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Samsung Galaxy Book: Our First Take

Samsung's Galaxy Book isn't much of a book (or Galaxy device)

For weeks now the rumors have been swirling: Samsung was going to reveal a “Galaxy Book” to compete with laptops like the Apple MacBook and Microsoft Surface Book. We can now verify that these rumors were partly true. On Sunday, Samsung took the lid off the Galaxy Book — but it’s no laptop killer.

The Samsung Galaxy Book is a Windows 10 tablet with an iPad Pro-style attachable keyboard. Available in 10.6-inch and 12-inch screens sizes, the Galaxy Book is a sort of sequel to Samsung’s 2016 Galaxy TabPro S Windows tablet.

Here’s our abridged first impressions of the new Windows tablets, which have no release date or price as of yet.

The keyboard doesn’t cut it

Both Galaxy Books have optional keyboards, which are more comfortable to type on than last year’s TabPro S thanks to added depth on each key and a better island-style key design. Unfortunately, they’re a hassle to connect and disconnect. We fumbled around for a few minutes trying to get the keyboard to magnetically latch onto the bottom of the Galaxy Book tablet; it’s not an ideal design.

Samsung hasn’t fixed these keyboard issues, which feel all the more pronounced this year.

Lets flash back to a few lines from our TabPro S review: “a very weak magnet around the tablet’s rear-facing camera secures the top half of the keyboard cover. That magnet is not reliable, and jostling the tablet can cause it to pop out of position or, in the worst scenario, fall forward. The cover also allows just two screen positions when the keyboard is in use — nearly straight up, and reclined way back like a beach recliner. Neither position is awful, but neither feels entirely natural. And … the screen’s flaws demand that it be viewed from an ideal angle.”

Samsung has not fixed these keyboard issues, and the problems with them feel all the more pronounced this year. Without a keyboard, this is a decent Windows tablet, but Windows 10 isn’t really the operating system you want if you aren’t typing on a keyboard. It has plenty of touch features, but like MacOS, it’s built for machines where you get work done. Android and iPad are fine if you just want a tablet.

The 12-inch model has AMOLED, and a much better processor

Pricing will make a huge difference, but the 12-inch model of the Galaxy Book holds a lot more promise. The large version has a beautiful AMOLED screen with a 2,160 × 1,440 pixel resolution, as well as a 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor and 128GB of SSD storage. It’s also quite petite at only 7.4mm thick and has a 13-megapixel rear camera. The Galaxy Book 10.6 has none of these things. It has a Full HD LCD screen, runs on a dual-core Intel Core m3 processor, has no rear camera, and comes with 64GB of storage out of the box. Both have 4GB of RAM.

Your eyes will thank you for choosing an AMOLED screen. They are rare on laptops, and absolutely gorgeous. Windows 10 has a lot of bright colors and blacks in its menus, and AMOLED produces far deeper blacks and more vivid colors than other screen types. This is because each pixel lights itself up instead of needing a big backlight behind it, allowing pixels to shut themselves off completely when you have black portions of the screen. The 12-inch Book is also capable of HDR (10-bit color), though we don’t have the precise specs on that yet. HDR, or high-dynamic range, is another screen technology that ups contrast, vividness, and brightness when watching films and looking at photos.

The 12-inch model will also get better battery life by at least a half hour, and both models have fast charging. Our test of the original Samsung TabPro S showed solid battery life — six hours, 31 minutes in our web browsing loop. An extra half-hour will put the TabPro S well above average.

S-Pen support

Samsung includes an S-Pen with each tablet, and it’s very nice. It has an unlimited battery inside it, so you’ll never have to charge the stylus, and it’s thicker and more comfortable to hold than previous S-Pens Samsung has produced. This time around, it’s sensitive enough to detect 4,096 levels of pressure. Samsung reps showed us how you can now angle your brush in Photoshop, and it certainly looks like a fun new feature for digital artists.

Keeping track of that S-Pen will be difficult. There is no holster for the stylus, nor any magnetic spot where it can be attached. We misplaced one in the few minutes we were testing it. Hopefully, Samsung won’t charge much for replacements.

This is Windows, not a Galaxy

Samsung is calling this a Galaxy Book, but it is not a traditional Galaxy device. That word has traditionally meant a Samsung Android device, and there is no Android support here. This runs on Windows 10, which is a fine operating system, but a very different one that’s still better suited to sitting down and getting work done. Windows has its roots in laptops and desktop PCs. Android has its roots in smartphones, and the difference remains stark. If you’re looking for a high-end tablet for watching movies and installing apps, we really like the iPad Pro, and Samsung’s new Galaxy Tab S3 is looking nice.

To be fair, Samsung has installed some features that it calls Samsung Flow, which let you do things like answer texts and more easily use your Galaxy phone (if you own one) as a hot spot, but as nice as the features are, they don’t make it a Galaxy (Android) device.

Is there a market for this?

Microsoft has managed to sell many Surface Pro tablets thanks to how well it can mimic a laptop while also adding portability. And we like the Surface Book because it’s even more laptop-like. Sadly, from our first impressions, Samsung just isn’t there yet. If you really want Windows 10 on a tablet, the Galaxy Book 12 is likely our pick, because of its more extensive feature set and battery life, though pricing and availability will make all the difference.

We have only spent a few minutes with the Galaxy Books so far, but we currently have the same basic impression that we had of the TabPro S last year. This is a great Windows tablet, but likely a poor substitute for a laptop.

Highs

  • Excellent display
  • Battery life should be strong

Lows

  • Smaller model has modest hardware
  • Keyboard is still a problem
  • Windows 10 remains an awkward fit for the device