The Samsung Galaxy Book seems to be this year’s successor to Samsung’s Galaxy TabPro S that we reviewed last year. Instead of calling this the Galaxy TabPro S2, Samsung decided to give it a new name, and I kind of like it. Samsung’s Galaxy Book name goes along with Microsoft’s Surface Book and Huawei’s Matebook and that is probably the product category that it really belongs in. The Galaxy Tab name probably resonates more as an Android tablet category for many people. But there’s not much in a name… The Galaxy Book is Samsung’s latest foray into the 2-in-1 full Windows 10 capable tablet PC market, and it has some huge improvements over the TabPro S Samsung released last year. Practically every negative aspect of the Galaxy TabPro S has been addressed and improved upon.
Incidentally, this review is going to be about the 12″ version of the Galaxy Book, but there will also be a smaller, less-expensive version with a 10″ screen. Keep reading to learn more about Samsungs latest “tablet that can replace your laptop.”
The Samsung Book is available in a few different versions. The one we’re reviewing is a fairly high-end model. First of all it’s got a 12″ Super AMOLED full HD+ (2160 x 1440 pixel) screen and a 7th generation Intel Core i5 7200U dual core 3.1Ghz processor. We’ve also got 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD storage, a 13 megapixel rear camera, and a 5 megapixel front camera. By the way, 203GB of free space is available on the 256GB SSD at first boot. We’ve also got the usual WiFi, Bluetooth radios, and it comes with a keyboard cover/case and the S-Pen. We’ve also got 2 USB-C ports so you can charge the battery and connect something else at the same time. It’s too bad USB-C wasn’t designed to be as forward-thinking as it should have been. The 12″ models have a 39.04W battery with Fast Charging support which lasts about 11hrs. The dimensions are 291.3 x 19.8 x 7.4mm and it weighs 754 grams.
The 12″ version is also available in a version with an LTE radio plus 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD, as well as another WiFi version with 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD.
There’s also a smaller version of the Samsung Galaxy Book with a 10.6″ TFT 1920 x 1280 pixel screen and a 7th Gen Intel Core m3 dual core 2.6Ghz processor. That version is available with 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB eMMC storage. It also only has a 5 megapixel front facing camera (no rear), and only 1 USB-C port. It’s also naturally smaller and lighter.
Note that both versions are slightly thicker than the 6.3mm thick Galaxy TabPro S from last year.
The Galaxy Book does away with the super flat back that the Galaxy TabPro S had (with its big camera bump) and instead features a single metal backing with very smooth, comfortable, rouded edges. It’s a very nice change.
That Super AMOLED screen is gorgeous. The blacks are so so black that it totally blends in with the bezels of the tablet. Cranking up the screen brightness doesn’t change the blacks either. It’s all completely smooth black all the time. The Galaxy TabPro S had the same type of screen and there’s nothing new about it here, but it’s still great to have. The screen is also very shiny so there’s going to be a lot of fingerprint smudges as well as a lot of glare if you’re trying to use it in a well-lit area.
The included keyboard cover is a huge improvement over what was included with the Galaxy TabPro S. This keyboard feels much more professional. The keys are nicely spaced, they have great vertical movement, and even a nice click to them. The trackpad is much larger than what we had on the TabPro S, too. It’s much easier to use if you’re stll using a trackpad instead of the touch screen or S-Pen stylus. The track-pad works well enough. It supports the Windows 10 gestures for quickly accessing task view (three fingers swipe upwards), scrolling/panning (two fingers moving parallel in any direction), and zoom (pinch or expand two fingers).
On the inside of the keyboard cover there is a little illustration showing the 4 different ways you can fold it into a stand for different screen display angles.
The most upright display angle is the most stable on a desk or table. The flap folders under the back and keeps everything standing up nicely.
Two of the display angles use magnets to adhere the stand flap to the back of the tablet. If you remember, this is similar to how the Galaxy TabPro S’s stand worked, except that had much weaker magnets and a folding design that could easily cause the tablet to fall over while touching the screen. These magnets are much stronger and the folding design is made to transfer the pressure on the touch screen more directly into the table. It’s a very welcome change and much improved over Samsung’s previous design.
The keyboard cover nicely protects the front and back of the tablet, but the edges are prone to gettnig banged up and the flexible material is a bit slippery.
The keyboard attaches to the tablet via magnets and the above 5 pin connector. It’s a different connector than the Galaxy TabPro S, so don’t think that you’ll be able to get the new Galaxy Book keyboard and use it with the Galaxy TabPro S.
We now have two USB-C ports on the 12″ Galaxy Book! This is a great addition since now you can plug in a charger and something else like a secondary display, external drive, port expander, or whatever. Personally I’m still not sold on USB-C as many things are still not universal. I would have rather seen a USB-A port as that’s still more widely used (and the USB-C to USB-A adapters I have sometimes don’t work). Oh, and there’s a 3.5mm TRS audio jack here too.
The top edge has the power button and volume toggle button. There’s no longer a Windows/Start key on the device like there was on the TabPro S.
On the left edge there’s a little drawer where you can install a Micro SD card for expanding storage. The drawer is opened by pushing a small (included) pin into the hole to pop it out. This is another huge improvement over last year’s Galaxy TabPro S. On the LTE version of the Samsung Galaxy Book, there would also be a SIM card tray area in here.
The camera bump is much reduced and the quality has been increased, but it’s still not great. Really you shouldn’t be using a tablet to take photographs anyway, so don’t worry about it. The 10″ version nicely does away with the rear facing camera completely.
The Samsung Galaxy Book is the first Windows 10 tablet to include Samsung’s “S-Pen” technology that’s been widely used on the Note series of phablets. Actually, the S-Pen technology partly belongs to Wacom as Samsung licenses some of Wacom’s digitizer tech to use in S-Pen compatible screens. The Microsoft Surface Pro 1 and 2 also used Wacom technology as have many other Windows tablet PCs of the past. What’s different with the S-Pen is that Samsung has done a lot on the software side and Wacom’s control panel software is nowhere to be seen.
You get a pen-loop thing in the box with the Galaxy Book that you can stick to the back of the keyboard cover. It’s nice that this is optional since some users may not really care about using the pen or carrying it around all the time.
It’s not a super elegant or attractive method of attaching the S-Pen, but it works as long as you insert the S-Pen in the right direction and use the clip to keep it in place. Otherwise it will be loose and probably fall out. Personally, I wish the tablet had an S-Pen silo where it could be hidden inside the edge of the tablet.
Above is the safest way to keep the S-Pen attached to the Galaxy Book. It’s not easy to insert and remove the stylus in this configuration though. The Surface Pro’s magnetic edge is a little better, but I really like the Wacom Mobile Studio‘s little pen holder clip that holds it upright for quick access. The S-Pen is plastic, but the clip at the end is metal, so if you want you can actually stick it to the back of the tablet or on the front bezel where the magnets are, but this isn’t terrible secure as the S-Pen will spin and dangle. Still, sticking it to the bezel makes for pretty easy access while set up on a desk or table.
The S-Pen has one button that you can configure in Samsung’s Settings app. Unfortunately there are very few customization options. You can set the button to launch Samsung’s “Air Command” software or Microsoft’s Ink Workspace, or nothing. None of those options are terribly useful really. I’d like at least a “right click” option to be configurable too. I miss having an eraser on the other end too.
Incidentally, the palm rejection for the S-Pen on the screen takes some getting used to. Many times I’ve rested my hand against the screen to find that pressing buttons with the pen tip doesn’t work. Having the pen within range of the screen’s digitizer does not automatically reject the touch interface if the touch interface is currently active (you’re touching the screen). So you really have to get the pen tip close to the screen first before you rest your hand on the screen to write or draw. Wacom’s tablets, pen displays, and pen computers generally give the stylus priority when it’s within range, but that’s not the case with the Samsung Book.
The Samsung Galaxy Book comes with Windows 10 Home pre-installed. Oddly, it did not come pre-installed with the Windows 10 Spring Creators Update. Windows 10 is probably the most feature-rich operating system especially for tablet PC convertibles (AKA 2-in-1’s). It can easily switch between an interface designed mainly for touch that uses gestures and large active areas for controlling programs and snapping them side by side… and the more conventional desktop Windows style interface that gives you a small start menu in the corner along with infinitely resizable overlapping application windows like you’ve been used to since 1995. This is also one of the most mature tablet operating systems out there since Microsoft unveiled the first Windows tablets in 2002 running Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.
The Galaxy Book now gets Samsung driver and firmware updates through Windows Update where as the Galaxy TabPro S had a separate background program for getting those types of updates directly from Samsung. Having the updates integrated with Windows Update and the Microsoft Store is certainly a better experience.
Samsung also includes some special software integrated with Windows 10 on the Galaxy Book. First up is Samsung Flow. This is an app that hooks into the “Windows Hello” biometric log-in system to use a Bluetooth-connected Samsung Galaxy S6 (or newer) smartphone fingerprint reader to log-in. If you don’t have a Samsung Galaxy S6 or newer smartphone, you’ll have to use a PIN, password, or picture password to log in.
Samsung Flow also has some other great features though. It can load all of your phone’s notifications into a window on the Galaxy Book, and Samsung has enabled reply capabilities for some of them like SMS and WhatsApp. The software also enables you to use a Samsung Galaxy S smartphone as a hotspot without having to turn it on through the phone. So there’s some really nice integration there.
There’s also a “Book Settings” app that controls certain special features. It’s too bad this couldn’t have been integrated with the normal Windows 10 Settings app.
There are other Samsung customizations integrated with Windows 10 on the Galaxy Book. Seen above is a Battery Life Extender option that shows up in the “Extras” section of the native Windows 10 Settings window. You’ll also see a “Pattern Log-in” option and AMOLED settings here.
The AMOLED settings area lets you customize the color balance, saturation, and sharpness of your display. There’s also a new “Smart dimming” feature that turns on the camera to attempt to detect your face before dimming to save battery. If it does detect your face and understands that you’re currently looking at the screen, it won’t dim.
We mentioned Samsung “Air Command” earlier and above is what that looks like. It’s a few extra S-Pen stylus features that you can access with the button on the S-Pen. Smart select is a type of screen capture utility that also does animated GIF recording and lets you record or capture only a specific part of the screen. Screen write is another screen capture utility that also lets you write on the image with a number of pen tools. The “Create Note” and “View all Notes” buttons go to the “Samsung Notes” app, which is a very basic note taking app. It doesn’t seem to syncronize with anything, so really you’re better off using the much more powerful, free, and platform agnostic Microsoft OneNote.
Office 2016 Home & Student Edition is pre-installed as a trial. If you already have an Office 365 subscription, of course you can simply log-in to activate Office instead of using the trial. All of those programs run beautifully and have no match in terms of functionality on Android or iOS platforms. There are also a few games pre-installed on the Start screen. Candy Crush Soda Saga, Asphault 8, Fallout Shelter, March of Empires, Royal Revolt 2, and Microsoft Solitaire Collection are all there. It’s easy to uninstall them with a tap-and-hold to the context sensitive menu.
Adobe Creative Suite 2017 runs beautifully with the 7th generation Intel Core i5 CPU, and Photoshop does support the tilt sensitivity in the S-Pen stylus. Interestingly, it only recognizes the tilt angle when the pen tip is touching the screen. That’s different from Wacom tablets, pen computers, and pen displays which normally recognize the pen tilt angle when the pen is hovering over the screen. I don’t think that’s an actual problem, just something different from what I expected. An actual problem would be that the tilt direction is not quite recognized correctly. Incidentally, Corel Painter 2017 also supports the tilt sensitivity, but not by default. You’ll have to go into the Preferences and change the tablet preference to “RTS-compatible device” and “Windows Multi-touch”. It would seem Samsung has not included Wintab drivers to support older pressure sensitive drawing programs, but the newer APIs seem to be working well at least for pressure sensitivity. Tilt sensitivity direction is way off in Painter 2017 and doesn’t work at all in Adobe Illustrator 2017.
The 12″ Samsung Galaxy Book now has an improved 13 megapixel rear camera along with a 5 megapixel front facing camera. The resolution is plenty for high-definition Skype video calls or capturing something that you want to save in OneNote, but taking photos or videos with this tablet out in public is not recommended. The image quality is not so great, plus it’s a giant faux pas to hold up a big tablet in front of you to take a photo.
Regardless, here’s a few sample images from both the front-facing and rear-facing cameras on the Samsung Galaxy Book.
Compared to Galaxy TabPro S
The Galaxy Book’s screen looks exactly the same as the Galaxy TabPro S’s screen and that’s a good thing. They’re both gorgeous. You can see that the Galaxy Book’s keyboard has much better spacing between the keys. It feels a lot better to type on as well. Also note the much larger track pad.
On the left above you see the Galaxy TabPro S’s keyboard stand which adhears via magnets at the top edge. On the right you see the redesigned keyboard stand for the Galaxy Book which is much more stable and much more secure.
The Galaxy TabPro S on top is slightly thinner than the Galaxy Book though the new keyboard cover is a bit thinner on the Galaxy Book versus the older TabPro S’s keyboard.
As always battery life is a relative term depending on what kind of CPU intensive programming you’re going to do along with your screen brightness, but Samsung says you should get about 11 hours of constant video watching on one full charge. Obviously if you do a lot of editing HD video, or batch processing hundreds of RAW photographs, the battery life is going to suffer a bit, but in using the Samsung Galaxy Book, we have found no need to carry the charger around during the day. And if you do find the battery running low, Samsung’s USB-C fast charging will get you fully charged up after only 3 hours of charging.
The 12″ Samsung Galaxy Book is available with 4GB RAM & 128GB SSD for $1129.99, or 8GB RAM & 256GB SSD for $1329.99. There’s also a Verizon LTE version of the 12″ Galaxy Book with 4GB RAM & 128GB SSD for $1299.99.
The 10.6″ Samsung Galaxy Book is available with 4GB RAM & 64GB storage for $629.99 or 4Gb RAM and 128Gb storage for $729.99. Remember, the 10.6″ model has a TFT LCD screen instead of Super AMOLED. It also has an Intel Core m3 processor and only a front-facing camera, too.
In all aspects, the Samsung Galaxy Book is an improvement over last year’s Galaxy TabPro S. The keyboard is much better, the stylus is much better, the trackpad is much better, the stand is much better, 2 USB-C ports is much better, having a MicroSD card slot is much better… the Super AMOLED screen is about the same, but much better than most other Windows 10 tablet screens. Pricing wise, the Galaxy Book is about on par with other comparable 2-in-1 Windows 10 tablet PCs like the Surface Pro 4 once you factor in the price of a clip on keyboard. Samsung even smartened up about the range of models they’re making available, too. The Galaxy TabPro S was only available in one configuration. With the Galaxy Book, you’ve got 5 options with prices between $629.99 and $1329.99 to fit your budget. It’s great to see Samsung stepping up their Windows 10 tablet game this year and the Galaxy Book is a worthy competitor.