Samsung updates their laptops with the Galaxy Book line, which includes a slew of different laptops with varying degrees of capability. I’m lucky enough to check out the most premium of the bunch — it might be a pricey ultraportable, but it’s capable of going pretty much anywhere even if I’m not. This is the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex.
Sleek from any angle
One of the main draws of the premium Galaxy Book Flex is right in the name — this thing can flex around to one of many different configurations. The laptop form is really obvious, but it’s easy to forget that the hinge can do all of that movement so a quick lift of the laptop might make the screen shoot down the axis. Just keep that in mind.
That said, I’ve found no reason for the laptop to lie perfectly flat, as most of the convertible fun is found after you get past that 180-degree mark. A tent formation puts the QLED 1080p touchscreen up for easy viewing, while getting all the way around make this basically a tablet. Let’s not forget about the included S-Pen, making this a feature rich little laptop. We’ll get more into the S-Pen a bit later, but a quick hot takes is that the Galaxy Book Flex is like taking the Note 10 experience and blowing it up to computer-sized proportions.
The tablet formation is enjoyable mainly because the laptop is so small and sleek. The screen is 13.3 inches large, making this one of the most portable computing devices I’ve ever used. And all of the edges and sides are quite angular and sharp — if anything, it helps when holding the laptop because a secure grip on this fully aluminum body is important especially when using it as a tablet. I’m constantly impressed at how much is packed into this small body, right down to the compact but comfortably spaced keyboard and the port selections, which include a few surprises.
Productive but likes to have fun
Make no mistake — this laptop is best geared toward work. It’s just work you can do in more places than a desktop or larger laptop. The webcam is nice enough for work meetings and casual calls, but it’s 720p quality is lacking. As a secondary device specifically for journaling and script writing, the Galaxy Book Flex has been a very welcome addition. But the keyboard, while spaced well enough, is not exceptional — it is a good enough typing experience for long sessions but I’m admittedly spoiled by my mechanical keyboards so the shallower feel still leaves a little bit to be desired.
One thing that I’m a little peeved by is the positioning of the fingerprint reader. It’s great that it is here at all, especially since there is no Windows Hello to get you into the Windows 10 interface by just looking at the screen — but despite how easy it is to use, the placement required the right shift key to get cut in half. I’ve had worse experiences with small shift keys (AHEM Razer) but there are still few moments here and there when I miss the mark and it ever so slightly irritates me.
Speaking of fingerprints, it is easy to get the aluminum body smudged up with constant in hand travel. And speaking of touches, the touchscreen is responsive and easy to use when scrolling or just pointing at specific things when using the touchpad is just a bit uncomfortable — this mostly happens when I’m not at a desk and the Galaxy Book Flex is on my lap. I don’t normally use touchscreens a lot, but the inclusion of the S-Pen helps makes this a more accessible use case scenario — especially when I’m not using this as a laptop. That said, the touchpad is perfectly fine otherwise.
I did try to do a little bit of graphic and photography work on the laptop and it is okay for light editing. In particular, I used Lightroom to go through some photos and the screen is wonderful for this purpose. While there might be some room for 1080p video editing in programs like Davinci Resolve, I figure it would be good for simple cut editing and it might require proxies for an efficient workflow.
Indeed, as a straight work computer with browser usage, maybe some media viewing, and certain distractions that the S-Pen allows, the Galaxy Book Flex has plenty to offer. Configurations start with 8GB of RAM and 512GB of onboard storage. There is a SD card slot but, perhaps oddly, it’s a tray that comes out using a SIM tool. So I guess you can easily expand the storage, but getting SD cards in and out of places like cameras might end up being a chore.
The Ice Lake processor in here is specifically tuned for light and thin laptops like this, so don’t go expecting this to go too far outside the work environment. That said, it’s not like this laptop is totally incapable of effective play. This processor is bundled with updated Intel Iris Plus graphics, which is more than enough for enjoying all video content, even at higher resolutions despite the 1080p screen. You can push the screen a bit more with color settings and HDR+. For that matter, the speakers blare out of the fan grill on the back, leading to decently loud audio. In gaming, I threw on less graphically intensive games like the new Streets of Rage and it worked just fine. And honestly, if you really wanted to get your game on, streaming solutions like Steam Link are a way to do that.
But Samsung didn’t skimp on the port selection, which is an honest surprise. There is a headphone jack and USB-C port on one side and then the other side with the S-Pen also has two Thunderbolt 3 enabled USB-C ports. All the USB-C ports can be used for charging, but the inclusion of Thunderbolt is a great prospect for those who want to add some extras — a fast Thunderbolt Dock can make up for some of the other ports that are missing, and an eGPU can add in those graphics capabilities that are otherwise missing. While the CPU is still going to be a little bit of a bottleneck for higher intensity games and harder video editing, it’s nice that you can eek out more usage by adding a few extra tools.
And extending capabilities is exactly what the S-Pen is there for. Just like in the smartphone lines, the S-Pen brings with it not just a replacement for your finger, but plenty of other useful features. Signing documents is an obvious scenario. Getting custom screenshots by drawing around subjects is here, as is the Live Message where you can write or draw anything and it becomes a GIF for you to send people. Remote control abilities with the S-Pen also carry over, as the settings allow you to program button presses and gestures for some Windows applications. For the workers, Powerpoint remote control is great — for media viewing like Netflix, you can hang back and not have to reach for the spacebar.
If you do get this laptop, make sure to explore the different capabilities of the S-Pen, as you never know what applications its buttons and gestures will support in the future. But for most users, the S-Pen is still a welcome alternative to smudging up the screen with one’s fingers. It’s as precise as it should be as an input device, effectively bringing the Note experience to a notebook, right down to the coloring and the doodling. It’s nothing new to Samsung’s laptops, of course, but as an added bonus, it’s still an effective differentiator.
Good to go anywhere, even if you’re not
Mobility is definitely the name of the game with the Galaxy Book Flex, as there is even a wireless charging module in the touchpad. The Wireless Powershare here might not be very powerful, but if you’re just taking a break or reading or watching anything, being able to put a phone or your earbud case here is still cool.
Small but nimble and capable laptops like this are always really fun. You might end up paying a premium because of its portability, but that doesn’t mean the Galaxy Book Flex can’t find a home in your many different environments. See, reviewers and creators like me wear a lot of hats — and not just because we’re in quarantine right now and need to hide all the hair we’ve grown. From top to bottom, we’re script writers, video editors, photo editors, mostly casual gamers, and one day when this is all over, we’ll be commuters and travelers again. The Galaxy Book Flex doesn’t fulfill each and every one of those scenarios, but thanks to some extra specs, it can certainly try to be a video editing machine or a gaming PC with some success.
When you’re looking to get productive without being tethered to the desk, the Galaxy Book Flex is still nice to have in the kitchen, the living room, on the couch, or on the porch. This is why we’re picking the Galaxy Book Flex as our Editor’s Choice for versatility and portability.
So that’s why this laptop is the premium one in the newly released Galaxy Book bunch. Putting $1349 down for an ultraportable laptop is a big ask, no doubt — S-Pen fans looking to adapt that experience to a laptop or tablet can find both in this new notebook, but outside of those specific users, you do still get quite a few ways to make this a lasting jack of all trades ultrabook, ready for wherever you bring it when we’re all finally able to go places again. It’s as nimble as you are, even if it’s just around the house.