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Samsung’s Galaxy Book Flex brings beautiful QLED displays to laptops

Samsung’s laptops have always felt underwhelming. The company is on the bleeding edge of televisions and smartphones, yet its laptops often lag behind the competition.

The new Galaxy Book Flex aims to change that. It’s the first laptop to use Samsung’s patented QLED display technology, bringing its quantum dot goodness into the fold. That’s compelling. Samsung’s CF791 has long been our favorite curved monitor, and mostly thanks to its incredible QLED screen.

Say hello to QLED

QLED or OLED? It’s been a debate in the TV world for years. But now, the rivalry has come to laptops with the Galaxy Book Flex, hoping to battle against the wave of new OLED laptops hitting the shelves.

According to Samsung, it’s part of the journey to spread the “best of its products from across various categories” by “embedding it into PCs.”

Joel Chokkattu / Digital Trends

Naturally, it’s the first thing you notice when the Galaxy Book Flex is open. Sitting next to last year’s 13-inch LED Notebook 9, the new QLED panel stands out. In comparison, the touchscreen on the Flex was much brighter. Its bezels are also slightly slimmer, nearly edge-to-edge like the XPS 15.

On the technical side, the panel achieves 600 nits when turning on an “Outdoor mode” via a keyboard combination. 400 nits is the standard level, but the difference is visible when switching the mode on and off.

With the “Outdoor” mode on, the colors of the default wallpaper also appeared to be much more saturated, and vibrant, almost to the same levels you’ll seen laptops like the 4K OLED HP Spectre x360. Viewing angles, too, are excellent, with Samsung laying claim to a 178-degree total angle.

Joel Chokkattu / Digital Trends

Unlike most of the OLED laptops out there, the Galaxy Book Flex has a resolution of only 1080p. I was curious how it compares to a 4K or OLED panel, especially on the 15-inch model. The differentiating factor, according to Samsung, is the color accuracy and brightness of its Quantum Dot technology.

Specifically, Samsung claims that the QLED panels achieve 100% of the sRGB and DCIP3 color spectrum, and produce a total of 1 billion colors.

The vibrancy of the colors made me forget all about the lower screen resolution.

Of course, we’ll need to test that with our colorimeter, but I tried out these claims by watching Samsung’s demo video on the 15-inch Galaxy Book Flex. I was impressed. The vibrancy of the colors made me forget all about the lower screen resolution. The greens of a forest and the blues of the waterfall pulled me into the imagery more than a standard LED panel ever could.

Importantly, Samsung promises that these QLED panels won’t be expensive or a “super-premium step up” for consumers.

So blue, so square

Compared to the older Notebook 9, the new Galaxy Book Flex feels quite different. In a good way. It features a boxy shape, reminiscent of the Razer Blade. The 15-inch model is still relatively thin at 0.6 inches, and the 13-inch model is slimmer at 0.5 inches, but it’s the build quality that stood out to me.

Joel Chokkattu / Digital Trends

Overall, both devices are light (15-inch at 3.5 pounds and 13-inch at 2.5 pounds), but the squareness of the device is what was most attractive. From the sides to the display panel, or the notch for the lid, the Galaxy Book Flex is really boxy.

It makes the device feel especially solid, like a single piece of aluminum. And, since this is a convertible, resting the device on a table or lap is just so much easier compared to something with rounded corners, like a Surface.  Aluminum also means there’s no flexing or bending to deal with, which means this is a laptop built to last.

The blue color is a bold choice and not something you’ll see in many other laptops.

Samsung is especially proud of the new Royal Blue colorway. At a time when most laptops mimic the magnesium color of the Apple MacBook, the color is quite different. The blue color is a bold choice and not something you’ll see in many other laptops.

But that’s not all that makes the Flex unique. The laptop features a Windows Hello fingerprint scanner like many do, though Samsung has placed it an unorthodox location. In efforts to make it more visible, the fingerprint scanner has cut off half the Shift key on the right side. Samsung’s had to move some keys around, though it’s not enough for most people to notice.

Charge your phone with your laptop, but not how you think

Something else that’s cool about the Galaxy Book Flex is its support for wireless charging. Because of the power-efficient QLED display, and EBL (enhanced battery life) technology, Samsung is claiming that the 69.7 watt-hour battery onboard the Flex can last for up to 20 hours.

As a result, it has embedded a wireless charging technology into the trackpad of the laptop. Samsung calls it “Wireless PowerShare.”

Joel Chokkattu / Digital Trends

Once you disable the trackpad with a keyboard combination, you can enable the wireless charging, and have your laptop charge up your phone or accessory. I tried it out by resting my Galaxy Note 8 on the trackpad, but any device which supports Qi-wireless charging will also work and accept power from the laptop. That can be a watch, an iPhone, or even wireless earbuds.

However, the feature is a bit gimmicky as it makes the trackpad off limits. Don’t expect to charge your phone while using the laptop. Samsung says this is meant to be more of a solution for when traveling or when a power source is out of reach.

Get your S-Pen ready

Most 2-in-1s come with built-in or add-on pens, and the Galaxy Book Flex is no different. Samsung, though, has paid special attention to the thin and ergonomic S Pen.

It’s still housed within the side of the laptop, but this time around, it has Bluetooth functionality like the Galaxy phones.

Joel Chokkattu / Digital Trends

You can now also use it to navigate through PowerPoint slides or replay movies. There’also the built-in Air Actions functionality, which pop-up when you slide the pen out from the housing on the side.

You have quick actions such as an ability to scribble on the screen. It’s a nifty little feature, that I am sure will be useful, and eliminate the need to use the keyboard for screenshots.

Ice Lake under the hood

But what’s a laptop without a powerful processor inside? Samsung has opted to go with options for Intel’s latest CPUs. Both the 13-inch models and 15-inch models both feature Ice Lake processors.

I was hands-on with the 15-inch version that featured the Intel Core i7-1065G7 CPU. However, 15-inch models also have options for Nvidia GeForce MX250 graphics. You’ll also have options for the integrated Intel Iris Plus or UHD graphics on both the 15-inch and 13-inch models if you don’t to pay extra for the Nvidia GPU.

RAM comes standard at 16GB, and storage can be configured up to 1TB. These shape up nicely and make the Flex a laptop that’ll likely speed through spreadsheets, games, and more.

Joel Chokkattu / Digital Trends

Samsung was also proud to mention some mobility features on the Flex. You’ll be able to enjoy some of the same features announced on the Galaxy Book S during the Samsung Unpacked event. That includes the built-in DeX mode for Samsung phones, as well as the features delivered with Microsoft’s Your Phone app.

The Samsung Galaxy Book Flex is worth a second look

Samsung did not share pricing for the Galaxy Book Flex and referred us to the pricing of last year’s Notebook 9 instead. That means the devices will be costly, sitting well over $1,000 for starting configurations.

More advanced testing is needed, but with its vibrant QLED display, improved design, and enhanced S Pen functionality, the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex is the real deal.

Samsung plans to launch the laptop in early 2020.

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