72 Hours with the Samsung Galaxy Book

Credit: Samsung

Right now, 2-in-1 hybrid tablets are all the rage. Computing as either a laptop or a tablet is becoming an industry standard — even long-time holdouts like Apple, with the iPad Pro, have dipped their toes in the 2-in-1 water. Into this crowded field comes Samsung’s Microsoft Pro 4 clone, the Galaxy Book.

Spec-wise, it’s a fierce machine: The Galaxy Book boasts a lot of the cutting edge in hybrid tablets. This includes a sharp Super AMOLED display, with a 2,160-by-1,440 resolution, the latest, fastest, fanless Intel Core i5 processor, and two USB-C ports to plug in all your peripherals. (We should say — we're testing out the 12-inch version. There is also a 10-inch version that is considerably cheaper, and has considerably less going for it.) There’s plenty of storage offered, starting at 128GB and going up to 512GB, and plenty of memory for all your computing needs, with 8GB of RAM.

The Galaxy Book comes bundled with a keyboard cover and included S-Pen, unlike, say, the iPad Pro or the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, whose pens and keyboards are sold separately. If you’re in the market for a new laptop and you’d like a tablet for all your entertainment, the Galaxy Book is a fair value proposition, with a starting price of $1,130. Over three days, we put the hybrid tablet through the motions. Here’s what we found.

Day 1

The first thing you notice about the Galaxy Book is how thin it is for a full-powered Windows tablet — before you put the cover on. At only a few millimeters thin and 1.6 pounds heavy, the tablet itself is easy to pick up and carry around one-handed (not a trivial detail for those looking to replace their laptop). When you slap the keyboard cover on, it definitely adds a little density and heft into the mix, but that’s at least partially because of the quality of the keyboard itself: It’s unrivaled in the 2-in-1 community, as far as we can tell. While Type Covers for the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 have valued thinness and low-key travel, the Galaxy Book’s keyboard has more of a full-on laptop feel to it. That means the keys are snappy, have lots of travel, and are generously spaced. In other words, you feel like you’re typing on a laptop.

Typing this review right now might be a breeze, but I immediately notice one of the hybrid’s biggest weaknesses: The keyboard cover is flimsily adjustable to three positions, so while you can modify the Galaxy Book’s “lapability” (how well the laptop sits in your lap), like you can with the Surface Pro 4, there’s a bit of a balancing act going on. That’s due to the fact that the tablet itself doesn’t have an adjustable stand, but relies on the keyboard to stay vertical. A little uncomfortable, perhaps, but not a deal breaker.

And the battery life? We’ve only been typing this review for a couple hours, switching between Word and Chrome on medium brightness, and the tablet’s already drained 25 percent of its battery. The Galaxy Book might just squeeze by with an all-day battery life, but barely.

Day 2

Since the Galaxy Book comes boxed with software, we needed an update. That's when we noticed something: While the Galaxy Book performed the update well, it got hot. Very hot. The Galaxy Book relies on Intel’s latest Kaby Lake processor, an i5 that doesn’t require a fan, but in this instance, the tablet feels like it could use one.

The included S-Pen is certainly one of the bigger draws (no pun intended) of the Galaxy Book. The S-Pen isn’t pressure sensitive, like the Apple Pencil, but performs admirably. The tip moves across the screen smoothly, and there’s no delay in what you’re drawing and what you end up seeing on the screen.

In order to plug in any peripherals — a mouse, a hard drive, what have you — we needed to use an adapter (or “dongle”) because there are two USB-C ports, and that’s all you get. Either port will charge the device when it’s plugged in. You’re seeing more and more USB-C ports on machines, such as the new Macbook Pros, and that’s because they’re becoming a highly adaptable universal standard. We’re glad to see them included on the Galaxy Book — it keeps the device thin, and with a simple adapter, you can plug in whatever you’d like. Of course, you’ll have to pay extra for that dongle.

Day 3

By day three, it's clear that the Samsung Galaxy Book is a breeze to get used to, and is capable of running multiple programs and windows without any slowdown. We wrote in Word, browsed in both Chrome and Edge, and played a video in VLC without experiencing any stuttering or slowdowns. 

The batteries, however, continue to be a problem. Barely half an hour into working, we’re down to 85 percent life. We checked, and there were no demanding tasks outside of Chrome and Word. Samsung estimates that the tablet will get 10 hours or so of life with mixed use, but we’re entirely skeptical. Then again, it could just be our test model.

It’s evident that the Galaxy Book is meant to be a Surface Pro 4 competitor — and, for right now, it beats the Surface Pro 4 in terms of specs. The Galaxy Book has the latest hardware, but the Surface Pro 5 is expected soon, so the Galaxy Book won’t be top-of-the-line for too incredibly long. It’s sure to beat the Surface Pro 5 in price — at $1,300 or so, keyboard and pen included, it’s a really great value — and the keyboard is one of the best we’ve used with a 2-in-1. But the Galaxy Book could use some finessing in terms of its keyboard cover’s “lapability,” battery life, and heat. When it comes to a Windows machines, we say Microsoft makes the best ones. Samsung’s new Galaxy Book isn’t far behind, and more budget friendly. If you’re looking for a Windows 2-in-1 to replace your laptop, in a thin design and future-proofed with USB-C ports, it’s a good deal.