Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Book review

A refined 2-in-1 with a few new tricks

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Our Early Verdict

The Galaxy Book appears to bring small, but meaningful updates to last year's Tab Pro S, but we won't know how it stands up to everyday tasks until the full review.

For

  • Compact as both a tablet and laptop
  • Moderately powerful configuration options available
  • S-Pen doesn't need to be charged

Against

  • More USB-C ports would be nice
  • Not as striking as some other 2-in-1s
  • Can't stand up by itself

The Samsung Tab Pro S was a very competent debut in the increasingly popular, thus competitive 2-in-1 computing space. Now, back with the Galaxy Book, Samsung's latest is gunning for refinement both in name and execution.

While it replays many of the same tricks as the Tab Pro S - namely, that its design is steeped in Galaxy heritage - it has a few new tricks that may could perfectly suit those looking for a 2-in-1 that leans in on creativity and versatility much like the Microsoft Surface Book, but one that likely won't obliterate their wallets in the process. 

Design

The general look of Samsung's Galaxy Book doesn't step too far outside the court of what the company's familiar with and good at: packing a surprising amount of power inside of a rather unassuming device. It has the smooth corners, luminescent logos and feels just as good using it as a tablet as it does a personal computer.

Compared to last year's Tab Pro S, the Galaxy Book is stretching its looks and feature set to accommodate both those who demand performance and efficiency in the workplace, as well as people who want to improve their artistic skills.

The Galaxy Book will arrive in 10.6-inch and 12-inch configurations and the offerings differ rather significantly. While the smaller version may be a good entry point to a 2-in-1 made by a brand with a so-far positive track record in the category, its larger sibling deserves the spotlight.

While they might look similar on the outside, there are a few differences to note, many of which pertain to their general performance capabilities.

The 10.6-inch model doesn't come with the pogo keyboard and unless you already have a Bluetooth keyboard or one that can plug into its sole USB-C port, you'll likely wished you had opted for the 12-inch option.

Speaking of ports, the larger model features a pair of USB-C ports, a number that really should have been the minimum, not the maximum, if people are expected to use this as a laptop replacement.

Other differentiating factors, like the screen technology are slightly easier to swallow if you're on a strict budget, but still worth knowing about. The 12-inch model features a Super AMOLED display that has a 2,160 x 1,440 resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio, which is sort of an oddity for a Windows computer. Usually, we find this screen ratio in a few of the best Chromebooks, like the Samsung Chromebook Pro to name an example. On the other hand, the 10.6-inch model features a FHD 1080p LCD screen.  

Lastly, the S-Pen makes a surprise appearance, its first for a Windows product. And thankfully, it does more than just poke and prod at things that your finger can do nearly just as accurately. Instead, Samsung improved it to be a more versatile tool that not only does most of the fun tricks we've seen on the Android side of the things, but it can mimic the broad strokes of a paint brush thanks to its boost to 4096 points of sensitivity. Better yet, it's feather-light and it never requires a charge. Take that, Apple.

As another perk that could interest you in the 12-inch model, the S-Pen will be tossed into the mix with purchase. The only noticeable downside is that there doesn't seem to be a place on the tablet or its keyboard case to store it, which means that it could be all too easy to lose.

Performance

Last year's Tab Pro S utilized the Intel Core M processor and its integrated Iris GPU to power the experience and for the 10.6-inch model, Samsung has once again gone done the road to efficiency over raw performance with the dual-core Intel Core m3 at 2.6GHz. If you're more serious about power, the 12-inch has you covered with a dual-core Intel Core i5 at 3.1GHz.

Samsung's demo units were each running Adobe Photoshop and thankfully, manipulating a photo, even making sure to trigger some more demanding visual effects like gaussian blur and masking proved to be a simple task for the machine in each of its respective sizes. Of course, we'll be testing them much more extensively for our full review, where we'll also add in a dash of gaming, multimedia and, as it is this computer's strong suit, productivity.
 

Each sizing of the Galaxy Book is offered in a bevy of configurations, each tweaking how much RAM and onboard storage you'll receive. Starting with the 10.6-inch model, choices range from a model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of flash storage to one with the same amount of RAM, but with double the onboard memory.

Looking at the 12-inch, Samsung keeps things at 4GB of RAM, but tosses in 128GB solid state drive (SSD), a spec bump that will see this storage tech lasting longer than flash. There's another option that offers 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD. All options in each size include a microSD slot.

In terms of battery life, the 10.6-inch option can apparently last for 10 hours and the 12-inch model can last a little longer at 10.5 hours. 

Lastly, Samsung is offering the 12-inch in a Wi-Fi, Bluetooth connected option as well as an LTE-connected model. 

Early verdict

Samsung's hands-on units provided only a brief glimpse into the sort of workload that the Galaxy Book can take on.

So, like all products that we see before their release, we need to put it through the paces to see how it stacks against the competition. Though, if it all comes together, the likes of the Surface Book and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 may have to share the stage with a new recommended product.
 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cameron is the US mobile editor at TechRadar, covering the tech that's in your pocket, wrapped around your wrist, and strapped to your face. He's based in New York City.

Find him on Steam, or listen to some of his favorite tunes on Google Play Music.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.