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September 7, 2010

Hands-on with the Microsoft Store exclusive Samsung X430

About two weeks ago I got a present – a pre-release unit of the Samsung X430.  This carbon-look fiber clad PC is a Microsoft Store exclusive – it’s only sold in our new “brick-and-mortar” stores and at the Microsoft Store Online.


First, its impossible to miss the X430’s striking looks.  Samsung’s use of the carbon-finish carbon fiber is aggressive but it works – it just looks fast and technical, and it’s the only laptop I know of to make such extensive use of carbon.  Of course, carbon fiber is a favorite of mine – we built most of the Phoenix, our Red Bull Flugtag flying machine, out of it (along with Macrolux and Monokote), which is why the thing only weighed about 65lbs! The heavy use of such a lightweight material shaves ounces off on the X-430 as well, and is a key reason the laptop weighs only 4.3lbs.  And with a 14” HD LED 1366 x 768 screen and at only 1” thick (technically 26mm, but who’s counting?), its very portable.  My only complaint about the case is that the high-gloss finish on the carbon fiber lid is very, VERY prone to fingerprints.  I spent a lot of time wiping this PC off with my shirt to keep it looking tip-top.  Not a deal breaker, but something to be mindful of.


As cool as the outside of the X430 is, the inside is even more impressive.  It’s a minimalists dream with a smooth, white finish that’s slightly matte, clear island style black keys, a matching trackpad, and a power button.  That’s it.  No extra buttons to clutter things up – just pure white space that’s as elegant as it is functional.  The interior has a slight concave curve to it as well that makes the X-430 look even slimmer than it actually is.  It’s very reminiscent of mid-1960’s pop furniture.  For those of you who don’t have Art History degrees, think Roger Sterling’s new office in Mad Men.  Ergonomically, the keyboard is great to type on, and it’s quiet, too.  It’s also one of the nicest trackpads I’ve used – multi-touch works smoothly and the slightly-textured surface gives you the right amount of friction to move quickly but carefully.


The X430 is powered by a Core i3 that’s coupled with impressive NVIDIA GeForce 310M Graphics and a monster 640GB hard drive (7200rpm).  Performance was good for the average workload that you’d normally do on a PC of this size & spec – Office 2010 ran well, as did Windows Live Essentials Beta.  I even played some Plants vs. Zombies – one of my favorite casual games/time sucks – and it ran beautifully.  Well, as beautiful and zombies can be, but you know what I mean.

My favorite thing about the X430 is that since it’s a Microsoft Store exclusive it comes pre-loaded with the Microsoft Signature Image.  When you get a PC with the Microsoft Signature Image, you’re getting a Windows experience that’s been optimized by our install team for performance, boot time, and ease of use.  Each Signature PC comes pre-installed with Windows 7, Windows Live, Bing Maps 3D, Zune 4.0, Microsoft Security Essentials, Microsoft Silverlight & Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Internet Explorer 8, and Windows Media Center.  That’s everything you need to get up and running right out of the box, and its exactly how I configure every PC that comes into my inventory.  It really makes the “OOBE” (Microsoft-speak for “Out of the Box Experience”) faster, easier, and smoother.

For around $1000 (MSRP is $1099), the Samsung X430 is a capable machine that has a unique look and feel.  And with the Microsoft Signature Image pre-loaded on it, you know you’re going to get a great Windows experience.  If you’re not familiar with Samsung’s PCs, this is the place to start.

Have a question about this or any other PC?  Post a comment, hit me on Twitter or Ask Ben Anything via email.  Your question might appear in my monthly Ask Ben Anything Q&A column.