I’ve had the opportunity to test out the Samsung Galaxy Book 12 as part of a campaign with The Insiders Canada. The main thing I wanted to know was whether this 2-in-1 device could replace my trusty laptop. After using it for almost a month, here’s what I think.
The Galaxy Book comes in a simple black box. Apart from the Samsung Galaxy logo etched in shiny silver at the front and the specs listed at the back, there’s not much else. Here’s what you get in the box:
- Samsung Galaxy Book 12
- Keyboard Case
- S Pen
- Extra S Pen Nibs + Nib Replacer Tool
- USB C Charging Cable
- Charging Adapter/Block
- MicroSD Card Ejector Tool
- S Pen Holder
- Warranty + User Manual
As a student, I have many requirements when it comes to my primary computing device. It needs to be portable, since I’ll be carrying it around campus all day. It needs to be powerful enough that I can use it for video editing. The display should be fantastic for when I want to watch movies or do color-sensitive work. It needs to have a long-lasting battery life so I don’t find myself desperately searching for a power outlet every 2 hours. It absolutely must have a great keyboard because I’ll (sadly) be spending most of my time writing essays.
So does the Samsung Galaxy Book live up to my expectations? Let’s see.
First off, build quality is great. The Galaxy Book is remarkably thin and light but feels very well-built. It has smooth rounded edges so it is comfortable to hold, even in one hand, for long periods of time.
The 13MP camera on the back is not smartphone good, but it’s smartphone-from-2015 good, which is still better than most tablets. For students, it’s great for taking pictures of the whiteboard or lecture notes; the Galaxy Book automatically converts them to editable text documents that you can save in OneNote or Samsung Notes. I use it for my handwritten notes all the time and it’s definitely an underrated feature. The lack of flash isn’t really an issue here. There’s not much to say about the front-facing 5MP camera. It’s decent for Skype calls, but that’s about it.
The dual speakers (one on either side) get surprisingly loud for such a small device but they don’t have the best sound quality. There’s noticeable distortion at high volumes and bass is non-existent. Vocals are relatively clear, which is good for Skype calls.
On the right side of the tablet, you’ve got a headphone jack (it survived 2017!) and 2 USB C ports. Both USB ports support fast-charging and I like that I can plug the cable in any direction (unlike normal USBs, there’s no “right side up” for USB C).
I know that everyone in the tech world is raving about how USB C is the future, but most of us still use normal USBs. It would have been better if Samsung added at least one normal USB port on the Galaxy Book, or instead included a dongle in the box. I couldn’t connect any of my storage devices until I bought a USB C to USB 3.0 converter from Amazon.
Speaking of which, the Galaxy Book has a 256GB SSD, which should be enough for most people. If it isn’t, the Galaxy Book also has a microSD card slot, meaning you can bump up the total storage to 512GB. It complements that with a 7th-generation Intel Core i5 processor and 8 GB of RAM.
So what I’m really saying is that performance is fantastic. More importantly, performance is CONSISTENTLY fantastic. Whether I’m using it for video editing or Photoshop, with multiple tabs open in Chrome and music streaming in the background, the tablet never lags. It’s ready to go within 10 seconds of booting up and it has yet to slow down on me.
However, the fan at the top of the tablet is pretty much always on, even if no programs are running. Fortunately, it’s quieter than traditional laptop fans. The top right side of the tablet can also get very hot at times but I only notice it when I’m using the tablet without the keyboard.
The real showstopper is that gorgeous 12-inch Full HD+ SuperAMOLED display. Colours are bright, vivid, and jump out from every angle. Blacks are so rich and deep that you can’t tell where the screen ends and the bezels begin. Watching any kind of media on this display is just a whole other experience. This display makes everything look good!
Battery life is a mixed bag. With brightness set to 25% and when using it only for light web browsing and document editing, I found myself reaching for the charger after 6 hours. Personally, I think that’s great; the laptop I had before usually died within 2 hours of being without a charger. But it’s nowhere near the advertised 11 hours, which is disappointing.
That said, because both USB C ports support fast-charging, I can get from 0% – 100% in about 3 hours. That drops down to 2 hours if I charge the tablet when it’s turned off. The charger is about the same size as a regular phone charger and even uses the same charging cable as my phone, meaning I have one less charger/cable to carry in my school bag now. On the plus side, this means I can also charge the tablet with a portable power bank when I’m not near a traditional power outlet.
The major selling point of the Samsung Galaxy Book is that unlike many of its competitors, the stylus (S Pen) and keyboard are included in the box instead of being optional extras. And they are both brilliant accessories. Let me start with the S Pen.
It’s exactly the same size and thickness of a normal pen. The design is ergonomic and the button placement is great whether you’re right-handed or left-handed. Writing with it feels natural; it’s more like writing with a pen on glossy paper than it is dragging a bit of rubber on a glass surface.
The S Pen slides into the “S Pen holder” attachment on the left side of the keyboard. I found that you can also magnetically attach it to the left/right bezels of the tablet. The S Pen is not super secure since it just dangles there, but it makes for easier access than having to pull it out of the keyboard attachment every time I need to use it.
What I found most surprising was that the S Pen INSPIRES you to become an artist! Before I got my Galaxy Book, I had the artistic talent of a potato. I didn’t draw, I didn’t paint, I didn’t sketch. The best I could do was draw stick figures. But with that S Pen being there all the time, I felt myself compelled to use it. Maybe that’s why Samsung decided to have place the stylus holder next to the keyboard instead of hiding the stylus inside the device like it does with its Galaxy Note lineup.
I started by using the S Pen for casual note-taking, then random doodling, then sketching, and then digital painting. The S Pen is so responsive and fluid that it’s brought out the artist in me!
I LOVE that I don’t need to charge the S Pen! Considering how much I use it on a daily basis, from navigating around the UI to note-taking, the fact that I can just pick it up and use it at any time without needing to worry about battery is great.
It’s the same with the keyboard. The fact that it’s a backlit keyboard with 3 levels of brightness and doesn’t ever need to be charged is incredible. The keyboard is very thin, but each key is well-sized and has a fantastic amount of travel. And the keys are not mushy ones either. Each key pushes back with a friendly little bounce.
My overall typing experience on the keyboard was great, though I did find myself pressing the “\” key whenever I went to press “Enter” because of how the “Enter” key is shaped. The left “Shift” key is also pretty squished because there’s another “\” key right next to it. It took a little while for me to get used to the layout. After that, I could touch type as quickly and naturally on the Samsung Galaxy Book keyboard as I could on my own laptop.
The touchpad is also well-sized and responsive. Being able to use a plethora of gestures to get around in Windows 10 (multi-finger swipes and taps) is an underrated feature. Combined with the S Pen, it makes working on the tablet very efficient.
The ability to switch between the S Pen, touch input, and the keyboard/touchpad is seamless. I can go from writing notes to typing up a document to flipping through web pages with ease. And most apps are clever enough to recognize when I’m using the S Pen, so will not register finger input as “ink” when I take notes. I can scribble on-screen with the S Pen and simultaneously move around the screen with my fingers.
Really, my only real complaint with the S Pen is that you can’t scroll/swipe around the UI using the S Pen like you can on Samsung’s Android devices. But to be fair, that’s more of an issue with Windows 10 than it is with the Galaxy Book. And from what I understand, Microsoft is looking to fix that problem with the next Windows update!
The keyboard also doubles as the folding stand, and it’s enough to make you an origami master. There are a bunch of different ways to fold it, and Samsung was nice enough to include a little folding guide on the keyboard cover.
It’s surprisingly sturdy thanks to those magnetic points. The folding design isn’t as intuitive as the Microsoft Surface’s kickstand, but it becomes second-nature once you get the hang of it. After just a few hours of using the tablet, I was switching between the different modes without needing to refer to the folding guide on the keyboard cover.
My main gripe with this folding cover is that it can be difficult to use on your lap because it wobbles. A lot. Typing on a laptop while it’s on your lap is easy and (relatively) stable. Typing on the Galaxy Book while it’s on your lap is like trying to play Whack-a-Mole while jumping on a trampoline during an earthquake. I may have exaggerated a bit there, but really anything that isn’t a stable flat surface will induce a lot of stress since you’ll constantly worry that your precious Galaxy Book is going to fall down and get damaged.
The other thing I find rather annoying is that you don’t get Microsoft Office 365 with the tablet. All you get is a trial version, after which you have to buy the full thing. Considering how much you’re paying for the Samsung Galaxy Book, the least they could do is give you a one-year subscription to Office 365 or even the full version of Office Professional Plus 2016.
All in all, I’m really pleased with the Samsung Galaxy Book. It has struck the ideal balance between work and play for me, with the S Pen seamlessly blurring the line that separates the two. I think that this portable powerhouse is perfect for students and professionals on the go.