In terms of software, Samsung provides a few home-grown utilities, some of which (like Samsung Update Plus which automatically keeps your drivers up to date) are genuinely useful. You also get a nice-looking custom wallpaper.
Aside from its relatively light 2kg weight, what really distinguishes the X520 from ‘ordinary’ 15.6in laptops is its claim of a nine-hour battery life. Unfortunately, as is so often the case these claims are optimistic at best. That’s not to say that this laptop’s battery life is poor by any means, as six and a half hours in MobileMark’s semi-intensive Productivity test is an achievement that most large laptops can’t hope to better. However, it is in line with other CULV efforts and in fact matches the score returned by Asus’ UL50Vg to the minute.
At full screen brightness, battery life is a little more disappointing, as in the DVD test the X520 managed ‘only’ three and a half hours. Still, as the screen is perfectly usable (indoors in a lit environment) at anything but its lowest brightness setting, you’re sure to get more out of it.
Samsung is known for generally producing good value products and the X520 is no exception, as £610 is fairly affordable for a dual-core CULV product with relatively high-end specifications. However, the competition in this sector of the mobile market is heating up and Acer’s Aspire Timeline 5810T is a strong contender. It offers a better keyboard, a metal lid instead of glossy plastic one, a slightly thinner chassis and superior sound processing. There’s also a larger choice of configurations and for just £50 more you can get the Aspire with discrete Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics as well.
It’s also worth considering that for many, the combination of CULV with a large laptop like this isn’t the ideal partnership. If you’re after portability, a smaller 11 or 13in model (such as the award-winning Acer Aspire 1810TZ) will not only be easier to carry but will usually offer far longer battery life too. Whereas if you’re just after a decent medium-sized laptop, a machine sporting a more power hungry Core 2 processor will not only be cheaper, it may allow for extras like a Blu-ray drive for the same kind of money.
With the X520, Samsung has created a competent but never outstanding laptop and while it’s not a bad buy, at this size there are better options available.