Wednesday, September 23, 2009

LG X130 Mini-Review

I recently bought a netbook LG X130, and since I couldn’t find much information about it on the internet (apart from “reviews” which were actually just a rephrasing of the original press release), I thought I’ll write down my first impressions.

LG X130 closed.

The netbook closed.

LG X130 opened.

The netbook opened. Note that this is the maximum opening angle.

Featurewise it is pretty much what everyone else is offering right now: Intel Atom N270 @ 1.6 Ghz, 160GB hard disk, 1GB of RAM, Intel 945 Express graphics chipset, Windows XP SP 3, ethernet (10/100), wireless, bluetooth, a few usb ports, cardreader (SD and Memory Stick) and built-in webcam (1.3 megapixels, but just as blurry, noisy and having weird colors as anything else).

The actual selling point (apart form its rather aggressive price tag of 349€ here in Germany) is the battery. It is a 9-cell model claimed to run for “up to 12 hours”. And to put this out first: while 12 hours might be quite unrealistic, you can really get a solid 9 hours out of it with typical use (editing, watching videos, internet), which is really quite amazing and puts the device close to smartphones in terms of how often you have to recharge.

LG X130 from the side.

What most brochures don't show: X130 with 9-cell battery pack.

LG X130 9-cell battery pack.

The 9-cell battery pack totals 81 Wh.

What most brochures or pictures don’t tell you, though, is that this stamina comes at a price, namely a really huge battery pack. The battery back not only extends to the back, but also down, meaning that the netbook doesn’t lie flat on the table but is actually tilted. The angle is very close to what you get with ordinary keyboards (without the little stubs extended), so the usability is ok. However, if you expect to be able to stack the netbook between other books, you’ll be disappointed. The netbook also weighs about 1.4 kg with batteries, and a bit less than 1 kg without, which is still quite light, but maybe not as much as you would expect when you see the netbook on display in a store without the batteries.

LG X130 keyboard tilt's as much as a normal keyboard.

The tilt of the keyboard is comparable to a normal keyboard.

Another unpleasant surprise was that the screen does not tilt back 180 degress, but more like three fourths of that. The pictures show what this looks like. This restriction is usually not a problem, only when the netbook is really close to my body (for example, on your lap), I sometimes would like to extend it even further back.

LG X130's keyboard layout.

Keyboard layout is more or less standard. (And not as curved as it seems... That's only the pincushion distortion of my camera)

Apart from these two points, the netbook is very nice. It is sturdily built, the design is acceptable (although not really that cool, IMHO). The keyboard layout is ok, at least they have put the Control key right in the corner. I had to get used a bit to the “Home” and “End” key being located next to the cursor keys, separate from the page up and page down keys.

Another nice addition is the wireless card. It is based on the ralink chip rt3090 which supports the new “n” flavor with a maximum speed of 150MBit/s (if you’re router supports it, of course). The downside is that the support for it in Linux is not really there, ubuntu 9.04 does not recognize the card. There exist some drivers on the ralink page, but I haven’t yet tried that one out. There exists support for ralink chips in the most recent Linux kernels, but it seems this is for older ralink chipsets only.

I was quite surprise with how fast the system feels and how little energy it consumes (although this certainly holds for all current netbooks). You can run Google Earth full screen (which means 1024 * 600) with an estimated frame rate from 3 to 15 fps which is really quite nice. Even under load, I could only measure about 15W on the wall, more like 6W under light load. That’s about half of what most motherboards consume when they’re turned off… .

So in summary, a very nice netbook with great battery life, but also a quite bulky battery pack.

Pros

  • On par with all the other company’s offerings.
  • “802.1n” wireless up to 150 MBit/s.
  • 9-12 hours of battery life.
  • LG didn’t install too much crap, mostly minor tools like customized battery viewer, and Open Office.
  • Subjectively, screen very bright at maximum.

Cons

  • Battery extends in almost every direction, quite heavy.
  • Screen doesn’t tilt back a full 180 degrees.
  • Reflective screen.
  • No out-of-the-box drivers for the wireless under Linux right now. Update: Linux 2.6.32 ships with drivers for the RT3090 chip in the "staging" section. I managed to get it running with ubuntu 9.10 netbook remix. If I find time, I'll summarize the steps.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Most other Netbooks do not offer a separate home/End buttons and require you to use the function key to get there.

Mikio Braun said...

Hello anonymous,

that is good to know. Overall, I'm quite happy with the layout. The most important thing for me is usually that the CTRL key is in the lower left corner (and not the function key).

BTW, Linux 2.6.32 is going to sport a RT3090 driver in the staging section. I managed to have the module loaded, but no luck so far actually using the wireless.

I'll keep you posted... .

-M

Brad said...

Hi Mikio,

Cheers for your review. I have the LG X130 too, and I'm quite pleased with it. However, I have be unable to get my wireless working with Ubuntu Netbook Remix (9.10). You said you were successful. If you have a free moment or two, I would be eternally grateful if you could let me know how you managed to do it?
Thanks!
Brad

Mikio Braun said...

Hey Brad,

you have to compile the latest kernel 2.6.32 for that and enable the rt3090 driver in the staging section. The process is actually a bit involved (and takes 1-2 hours even on a recent desktop machine), and at some point my old Windows installation did vanish from grub's menu :(

So if you think you know what you are doing, the basic steps are getting the sources from 2.6.32, recompiling it based on the config for the normal 2.6.31 kernel with staging drivers for rt3090 enabled (and probably also support for Intel Atom), and installing the kernel.

If you already got to that point, I also needed to create a file /etc/Wireless/RT2860STA/RT2860STA.dat otherwise the wireless driver wouldn't start (as can be checked by looking at /var/log/messages or the output of the dmesg command). I haven't checked, but I think the file has to exist at least and contain the line "Default".

When I have a bit of time, I'll probably put together a step-by-step guide... . Overall, I'm pretty happy with the install now, although the netbook sometimes freezes a few minutes after coming back from suspend-to-ram. Suspend-to-disk seems to work fine, though.

So if you know how to compile and install a new kernel and how to edit grub's config files by hand, you could give it a try, but otherwise, you should probably wait until ubuntu upgrades to 2.6.32.

As far as I've seen, people have already started to integrate the rt3090 driver with the other drivers for ralink in the kernel, so probably the support will become even more stable in 2.6.33... .

Hope this helps,

Mikio

Brad said...

Thanks for your reply. Needless to say the process involved in getting wireless to work is way out of my league, so I guess I'll have to wait till the next ubuntu update. You wouldn't happen to know of any other distros where the wireless will work out of the box? SimplyMepis? PCLinux?

Mikio Braun said...

Actually, any distro with the 2.6.32 kernel and all the drivers in the "staging" section should work (as far as I have seen, it is pretty common to include all available drivers as modules. At least this is how ubuntu did it).

You can try a search on distrowatch.com (http://www.google.com/custom?domains=DistroWatch.com&q=2.6.32&sitesearch=DistroWatch.com&sa=Search), although this also returns many distributions which have 2.6.32 in their most experimental branches only... .

2.6.32 was released at the beginning of December. ubuntu 9.10 is not far behind with 2.6.31, so I'm sure they will get to it in the next version.

In any case, if you find a distribution with the newest kernel, and it doesn't work out of the box, try generating the config file in /etc with

mkdir -p /etc/Wireless/RT2860STA
echo >/etc/Wireless/RT2860STA/RT2860STA.dat "Default"

And be careful with suspend-to-RAM, in my experience the netbook was a bit unstable afterwards.

ecureuil said...

Hello, thanks a lot for your review. May I ask you a question about the netbook? I seem not to know when the battery is fully recharged. Are the blinking orange and green lights the indication of the battery being fully charged? Thank you so much for answering. :)

Cheers,
Annie

Mikio Braun said...

Hello Annie,

I'm not sure but I think when the battery is fully charged, the light turns to a steady green.

-M