On paper, LG's X120 netbook is just another entrant in the Atom-filled sea of sameness -- and, in many respects, it is. But it also gets a lot of little things right that too many manufacturers still invariably get wrong and, while it's not entirely without its faults, it certainly merits some serious consideration alongside all the usual suspects already on your shopping list. The fact that it also doesn't look too shabby doesn't exactly hurt things either. Read on for our full review.
In the looks department, LG has very nearly hit a home run. The X120 is wrapped in matte white finish that puts most of the other fingerprint magnets out there to shame, and even the green accent wrapping around the rounded edges of the netbook is nice and tasteful and not begging for attention. For some reason, however, LG went with the standard glossy plastic on the inside, which actually doesn't look too bad in person, but just doesn't have the same feel of quality that the exterior does. A matte finish all around -- even, dare we say it, on the screen -- would have been ideal, but this is a netbook after all, and "ideal" is rarely an option.
The X120 also thankfully has a generally sturdy feel to it, and should hold up fairly well to life in your gadget bag, although it neither as thin nor as light as many of its competitors, and its proportions are bent out of shape slightly by the large six-cell battery. That's a trade-off we're guessing most folks will be more than happy to accept, and it's certainly not as unsightly as some of the other six-cell batteries out there.
As is no doubt the case with many of you, one of our biggest considerations in any netbook is the keyboard. Early netbooks were invariably hampered by excessively shrunken keyboards that were fine for entering a URL or a quick email, but a chore to use for any sort of real writing. Manufacturers have gone a long way to remedy that situation as of late -- thanks largely to bigger 9- and 10-inch screens -- but it's still often hit and miss when it comes to finding a netbook that'll actually have you considering leaving your laptop at home for the day or a weekend jaunt. On that all-important point in our book, the LG X120 gets a pass.
While our review unit has a bilingual keyboard that sports a slightly skewed layout, it's nonetheless fairly easy to get accustomed to, has a non-squishy feel and, best of all, the regular English keyboard looks to be even closer to the current standard bearers like the Samsung NC10. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the trackpad. While it has a nice tactile feel, it's just a tad too small to be fully comfortable, and the single button on a rocker (much like the MSI Wind) caused a few too many misclicks for our liking, though we're sure things would improve somewhat over the long haul.
Otherwise, the X120 gets most of the bases covered as well as most could hope for, including a generous three USB ports, an SD card slot, and an easily accessible memory bay to bump things up from the stock 1GB. A 3G-equipped version is also available in some parts of the world (which makes up somewhat for the lack of ExpressCard slot), though it hasn't yet been slated for release in the US or Canada.
Like any other current netbook, the X120 gets along well enough with Windows XP, but one of LG's biggest assets is its Splashtop-based Smart-On interface, which gets its own dedicated power button to allow for quick and easy access. As you may recall from our CES coverage, the interface boots in a matter of seconds and gives you access to a few essential applications, including a web browser, a music player, a photo browser, an instant messaging app, Skype, and even a basic games application that links to some online games.
The choice of apps is actually quite telling, and is virtually the very definition of a netbook. No word processor or office apps (not even a calculator), no video player or editor, no dedicated email application, no time-consuming games -- nothing that requires your full attention or an actual time commitment.
Of course, the web browser and your choice of web-based apps will let you get some actual work done if you want, and the interface itself isn't as limited as you may suspect. It has full multitasking, for instance, and it didn't seem to struggle at all even with all the apps open at once. And, of course, Windows XP is always just a click away.
In the end, while the X120 doesn't have any one feature that immediately pushes it ahead of the pack, it also doesn't have any clear disqualifying attributes -- which, when it comes to netbooks, is actually saying something. Interestingly, Canada has actually gotten a kick at this particular model before the US and, at about $530 Canadian retail (or about $450US), it's not the cheapest netbook around, but those looking for something that brings a bit more to the table than the same basic specs likely won't find themselves disappointed.