Coming to existence on basically the same day, it’s all too easy to compare the 2017 update to the Microsoft Surface Pro 5 and Samsung’s brand new Galaxy Book.
Both pack all their power into the tablet, for completely detachable computing, and feature premium keyboards, active styli, and high-resolution panels
As you start to draw them out, though, the differences become more dramatic. Importantly, the Surface Pro offers more under-the-hood variations, while the Galaxy Book is available in different physical sizes. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s break it down and see how these two devices compare on paper.
Surface Pro (2017)
Samsung Galaxy Book
|Dimensions||11.50 x 7.9 x .33 inches||10.3 x 7.1 x .35 inches
11.5 x 7.7 x .29 inches
|Weight||1.69 – 1.73 pounds||1.43 – 1.66 pounds|
|Processor||7th Generation Intel Core m3-7Y30, i5-7300U, i7-7660U||7th Generation Intel Core m3 or Core i5-7200U|
|RAM||4GB, 8GB, or 16GB LPDDR3||4GB or 8GB|
|Display||12.3-inch PixelSense Display, 10-point touch||12-inch Super AMOLED|
|Resolution||2,736 x 1,824||Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) or FHD+ (2,160 x 1,440)|
|Storage||128GB, 256GB, 512GB standard SSD, 1TB PCIe NVMe||64GB, 128GB eMMC, or 128GB, 256GB SSD|
|Networking||802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, optional LTE||802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1, optional LTE|
|Ports||1 x USB 3.0, MicroSDXC, Surface Connect, 3.5mm Headphone, Mini DisplayPort||2 x USB 3.1 Type-C, MicroSD, 3.5mm headphone jack|
|Webcam||5.0MP Front-facing camera with Windows Hello
8.0MP Rear-facing camera
|5.0MP Front-facing camera
13MP Rear-facing camera
|Operating System||Windows 10||Windows 10|
|Quoted battery||13.5 hours||9 – 11 hours|
|Availability||June 15, 2017||Available now (some configurations)|
Take the tablet with you
Both systems separate completely from their keyboards, for a portable, touchscreen-based experience. As we’ve seen over numerous products, putting together a system that accomplishes that naturally is no small feat. There are battery life, performance, heat, and even weight distribution considerations, each of which can take a 2-in-1 from best in show to impossible to recommend.
Microsoft has continued to revamp its signature product, and things have improved, but there’s still work to be done. The kickstand in the back isn’t exactly robust, which makes using it on a lap with the keyboard close to impossible. On the other hand, the system is built from gorgeous, tough materials, while still coming in under a lighter-than-ever two pounds.
Samsung, meanwhile, has also stuck to the script design-wise, favoring lightweight materials that look slick over those that feel particularly sturdy. It pays off in tablet use, where it cuts under even the Surface Pro’s light weight, although the kickstand is built into the keyboard, which feels awkward. There are actually two Galaxy Book models, a 10-inch and 12-inch version, but both are nearly identical otherwise. At least it gives users more options.
Personal preference will make a big play here, but we tend to think, at least from previous Surface devices, that Microsoft has the recipe boiled down for the computing market, where Samsung tends to borrow too much from its admittedly-successful mobile devices.
Winner: Surface Pro
While botch machines may occupy a similar footprint, their connectivity options couldn’t be more different. Microsoft still hasn’t caught onto the Type-C bandwagon, opting instead for a lone 3.0 Type-A port, a Mini DisplayPort for video out. That’s not exactly archaic, but it isn’t cutting-edge for a brand new device. The Samsung includes two USB 3.1 Type-C ports, plus the requisite 3.5mm headphone jack.
That gives the Samsung a number of advantages. The system charges over USB Type-C, and the extra port means twice the peripherals, to put it simply. It’s also a more versatile port, with a higher total bandwidth.
Both systems pack in identical wireless options, although LTE isn’t available in the 10-inch Galaxy Book.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Book
A performance variety show
The new Surface Pro’s top-end configuration packs a Seventh Generation Intel Core i7-7660U, but that’s far from the end of the performance story. The base models both feature Intel Core M chips, which have progressed over the last few years into more substantial offerings. We appreciate both their decent performance in everyday tasks, as well as their positive effect on battery life.
Samsung’s device also offers Core M and Core i5 chips, but no Core i7 is available. Maximum RAM tops out at 8GB, as well. While the Galaxy Book with Core i5 and 8GB is more than adequate for most people, hardcore power users will desire more. If you’re looking for a real runner, the Surface Pro may be the only option.
Winner: Microsoft Surface Pro
Two solid displays, but a clear winner
With one foot in the tablet world, both of these screens need clear, bright, high-resolution displays to function away from their keyboards, and both deliver. Samsung has opted for a 1,920 x 1,080 Super AMOLED panel on the smaller Galaxy Book, and a 2,160 x 1,440 Super AMOLED on the larger version. These screens have great black levels, and wide viewing angles, which makes for excellent movie watching. Both versions feature full touchscreen support, and active styli, an area familiar to both manufacturers.
Microsoft once again steals the show with its 12.3-inch PixelSense display, or at least it should. Previous iterations in the Surface Pro, Surface Studio, and Surface Pro 4 have impressed us with deep contrast, beautiful color reproduction, and very high pixel density. Combined with the excellent, sturdy Surface Pen and the Surface Dial, and the fact the higher-resolution panel is available on every model, Microsoft’s offering looks solid.
Both the Galaxy Book and Microsoft Surface Pro are packing redesigned type covers this time around, and both have lofty claims about how comfortable and revolutionary they are. We’ll reserve judgement until we’ve got a chance to spend time with both.
All-day portability, either way
Both systems make long claims for battery life, and as we know all too well, they rarely come anywhere near those manufacturer promises. Microsoft hasn’t shared an actual battery size for this year’s Surface Pro, so we’re only left with a few facts to educate us about potential longevity.
For one, both systems are almost identically sized — at least when comparing the 12-inch Galaxy Book to the Surface Pro — so their batteries are likely to be close to the same size as well, with the larger Samsung holding a 39.04Wh battery. The Samsung’s Super AMOLED screen is built with mobile devices in mind, so it should be more battery efficient than the Surface’s bright PixelSense display. However, the Samsung quotes a lower 9-11 hour battery life. Whether Microsoft is more boastful, or the Samsung hides a dark secret, will have to wait until we have a chance to test both systems in-house under identical conditions.
Pricing and availability
The Samsung starts at $629, and for that, users will receive a somewhat watered-down version of the Galaxy Book, with a Core m3, 4GB of RAM, an eMMC SSD, and a 1080p panel. The 12-inch version, on the other hand, starts at $1,130, with an Intel Core i5, a full-fledged SSD, and the higher-resolution panel.
The Surface Pro’s starting price point is about $150 higher than the Galaxy Book, but the value is a bit better. It already packs in the PixelSense panel, and a PCIe NVMe drive. It’s worth noting that the Surface Book doesn’t include a keyboard or active pen, while Samsung packs in both.
Winner: Microsoft Surface Pro
There’s a lot more to building a successful 2-in-1 than just winning on paper, and Samsung and Microsoft both know it. Battery life is a major factor for the category, and only performance testing will reveal any great truths about either of these system’s endurance. Ergonomics, and the keyboard options, remain mysteries as well, at least for now.
The 2-in-1 category grows ever more refined with each generation, and the Samsung Galaxy Book and Surface Pro for 2017 are both solid offerings facing down some tricky problems with considerable courage. The Redmond team has considerable experience in this area, and it ultimately leads to a victory for the Surface Book, at least on paper.