’s 1.5W SRS-speakers, on the other hand, are only mediocre. Even at their relatively low maximum volume, distortion creeps in quickly, marring reproduction that’s already somewhat lacking in clarity. It must be said that turning on the SRS processing does improve things somewhat, especially where perceived bass and depth are concerned. Nonetheless, their performance is average at best, leaving us with yet another laptop where external speakers or headphones are recommended.