Intel's recent ULV treatment of the Arrandale processor can only mean smaller laptops on the horizon with even longer claims of battery life, all without sacrificing too much on the performance scale. Despite this development, it is interesting to note that manufacturers still believe there's money to be made in the premium netbook segment with the Atom chipset, as produced by the likes of Sony and Samsung. Hot on their heels is LG's 11.6-inch X300 - a mobile PC unveiled during CES earlier this year with a staggering price tag of $1599.
The X300 is quite a pretty thing to behold. It is remarkably slim at 17.6mm, and is delightfully light with an airy weight of 970 grams. The white beauty comes with a textured and bevelled top which is delightfully immune to smudges, but doesn't bode well with newsprint-stained fingers. We were dubious about the netbook's build quality initially, given its rather slim profile.
Thankfully, the X300 didn't demonstrate much flex inside and out when handled. Noticeably, LG has relocated the status indicators next to the screen rather than the base of the netbook. The new layout is pleasing, no doubt, with its pleasant use of white LEDs, but it also means you'll have to pry the netbook's lid open to check if the unit is charging properly. Also, in order to retain the X300's slimness, VGA and Ethernet ports are only accessible via a separate attachment. Fortunately, its two USB ports and card reader are accessible directly.
Its display also comes with an edge-to-edge screen similar to Samsung's N310. Compared to its Korean rival, the X300's inner bezel is noticeably slimmer, however, the webcam has to be relocated to the right in order to accommodate such a blueprint. The LED-backlit screen offers a WXGA native resolution of 1366 by 768, with decent horizontal viewing angles. In addition, although colors were enhanced by the display's glossy treatment, you can also expect undesirable reflections when viewed in a brighter environment.
Generally, the island keys were comfortable to work with, kudos to their well-spaced pitch. Another hint of the netbook's premium status is perhaps the seamless touchpad design and touch-sensitive keys compared to a physical one, which worked surprisingly well actually.
Similar to most recent netbooks, the LG X300 also features a pre-boot OS as well. Powered by Splashtop, the "Smart On 2.0" application offers a browser and handful of shortcut icons such as Facebook and YouTube if you prefer to use this lightweight platform to realize your surfing needs. Yes, there is a dedicated button to fire up the Smart On app and you can find it next to the power-on switch.
At the hardware end, expect to find an Atom Z550 2.0GHz workhorse on the X300; an older single-core processor compared to the newer Pine Trail breed from Intel. The netbook is also running on a 2-cell battery and Windows 7 Home Premium, and not the watered down Starter edition. As such, we weren't surprised the netbook only managed a meagre uptime of 155 minutes on our battery life test (based on a continuous loop of a 480p clip). Moving on, you can be assured of a speedy response from its 64GB SSD though you might want to consider saving your data on an external drive given its trivial capacity.
We weren't too impressed with the netbook's overall benchmark numbers either, although we have to keep in mind the system is running off the older Atom platform. The X300 finished with a PCMark05 score of 1429 PCMarks. Thanks to its solid state drive, it delivered a higher than average HDD score of 2790 compared to other netbooks with hard drive options. The plus side is, navigation on Windows 7 didn't appear to lag much, while the X300's SSD and GPU did just enough to ensure a relatively smooth performance with 720p WMV clips.
With due credit to LG, the X300 isn't a shoddy production by far. Essentially, the svelte netbook offers a robust build on the whole with prominent marketing points such as an advanced touchpad in its ranks. Still, it is far from an ideal piece of work, with its limited battery endurance and fussy ports which require a separate attachment.
Although its SSD gave the netbook a much needed boost in read and write speeds, the overall performance quotient still leaves much to be desired. Based on market rates, it isn't that hard to procure a decent notebook with a larger screen at its given SRP. At $1599 apiece, it's really up to you to decide if a premium netbook or a mid-range laptop alternative would make a better choice.
Moreover, and at the risk of sounding sexist, we are positive the X300 would appeal more to the ladies if slim and attractive looks can sell just as well.