Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Review: No Ordinary Tablet
The Galaxy Book arrives beautifully presented in a black card box with silver foil text and the contents neatly arranged within. This is classy packaging and sets the tone for the premium experience within. In the box, you will find the tablet, keyboard stand, S-pen (with spare nibs) and USB-C charging cable.
The tablet itself is a good size. Coming from a 10" screen previously, the extra 2 inches are a welcome addition. The bezels around the screen are not unexpected for a tablet, but will become more noticeable when connected to the keyboard in laptop mode. The body of the tablet is crafted from beautifully finished aluminium and really oozes premium design. And it's thin. Very thin. This is where the choice of aluminium comes into its own - a plastic body this thin would suffer from serious flex, but the Galaxy Book feels like it can withstand daily life. The crowning glory of the tablet is the screen - a beautiful AMOLED panel and as you'd expect from Samsung, it really doesn't disappoint.
It's nice to see a full set of accessories in the box, all too often other manufacturers keep costs down by charging extra for keyboards and pens. First impressions of the keyboard are great, well thought out design and very practical. The pen seems comfortable, but I do find myself immediately preferring the Noris Digital Staedtler pencil (it must be the nostalgic designer in me!).
The Galaxy Book takes on the tried and tested tablet form, but with a few premium additions. From the front, the tablet would be unassuming were it not for that beautiful AMOLED screen which steals the show. A mirrored Samsung logo adorns the bezel below the screen and a camera sits on top. Some will bemoan the size of the bezels - which we know can be reduced to millimetre proportions, but I feel the bezels are needed in a tablet format to grip the unit without interfering with the screen. From the back, the silver aluminium is only interrupted by a central mirrored Samsung logo, the rear camera and the usual Intel sticker. The edges of the aluminium are rounded to provide a comfortable hold and to accentuate the wafer-thin design. Around the sides you'll find the SD card slot (covered) the magnetic Pogo pin connector, USB ports, headphone jack, power and volume buttons. You'll also find the speaker/fan grilles as this is a full-fat i5 processor, not a fanless atom chip.
Samsung have opted for a keyboard stand rather than a built-in kickstand. This reduces the thickness and weight of the tablet and keeps the design clean. The keyboard attaches to the screen with a magnetic Pogo connector (which also provides power to the keyboard). I was dubious of the strength of this connection at first, but I haven't had any problems. The keyboard is backlit, has individual chiclet keys with a good amount of physical travel and is well spaced. The multi-touch trackpad is large and faultless in use. The keyboard also contains an NFC chip to connect your phone to the tablet. Unfortunately, this only works with Samsung Galaxy phones so I was unable to test it (The Samsung Flow app syncs the phone and tablet, display notifications and utilises the fingerprint scanner on the phone to login to the tablet). All this is packed into a very thin package that adds very little size and weight to the tablet. The keyboard is just rigid enough to be used on a lap, but it is more ideally suited to harder surface.
The keyboard also acts as the stand for the screen when in laptop or supported tablet mode. In both positions, you can choose from 3 viewing angles which is held in place by strong magnets. I've always managed to find a comfortable angle and never had a problem with the magnets slipping. In tablet mode, the keyboard is tucked underneath the screen and you have the 3 angled options again. Cleverly, in this mode the keyboard is de-activated to prevent accidental keystrokes.
The Galaxy Book is equipped with the latest Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections (a cellular version is available with a sim-card tray), as well as the new USB Type C. An SD card slot is located on the left-hand side beneath a cover, and the USB and headphone jack on the right. These are dangerous times for the 3.5mm headphone jack, but Samsung has given it a stay of execution on the Galaxy Book and I'm delighted - especially as I'm already faced with the prospect of upgrading all peripherals to USB-C. Speaking of USB-C, the Galaxy book has 2. The development of USB-C has come at the perfect time for the Galaxy Book. A year ago, this tablet would have had to include USB ports, a charger port and HDMI-out as a minimum, now this has all been replaced by USB-C. Either port can be used for charging (charging speed seems very quick) and they are spaced well away from each other meaning dongles and hubs don't get in the way. The downside of the USB-C revolution is that it's not compatible with previous standards, so adapters will be required (an adapter wasn't included in the box, but I have read reviews where an adapter was included).
I didn't do any benchmarking tests, but I did look some up and the Galaxy Book compared favourably to similar 2-in-1's. I have been testing the 4gb ram/128gb SSD model and I haven't had any problems or slowdowns and I've tried Photoshop and even SolidWorks CAD (albeit simple models). If I were buying I would probably choose the 8gb ram model which would offer better performance/longevity for a small premium given that the inners are none-upgradeable. On first use I was surprised to hear the whirring of a fan, which would be expected from a laptop, but not in a tablet form. This is due to the i5 processor which requires more cooling. The fan is not constant and only kicks in during demanding tasks.
The inclusion of the i5 processor means this is far more powerful than your average tablet, but that comes at a cost to the battery. In order to keep the tablet slim and light it cannot accommodate a large battery like a laptop, so although the battery life isn't bad, it isn't going to last as long as more basic tablets, or a stand-alone laptop. That said, I wasn't reaching for the charger more than once every couple of days with fairly heavy use.
far more powerful than your average tablet
I have mentioned previously about the screen, but it's worth reiterating - it's beautiful. HDR, AMOLED, bright and great viewing angles - it really is a shame to touch this screen and get fingerprints on it! Video content looks amazing, and is backed by some pretty decent stereo speakers. Although the 3:2 aspect ratio isn't perfect for movies (you will either have black bars top and bottom, or clipped sides) I think this is the best all-round shape to suit web browsing, reading, gaming, spreadsheets etc.
The S-Pen really sets this tablet apart from the competition. This is no simple stylus, it's a fully-fledged pressure sensitive digital drawing tool. As a basic pen, it integrates well with Windows 10, allowing you to scribble notes on webpages, create hand-written to-do-lists, and write rather than type (the handwriting recognition is surprisingly good). As a designer, I was keen to try out the pen in the Adobe Creative Suite. Photoshop and Illustrator take the pen to the next level, allowing the user to create hand drawn sketches with pressure sensitive brush strokes - the results are amazing! This feature makes the Galaxy Book a must for creatives, but I can also see the annotation aspect being useful for business use, particularly if you do a lot of editing and proofing. The pen isn't powered, so no batteries required, it's comfortable (although I do prefer the Noris Digital Staedtler pencil) and several spare nibs are included in the box.
By now we're all used to Windows 10, the best Windows yet for touch, converts nicely from laptop to tablet and has good tools for the pen. I was pleased to see the Galaxy Book comes with very little extra software installed other than the S-Pen tools, Samsung Flow (for connecting with a Galaxy Phone) and Sketchbook. I would have hoped to have seen Microsoft Office included, but this was not the case.
The Galaxy Book is a fantastic achievement in engineering and design, bring together the best of Samsung in one product. It is the best tablet/laptop hybrid I have used to date and I think it will tick most of the boxes for people looking for an ultra-portable media and work machine. What I like most about the Galaxy Book is that it is a tablet first and foremost - tablet size, tablet shape, great display, good sound, light and portable. The laptop boxes are ticked with the choice of premium components (i5 processor, USB-C ports, S-pen, Windows 10) and the well-designed keyboard. This premium experience comes at a price, and I still find myself thinking if I were buying I'd spend that little bit more and get the 8gb ram version to future-proof my decision.