Hands on: Samsung Galaxy Book S review

The first laptop with the Snapdragon 8cx chipset

What is a hands on review?
Samsung Galaxy Book S

Early Verdict

If you hate that pro tablets don’t commit to their keyboards, the Samsung Galaxy Book S is for you. While we’re skeptical its specs will compete with the big dogs, its solid frame and light weight is a promising start.

For

  • Always-on connection
  • Incredibly light, yet durable
  • 23-hr battery life promised

Against

  • Expensive for its worth
  • Few standout features

The Samsung Galaxy Book S leans even further into the realm of ‘laptop-lite’ than its tablet-with-a-keyboard predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Book 2, which launched last October. It’s leaner but not necessarily meaner, aimed at a crowd that wants basic productivity on the go with a sleek-looking device.

If that sounds a little backhanded, it’s because tilting further into laptop territory comes with expectations – more ports, for one thing, but also specs that will handle things like light gaming and streaming media. 

While we didn’t get much time with the Galaxy Book S, it doesn’t seem to fulfill some of these expectations, and for its mid-level laptop price, we’re skeptical that it will be able to compete with dedicated machines that are likely more powerful. 

But reframe your perspective: think of it as a supercharged tablet for tasks you’d save for keyboard-enabled productivity – and which is always connected to the internet through a data plan – and it’s a reasonably promising solution for on-the-go productivity. Just don’t expect to get quite the versatility you would with a traditional laptop.

Samsung Galaxy Book S

(Image credit: Future)

Price and release date

The Galaxy Book S starts at $999 in the US, and it only comes in an LTE version paired with Verizon connectivity. The US version will release in autumn, while the global version will come out in September, though we don’t have details on pricing, or which carriers it will be releasing with outside of the US.

Design and display

You can say this for the Galaxy Book S: you won’t mistake it for its predecessor. 

The Book S has a top-and-bottom anodized aluminum frame, making it feel nearly as rigid as a full-blown laptop – no more Surface 6-style faux keyboard paired with an awkward fold-out kickstand. That gives you a little more density, making typing a lot more enjoyable. 

Admittedly, the Book S committing more to the laptop format does make it look sleek. The top shell folds over the bottom in a way we don’t see outside the MacBook Air. Fittingly, it’s also very light, coming in at just over 2.1 pounds (0.96 kg).

You’ve still only got two USB-C ports, and neither are Thunderbolt, making this semi-laptop dependent on dongles if you want to use any extras. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack, thankfully.

Samsung Galaxy Book S

(Image credit: Future)

The keyboard is slim but has just enough travel, somewhere between a Dell XPS 13 and a MacBook Air. It doesn’t feel cheap, but we wonder how it’ll stand up to the kind of sustained typing that it’s pitched for as a productivity machine. There's a fingerprint sensor in the power button, located at the top-right of the keyboard, though we didn’t test it out.

The 13-inch display, however, is none too impressive with a Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution; even the Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 tablet sports a 2560 x 1600 screen. It is a touchscreen, but we chalk this up more to its tablet roots than substantially different display tech. 

At the top of the display is the 720p HD camera, a serviceable shooter.

Samsung Galaxy Book S

(Image credit: Future)

Performance

The main claim to fame for the Galaxy Book S is its Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx, a 7nm 64-bit Octa-core chipset (2.84 GHz + 1.8Ghz) that claims to achieve i5-level performance. We’ll wait until our full review to see how that stacks against tablet and laptop processors, but we hope to see it perform well. 

The Book S has 8GB of RAM, and either 256GB of storage or 512GB, both big numbers that make the entry price a little more bearable – and best of all, you can expand this up to 1TB via the microSD slot. Meanwhile, the always-on LTE connection will keep you streaming and watching on the go.

Samsung Galaxy Book S

(Image credit: Future)

Early verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Book S is a serious step into laptop territory, and we’re skeptical that it will live up to its steep price in the way a dedicated laptop might. 

But the always-on LTE capability could be a lot more convenient than we’re anticipating, and if the Qualcomm chip ends up being as powerful as those in top-tier tablets like the iPad Pro 11, the dedicated laptop design could be more popular than we’re expecting. We’re eager to see how this experiment plays out.

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.