While the world has changed significantly in the last 6 months, something that remains is the need for light, portable and fast laptops. Today I wanted to offer my review of the Samsung Galaxy Book S, which I consider to be the perfect laptop in terms of productivity, without compromising connectivity and battery life. I first interacted with the Galaxy Book S last year at Samsung’s Galaxy Unpacked event, where the laptop attracted a lot of attention. Two big things caught my eye right off the bat: first, the Galaxy Book S is powered by Qualcomm’s 8cx processor, which means that it is fast enough to accomplish most productivity tasks without getting bogged down. Second, the Galaxy Book S is one of the few laptops built from the ground up to be always connected, switching seamlessly between 4G LTE and Wi-Fi.
Normally, I would be singing the praises of the Galaxy Book S as the perfect road warrior laptop. However, in the time of Covid-19, people simply aren’t traveling—a road warrior laptop just isn’t much of a sell. That said, what makes this a great road warrior laptop also makes it well-suited to many other situations.
I did manage to get out of the house and tote the Galaxy Book S around town a bit before the pandemic struck, and it was genuinely nice to be able to just pop open a laptop and fire off an email without the need to connect to Wi-Fi. The reality is that while our smartphones are great productivity devices, if you need to send an email that’s more than a few sentences long, you want to do it on a laptop. An always-connected laptop makes this all that much easier and quicker.
I also found that it was a great household companion, and well-suited for making Zoom calls on the couch or browsing the web while watching TV. One of the great benefits of this laptop’s design is its ability to stay connected while consuming very little idle power. This means that the laptop is always up to date and can sit for days without needing to be recharged. Additionally, at barely over 2 pounds, the Galaxy Book S is almost unnoticeable in most backpacks and incredibly easy to hand-carry.
The performance of the Samsung Galaxy Book S surprised me—in the past there have been other designs from other manufacturers that made engineering sacrifices on devices with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips for Windows. It’s very clear that the Samsung Galaxy Book S’s Snapdragon 8cx is the right chip for the job (though there is a planned Intel Lakefield design, the first device for that chipset, which should make for a very interesting comparison). I used the Galaxy Book S just like I would any other laptop, loading it up with Chrome tabs, PowerPoint presentations, Word Documents, Microsoft Teams and occasionally Microsoft Edge. The experience and performance was good enough that I found myself gravitating towards it every time I needed to do something on the computer. Unlike previous generations of Snapdragon on Windows devices, there were no hesitations or long load times for apps and processing. That said, this system only has 8GB of RAM and if you’re a Chrome tab-monger like me, you may want to spring for more. In my experience, Arm processors handle multi-tasking very well. 16GB should be included—especially on a Samsung notebook since the company manufactures most of the world’s RAM.
Compatibility and Security
Seemingly every month, a new ARM64 version of a major application gets released. However, app compatibility could be an issue for some users —some older legacy apps may simply not run on this chipset and version of Windows. That said, with Apple’s recent announcement that it would begin manufacturing it’s own Arm-based chips, I believe there will be an even bigger push to support Arm. I believe the experience will only get better on Windows as a result. All of that said, I found no compatibility issues with the applications and use cases I needed the laptop for. It supports Microsoft 365, Chrome, Firefox, VLC and Netflix, Spotify, Zoom and many others. If you have any specialized apps, I would check for compatibility, but you should be more than fine with run-of-the-mill Microsoft productivity apps.
As far as security goes, the laptop’s power button doubles as a Windows Hello-enabled fingerprint sensor for authentication. I have not had any issues with it, and found the fingerprint sensor to be incredibly quick and accurate. The location of the button is handy—if you press the power button to bring the computer out of sleep and hold your finger a split second longer it will also log you in. That said, I believe Samsung could have gone with a bit firmer of a button with a little less play. There’s something about the fingerprint sensor and button that feels just a little less-than-premium.
Yes, while the Galaxy Book S is primarily a productivity notebook in my eyes, it is also rather good for entertainment. What really surprised me was the Galaxy Book S’s sound quality and how much volume it gets out of a thin laptop design. While lacks a bit of bass, it has enough to deliver the desired effect and doesn’t sound tinny. In fact, if you type while listening to music (like I am right now) you can feel the bass in the keyboard. Even at max volume the speakers on the Galaxy Book S sounds fantastic and don’t clip, which cannot be said for many other laptop speakers.
Display and Build Quality
The Galaxy Book S’s 13.3” display is vibrant and bright. That said, I would prefer a narrower bezel on all four sides, like some of the Dell XPS 13” notebooks. The good thing is that Samsung opted for a touch display on the Galaxy Book S—something I believe all notebooks should offer (even if they don’t have it by default). The display choice does much to determine the laptop’s overall design and footprint because it sets a minimum size of the chassis. Samsung also went for a very small top-mounted webcam, which works fine for video calls but should be upgraded if it hopes to measure up to other high-end notebooks’ cameras. I found the image quality to be satisfactory, but not particularly high quality.
In terms of build quality, the laptop’s metal exterior finish and clean edges feel very premium. The laptop has virtually no flex to it when held in one hand, which means that the laptop is sturdy with very rigid chassis. I also like the laptop’s hinge—however, it cannot be opened with one finger, as the hinge eventually causes the bottom part of the laptop to lift off the table. The hinge otherwise opens smoothly and stays in place regardless of how hard one types, which some laptops have issues with.
Everyone wants to know how good the battery life is on this laptop. I can easily get a solid 2 days of regular work out of the laptop, which amounts to about 8-10 hours per day of usage (or about 16-20 hours of screen-on time). That number does come down a bit if you’re using Chrome heavily with a lot of tabs (about 20) or playing a lot of loud music on it, but I often do not need to recharge it until the end of the second day. It also has multi-day standby battery, which, can sit unused for a week and still have enough charge to get some work done. I have managed to pick it up multiple times after forgetting to charge it and there was still plenty of battery to quickly open a document.
The Samsung Galaxy Book S is the pinnacle of what I’ve seen from Snapdragon on Windows clamshell laptops, in terms of design, build quality, performance and overall user experience. With its light weight and long battery life, I would instantly recommend the Samsung Galaxy Book S to anyone in the market for a primary productivity device. While its original $999 price tag is a bit steep, you can already grab one of these for $899 on ‘Sprint’ aka T-Mobile, or $999 on Verizon without a contract. You can also get it for about $41 a month on-contract on Verizon, in which the payments are spread across 24 months. If you can handle the price, the device comes with significant benefits—namely the constant LTE connectivity, long battery life and incredibly light form factor.