Subjectively the performance of the X120 is very good. Its dual-core processor and Windows 7 combine for snappy general use that rarely falters. Most importantly, though, it can handle all forms of video thrown at it. We had no problem playing 720p and 1080p H.264 and VC-1 encoded videos in Windows Media Player 12, which now supports GPU acceleration for all of the above. CPU utilisation varies depending on the codec and bit-rate, hitting as high as 30 to 40 per cent for very high bit-rate VC-1 to as little as five per cent when dealing with H.264 HD trailers. Flash video isn’t accelerated yet, but the CPU can handle it on its own so there are no problems there, either.
This excellent subjective performance is borne out in our benchmarks. Compared to the Medion Akoya E3211, which uses the single-core variant of the CPU found in the X120, the Samsung is more or less bang on twice as fast overall. This might seem like an obvious correlative, but twice as many cores doesn’t always equate to twice the performance. Acer’s dual-core netbook, the Ferrari One, is also bested to the tune of 30 per cent, though it remains an outstanding performer when compared to its genuine peers.
Despite its prowess, though, any CULV laptop – particularly one as portable as the X120 – will be judged by its battery life and it is here that we hit a rather large snag. To help retain the X120’s svelte shape and portable weight, Samsung has given it a weedy four-cell, 4,000mAh capacity battery.
We’ve seen netbooks return good battery life with small batteries before, but thanks to its more powerful CPUs the X120 can’t repeat this feat. While three hours or so might be possible under ideal conditions, in our tests the X120 managed a below-par two and a half hours. This might be enough for a short commute, but this kind of laptop ought to be aiming for closer to four hours at the very least. Samsung will be selling a higher capacity, six-cell battery at a later date, but that’s still an extra cost to factor in.
This disappointing outcome tarnishes an otherwise excellent product. If battery life is a lesser priority, or you’re willing to pay extra for an extended battery, then the X120 is still a very good option. However, out of the box, it doesn’t deliver the goods.
Samsung’s first CULV laptop scores well in the design and performance stakes, but is let down by poor battery life for a segment that’s supposed to promote it. Depending on your point of view it might not be a disaster, but it remains an opportunity spurned.