Samsung is, of course, best known for its smartphones—an area where they currently have a firm hold on the #1 market share. In this day and age though, mobility extends beyond smartphones to tablets and 2-in-1 detachables personal computers. Samsung has quietly been adding Chromebooks, Windows notebooks, and desktops, highlighted by the company’s CES 2017 announcements. The Galaxy Book 12 is Samsung’s second attempt at such a detachable device (after last year’s TabPro S), and in my opinion, a much-improved product. Samsung recently loaned me the new Samsung Galaxy Book 12” for review and after using it as my primary device for a week, and as a secondary device for a month, I wanted to go ahead and offer my thoughts on my experience. While there’s always room for improvement, overall, I really enjoyed using the device.
Excels at display, performance, camera
One of the first things I noticed is that the packaging says “premium”—the device comes in a sleek black box with silver lettering. I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but there’s something to be said for making a good first impression. The next thing I noticed was the quality of the display. The Super AMOLED touch screen display makes movies look great, and pictures look sharp and vibrant at full brightness. Though the bezels felt a bit large, I think the 12-inch screen is a good compromise when trading off size for portability. I still felt like I could multitask well when I split the screen into two or three parts, which probably would not be the case with a smaller screen size at 10-11”. At 2.6 pounds, the device is lightweight—not the lightest 2-in-1 we have seen on the market, but still quite portable.
Another important area where I thought the Galaxy Book excelled was performance. For the sake of analysis, I installed and used a variety of software on the device: On the desktop, I installed Office 365, OneNote, Chrome, Edge, OneDrive, Skype, Google Backup & Sync Apple iCloud, and G Suite Sync. From the MS Store, I installed Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Photos, Camera, Mail, Calendar, Weather, and News. I also used Samsung Flow, Notes, and Book Settings. All ran smoothly—the 7thgeneration Intel Core i5 Processor delivers enough horsepower for office productivity apps, multi-tab browsing, and light gaming. I also let my college interns take a spin on it, and it fared well while using various college applications such as Brightspace, D2L, and Globalyceum. You do not want to run workstation apps or high-end games on this, but productivity apps work great.
The Galaxy Book comes with a 13 MP rear-facing camera, which, compared to almost all other detachables, is very high quality as the only other detachable on the market right now with a nice camera is the new Apple iPad Pro. The device also sports two USB-C ports, which shows Samsung is looking towards the future. I realize dongles may be required for traditional USB devices like a digital camera or memory stick, but I think it is a worthy trade-off, particularly if you are in the Android phone world. I was also pleased to discover that I could charge the device with my Galaxy S8+ charger. Also, I was impressed by the audio capabilities of the device—clear and crisp, and the volume can go up pretty high, surprising given the form factor.
A few other notes—Samsung Flow, while similar to Android Cortana’s “notification sync,” provided more information that Cortana. I did notice, however, that Flow would sometimes suddenly, inexplicably disconnect, even when both systems were right next to each other and both “on.” I am not sure what that is all about, but it is something that Samsung is likely investigating. Another thought I had on Flow is that the fingerprint reader security access from a smartphone did not seem to save time for me, and I ended up just using the password instead. I am personally more of a fan of facial scan security access systems—I would like to see Samsung add that capability eventually.
Both the keyboard and S Pen are wrapped up into the $1,199 consumer version price tag—a good deal, considering competitors like the Surface Pro and iPad Pro do not come with a keyboard or stylus. The keyboard works well; the keys are nice and punchy, and deep enough for my liking. I thoroughly enjoyed typing on it, and it stayed stable on my desk throughout my work. The backlight is a bonus that I appreciated, seeing as I am often working on airplanes or late into the night. The keyboard cover functions as a digital portfolio of sorts, which makes it handy to use when you are on the go. The cover is easily attachable to the device, and it stays on well. One hiccup I had with it was that at first, it is a little confusing figuring out the right way to fold the cover to prop it up (unlike most devices, you fold over instead of under). The other challenge I had was that while the keyboard case works great on a flat surface, it is not very “lappable”—it feels awkward to hold and tends to fall over a bit. This is simply the trade-off for a portfolio case approach.
As for the pen, it works just fine for casual users, but I would not necessarily recommend it for those who draw for a living or who take all of their notes with a digital pen. I appreciate the fact that the pen does not need charging or pairing, but I find the $79 price tag for the pen itself a little steep (then again, it is included with the device).
Room for improvement
As I always say, there are no perfect products from any manufacturer. Part of this is the reality of trade-offs that need to be made. Overall I think the Galaxy Book is a great value for the price tag, and I am impressed with its display, performance, keyboard, and camera, and there are a few areas where I think Samsung could improve upon. My main complaint revolves around the battery. I could never find a way, under any circumstance, to achieve the 11 hours of battery life—typically I was only getting 3 to 6. I was expecting much better, with the OLED display. A disclaimer for the device read “Based on laboratory testing. Results may vary. Battery power consumption depends on usage patterns”—probably the least descriptive battery life detail I have seen in years. Also, I was expecting “fast charging” to apply to all circumstances; it seemed to slow down if I was watching a movie, to the point where it might have even been losing battery life. Another thing I noticed was that the fan seemed to kick in frequently, at points where competitive systems either don’t have any fans or kick in less.
Overall, I found the Samsung Galaxy Book 12” to be very enjoyable to use—great display, great performance, great camera, and a very functional keyboard and stylus. While I would have liked longer battery life and I would prefer the device to be more lappable, this 2 in 1 detachable blows many of its competitors out of the water, particularly what I have seen from Huawei. I would certainly use it again.