Pop into PC World or John Lewis and you’d think the 2-in-1 market had gone the way of the dodo. Microsoft’s dominance in the sector has seen its Surface devices take centre stage on the shop floor, but where are its competitors? Samsung it seems, is one brand that’s keen to challenge the status quo, sending not one, but two distinct laptop/tablet hybrids into the ring.
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This is Samsung’s Galaxy Book, and it’s not an Android tablet. Running Windows 10, both flavours of Samsung’s Galaxy Book – 10.6in and 12in – are designed with productivity in mind. These are fully-fledged Windows tablets with clip-on keyboards and true go-anywhere credentials. They’re both sleek, lightweight and powerful, but can Samsung’s Galaxy Book do enough to make a dent in Surface’s market share?
Samsung Galaxy Book review: What you need to know
Samsung’s Galaxy Book has more than a little of the iPad Pro about it. It’s available in either 10.6in or 12in screen sizes, and both join forces with a detachable keyboard and S Pen – the principal difference being that these are included in the box as standard. Inside are Intel’s 7th-gen Kaby Lake processors: a dual-core 2.6GHz Core m3 on the smaller model, and a 3.1GHz Core i5 with the larger. The 10.6in version comes with 4GB of memory and either 64GB or 128GB of eMMC storage, while the larger model gives you the choice of either 4GB or 8GB of RAM and a nippier 128GB or 256GB SSD.
Samsung Galaxy Book review: Price and competition
The Galaxy Book’s obvious competition is Microsoft’s newest Surface Pro. Now in its fifth-generation, the Surface Pro still isn’t the most affordable option: prices start at a lofty £800 for the core m3 model with its 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD. You’ll also have to fork out an extra £150 for the Type Cover, and a further £100 if you’re after the new Surface Pen, too.
If you’re willing to forgo Windows, however, then there’s also Apple’s iPad Pro to contend with. The 10.5in iPad Pro with 64GB of storage will set you back a slightly more affordable £619, but bear in mind that you’ll have to find another £160 for the Smart keyboard, and a further £100 for the Apple Pencil.
For Samsung’s Galaxy Book on the other hand, you’ll have to hand over just £650 for the 10.6in model, and the S-Pen and keyboard are included in the box as standard. The 12in version meanwhile, will set you back £1,100 for the 4GB RAM/128GB model, and £1,270 for the top spec: 8GB of RAM with 256GB SSD.
Samsung Galaxy Book review: Design and features
If you’ve seen Samsung’s TabPro S, then the Galaxy Book will look very familiar indeed – put the two side by side and you’d struggle to tell them apart. One key difference that will catch your eye is that the Galaxy Book’s more powerful hardware has left the chassis looking a little on the chunky side. It now measures 8.9mm thick, which is noticeably fatter than Apple’s iPad Pro or Huawei’s new and improved Matebook E.
Its bland plastic shell isn’t what we’ve come to expect of Samsung of late, though. Its faux gun-metal trim might give off the illusion of aluminium from a distance, but don’t let that fool you: this feels more like a mid-range tablet than a Windows-powered iPad Pro.
As for connectivity, you’ll find the tablet’s solitary USB-C port on the right hand edge, nestled between the 3.5mm headphone jack and microSD card slot. Sitting at the top left is the Book’s power button and volume rocker, while the bottom is reserved for the set of magnetic contacts for connecting the folio-style keyboard.
The Galaxy Book’s keyboard is its stand-out feature, and it’s included in the box for free. It clips on securely, and folds up toblerone-style to the back of the tablet, in a similar way to Apple’s Smart covers. It can only be rested in two positions, though – which means it isn’t always possible to position the display at the most comfortable angle.
Actually typing on the Galaxy Book’s keyboard comes as something of a revelation. It’s far more comfortable than other hybrids I’ve used recently – I sang its praises after a brief stint of using it at MWC, and spending a week with it only cemented my opinion. Its keys are a joy to type on. With plenty of movement to each keystroke, and a satisfyingly clicky feel, this is as good as clip-on keyboards get.
My only complaint is that the keys are a little on the small side, so small in fact, that even my skinny fingers occasionally struggled to press one key at a time. This is a minor complaint mind you, and given the 10.6in Galaxy Book’s dinky size, it’s a downside shared by pretty much every other 10in tablet on the market.
The tiny touchpad is excellent, however. It’s nice and smooth to run your fingers across, and works perfectly in tandem with the long list of Window’s 10’s multi-touch gestures. In fact, despite its slender real estate, it’s perfect in every way.
And then there’s Samsung’s S-Pen stylus to contend with, too. It’s nice and light in the hand, and this makes it easier to make the most of the 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity than with any of Samsung’s styluses before it. What’s more, this year’s S-Pen doesn’t need a battery to work, which is a step forward.
Samsung Galaxy Book review: Display
The display on this 10.6in Galaxy Book is a solid all-rounder. It’s not as instantly impressive as Samsung’s Super AMOLED-equipped Galaxy S8, but colour reproduction is top notch, with bright whites and generously deep blacks. Maximum brightness reaches a respectable 387cd/m2, and a contrast ratio of 928:1 is on the money, too. Colour accuracy is excellent, meanwhile, with an average delta E of 1.64 proving that the Samsung’s panel is capable of reproducing colours accurately.
Both the 10.6in and 12in Galaxy Book share a display resolution of 1,920 x 1,260, which makes for a pleasingly crisp display, but there’s one crucial difference between them. While the Book 10 uses a standard LCD panel, the Book 12 features a Super AMOLED display that also supports HDR, which promises a dramatic bump up in image quality. Rest assured I’ll be updating this review once the larger model lands in Expert Reviews’ Labs.
Samsung Galaxy Book review: Performance and battery life
The 10.6in Galaxy Book is powered by a modest 1GHz Intel Core m3-7y30 processor, 8GB of RAM and 64GB of eMMC storage which expandable via microSD. It’s dramatically less potent than the Intel Core i5-7200U in the 12in model, which comes in two flavours: with 4GB of RAM and 128GB SSD, or 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.
Even the 10.6in model acquits itself well in daily use, though. Windows 10 feels super-smooth, and there wasn’t the slightest hint of lag with touchpad or touchscreen gestures, or day-to-day internet browsing.
In our demanding 4K benchmarks, the Galaxy Book achieved a total score of 25, placing it just ahead of Huawei’s MateBook E. In Geekbench 4, it reached a multi-core score of 5526, and a single-core result of 2946, which puts it in front of the Core m3 Surface Pro scores of 5417 and 2469. It can’t keep up with Apple’s 10.5in iPad Pro, however, which scored 9184 and 3815.
Battery life isn’t a high point. A result of 7hrs 18mins in our video playback test means that the Galaxy Book should have enough reserves to get you through a full working day, at least under light use, but it’s behind its key competitors. The 10.5in iPad Pro (12hrs 59mins) and Asus’ Transformer Mini (11hrs 19mins) last significantly longer in the same test.
Samsung Galaxy Book review: Verdict
Samsung is still keen to deliver a knockout blow against the Surface family, and it’s fair to say that the 10.6in Galaxy Book lands one square on Microsoft’s chin. It might not be the most luxurious-feeling device, but the 10.6in Galaxy Book provides a keen balance of price, performance and usability – and best of all, the excellent keyboard and stylus are thrown in for free. Finally, Apple and Microsoft have some proper competition on their hands.