Samsung Galaxy Book (12-Inch) Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Bright, vivid display; Comfortable keyboard; Speedy SSD; Included S Pen stylus; Convenient Galaxy Flow; Decent gaming performance

The Cons

Mediocre battery life; Confusing detachable design; Low lapability

Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Book is a detachable, 12-inch notebook with a fantastic display and short battery life.

The high-end, detachable 2-in-1 market has a new screen champion. Samsung's 12-inch Galaxy Book wows with a bright Super AMOLED display that supports vivid HDR content. But while we also love its comfortable keyboard and fast SSD, the $1,129 system's short battery life and awkward in-lap experience take away from the experience. If you can live with these trade-offs, however, this Samsung will reward you with a stunning visual experience.

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Design

The Galaxy Book is a nimble machine, once you figure out how to attach and fold the unnecessarily complicated, origami-like keyboard cover. It's obvious that you line up the tablet into the rubbery-feeling keyboard folio cover by using the proprietary connector in the spine of the case, but the magnetically attaching flap used to set a display angle is confusing.

A few minutes into my befuddlement, a co-worker pointed out the faintly printed diagram explaining the four angles the Galaxy Book can be set in. The sharpest angle looks to be around 110 degrees, and the flattest is face-up, at approximately 175 degrees.

But even after setting the Galaxy Book in the most laptop-like position, I had a hard time using it in my lap. While I have relatively long legs, the unfolded detachable requires a 12 x 11.5-inch surface to stand up, and that had me placing the keyboard closer than I preferred. Further, the flexibility of the folio keyboard meant the deck moved and the tablet display shook as I typed. Sadly, this kind of problem is found on many detachable 2-in-1s.

Weighing 2.6 pounds and measuring 0.6 inches thick, the 12-inch Galaxy Book is heavier than the Surface Pro 4 (2.4 pounds, 0.4 inches), but lighter than the Dell Latitude 5285 2-in-1 (2.7 pounds, 0.6 inches) and Acer Switch Alpha 12 (2.8 pounds, 0.6 inches).

Samsung placed the Galaxy Book's dual, power-drawing USB Type-C ports and headphone jack on the machine's right side, and its SIM tray on the left side. The 2-in-1's power and volume buttons lie on the top edge above the 5-megapixel webcam in the machine's front bezel and the 13-MP shooter at the top of its metallic back.

Display

The Galaxy Book's 2,160 x 1,440 Super AMOLED display produces some of the most detailed, vivid images we've seen on a 2-in-1. Streaming a 1080p interview with pro wrestlers on the device, I noticed vibrant, accurate tones in Sasha Banks' purple hair and gold "Legit Boss" chain plate and tiny small details of the giant Braun Strowman's tribal tattoo.

If you can find high dynamic range (HDR) video content, which Netflix supports, the Galaxy Book will produce a stronger range of color. Watching Daredevil from the Netflix app for Windows 10, I noticed that dark tones rendered in inkier black hues than before and that yellow light filtering in from outside appeared more vivid.

Samsung's Book Settings app includes Screen mode settings, including AMOLED Cinema, AMOLED Photo and Basic. I found the best, most-realistic color with the default Adaptive Display option.

According to our colorimeter, the Galaxy Book's panel produces an eye-popping 205 percent of the sRGB spectrum. That's greater than the 98-percent ultraportable average, as well as the marks from the Latitude 5285 (127 percent), the Surface Pro 4 (100 percent) and the Switch Alpha (101 percent).

It's also a relatively accurate display, earning a 1.7 on the Delta-E test, a score that beats the 2.6 category average, the 9.9 from the Latitude 5285 and the 3.7 from the Switch Alpha 12 (3.69). The Surface Pro 4 (0.4) did better.

The Galaxy Book emits up to 342 nits of brightness. That's higher than the 290-nit average and the 188-nit Latitude 5285. Stronger readings came from the 382-nit Surface Pro 4 and the 432-nit Switch Alpha. The Galaxy Book's panel also enables a solid range of viewing angles, with colors retaining strength at 45 degrees to the left and right.

The Galaxy Book's display tracked my touch accurately as I navigated the desktop, hunting and pecking in Explorer. The screen also speedily recognized Windows 10's navigational swipe gestures.

Keyboard, Touchpad and S Pen

The Galaxy Book's detachable, backlit keyboard provides decent input, especially if you use the keyboard on a flat surface rather than on your lap. Taking it out for a spin on the 10fastfingers typing test, I clicked my way to 71 words per minute, which is relatively close to my 80-wpm average.

The detachable's keys may provide a shallow 1.3 millimeters of travel (we hope to see 1.5 to 2.0mm), but they make up for that by requiring 80 grams of force to actuate (we prefer at least 60g). That extra resistance protects typists from "bottoming out," the painful sensation of fingertips slamming into the base too hard.

The Galaxy Book's 3.8 x 2.1-inch touchpad provided a solid feel to each click, and it registered Windows 10's three-finger app-navigation gestures. I just wish it were a bit taller, as my finger often ran out of space while scrolling.

This detachable also includes Samsung's S Pen, which provides another precise input method. I couldn't trip it up when I tried doodling in Paint as fast as I could. With Samsung's Air command, you can see shortcuts to Samsung Notes and actions for screenshots and annotations by hovering the stylus over the screen and clicking the button on the shaft.

Audio

The Galaxy Book's speakers produced enough volume to fill our medium-size conference room with an acceptable version of Playboi Carti's "wokeuplikethis*." While vocals came through clear and drum cymbals sounded crisp, I was left wanting more bass.

Performance

Armed with an Intel Core i5-7200U CPU and 4GB of RAM, the Galaxy Book enables solid multitasking. I saw no stutter after splitting my screen between a 1080p YouTube video and a dozen Chrome tabs (including Google Docs, TweetDeck and Slack). It stayed responsive and speedy after I added five Edge tabs, 1Password and HipChat on top.

The Galaxy Book notched a score of 6,381 on the Geekbench 3 general performance test, which is near the 6,398 from the Switch Alpha 12 (Core i5-6200U, 8GB RAM) and better than the 5,824 category average. The Latitude 5285 (Core i7-7600U 16GB RAM) earned a higher 8,449, and the 6,811 from the Surface Pro 4 (Core i5-6300U CPU, 8GB RAM) also beat the Galaxy Book.

The 128GB M.2 SSD in the Galaxy Book duplicated 4.97GB of files in 19 seconds, for a speed of 267.9 megabytes per second. That beats the 186 MBps category average and the 152.4 MBps rate from the Switch Alpha 12 (256GB SSD). But it can't touch the 339.28 MBps from the Latitude 5285 (256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Class 40 SSD) or the 318.1 from the Surface Pro 4 (256GB SSD).

On the OpenOffice productivity macro test, the Galaxy Book earned a decent time of 5 minutes, 14 seconds, which is faster than the 5:45 category average. The Latitude 5285 (3:27), Surface Pro 4 (4:11) and Switch Alpha 12 (4:32) all took less time.

The Intel HD 620 graphics in the Galaxy Book pushed it to a 63,187 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test. That's better than the 54,618 category average and similar to the showings from the Latitude 5285 (Intel HD 620), Switch Alpha (Intel HD 520) and Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (Intel HD 520), which earned scores between 60,424 and 65,938.

Gamers with modest needs can have some fun with the Galaxy Book. It ran DiRT 3 (at Medium settings) at a smooth 53 frames per second, which trounces the 36-fps average.

Battery Life

Like most detachables, the Galaxy Book suffers from mediocre battery life. Samsung claims that the machine offers 11 hours of video playback on a single charge, but the notebook only made it 6 hours and 38 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing at 100 nits) over Wi-Fi and 6:32 over LTE. Those times fall below the 8:20 ultraportable average and the 6:52 from the Latitude 5285. However, the Galaxy Book's showing is better than the 6:05 from the Surface Pro 4 and 4:49 from the Switch Alpha 12.

The included power adapter supports Samsung's Adaptive Fast Charging, which the company says can give the notebook a full charge in less than 3 hours.

Cameras

The 13-megapixel camera on the back of the Galaxy Book and the machine's 5-MP front-facing selfie-shooter are OK options for tablet photographers. The red Japanese maple leaves on our roof popped, as did the shades of purple in the trippy, space-themed pants I saw on a pedestrian. The cameras also capture decent detail, such as the hairs of a fur coat and small pieces of lint on my sweatshirt.

Unfortunately the lenses didn't handle brighter objects well, especially those items hit by sunlight. So, items both outside and indoors appeared washed out. That included my forehead, a white dress shirt, the top of a taxi and our lobby's walls.

Those shooting video by hand will want to enable Digital Video Stabilization in the Settings section of the Camera app, as it reduced the amount of stutter in my footage.

Heat

The back of the Galaxy Book heats up enough to be uncomfortable. While its touchpad (74 degrees Fahrenheit) and G & H keys (76 degrees) didn't breach our 95-degree comfort threshold, the tablet's back did, spiking to a 101-degree fever.

Software

Samsung provides a mixed bag of tools with the Galaxy Book. The Samsung Flow utility allows Galaxy handset owners to receive and interact with phone notifications on the notebook, as well as send files between the two. The Book Settings tool provides Pen options and the Battery Life Extender tool, which prohibits the battery from charging past 85 percent, which Samsung claims "helps prolong the battery lifetime."

Of course, the Galaxy Book also includes the usual cruft we find on Windows 10 PCs (Candy Crush Soda Saga, Minecraft, Sling).

Configuration Options

The $1,129 entry-level 12-inch Galaxy Book features a 7th Gen Core i5-7200U CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. You can buy this machine with LTE connectivity from Verizon for $1,299 or with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, the configuration we recommend, for $1,329.

Bottom Line

The Samsung Galaxy Book provides one of the best displays we've seen on any laptop, as well as a keyboard that's good for typing, provided you've got a hard surface. If only this machine lasted longer, fit better in your lap or cost less, it would be more exciting.

If you want to save money, you might prefer the $659 Switch Alpha 12, which includes as much RAM and storage as the $1,329 Galaxy Book, but offers less battery life and a much duller screen. Still, Samsung handset owners looking for a detachable laptop will find their best option with the Galaxy Book.

But if you're not tied to Samsung's ecosystem, and you can wait to make your purchase, you might want to see how the upcoming Surface Pro turns out.

Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag

CPU Intel Core i5-7200U
Operating System Windows 10 Home
RAM 4GB
RAM Upgradable to 8GB
Hard Drive Size 128GB SSD
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 12
Highest Available Resolution 2160 x 1440
Native Resolution 2160 x 1440
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Intel HD 620 Graphics
Video Memory Shared
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Wi-Fi Model
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.1+LE
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 3.8 x 2.1 inches
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.1 with Type-C
USB Ports 2
Card Slots microSD
Warranty/Support
Size 11.5 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches
Weight 2.6 pounds
Company Website http://www.samsung.com/us/mobile/tablets/galaxy-book/galaxy-book-12--windows-2-in-1-pc--wi-fi---silver-sm-w720nzkbxar/
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