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Samsung Galaxy Book (12-inch) review: A great Windows tablet that just scratches the Surface

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The Good The Samsung Galaxy Book has an excellent screen, strong performance and long battery life. For a 12-inch tablet, it's compact. A keyboard cover and stylus are both included.

The Bad It can get hot if multitasking for a long time. The keyboard case is wobbly if not sitting on a sturdy surface. The kickstand situation isn't as solid as the Surface's.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy Book beats the Surface on value by including a keyboard cover and stylus in the box, but the Surface's design is still much more refined.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Battery 8

The Samsung Galaxy Book rightfully belongs on the quickly growing list of impressive Microsoft Surface Pro contenders.

It's a Windows 10 tablet with a stunning 12-inch Super AMOLED display, Intel's latest processors and detachable keyboard cover with stylus. It starts at $1,130 for the Wi-Fi-only version and $1,300 for the LTE model, sold via Verizon, which was the configuration we reviewed. Samsung offers a 10-inch variant that runs for $630, but this review is of the 12-inch model.

Though it's seemingly more expensive than the latest Surface Pro's entry-level $799 starting price, that price doesn't include the $129-to-$169 keyboard cover or the $99 stylus pen. (Microsoft requires you to buy the must-have keyboard for the Surface line separately.)

samsung-galaxy-book-5296-034.jpg

Samsung bundles the Galaxy Pro with a keyboard and stylus.

Josh Miller/CNET

The Galaxy Book makes no bones about its price tag -- it's expensive but still roughly comparable in price to the Surface Pro with keyboard and stylus. The bad news is that the Galaxy Book's design falls short of the Microsoft tablet.

The Surface tablet and its accompanying keyboard's physical design are among the best. Its perfectly adjustable kickstand and slim magnetic keyboard cover are excellent. Samsung's large and floppy keyboard stand just doesn't stand a chance in comparison. If it wasn't placed on a completely flat surface, it bent easily, and using it on my lap required careful balancing, otherwise it would topple over.

samsung-galaxy-book-5215-017.jpg

The S-Pen stylus also comes with the Galaxy Tab S3.

Josh Miller/CNET

Body like an Android

Unlike other two-in-one Windows 10 tablets, the Galaxy Book's svelte dimensions make it look and feel more like an Android tablet than a Windows 10 PC.

Removed from its cover, the Galaxy Book is slightly more svelte than the Surface Pro 4. It's 7.36mm thick and weighs 1.66 pounds (754 grams), versus 8.5mm and 1.69 pounds (766 grams) for the Surface Pro. Smooth, rounded edges help convey the visage of its seemingly slimmer facade.

samsung-galaxy-book-5319-040.jpg

Rounded edges make it appear slimmer.

Josh Miller/CNET

While its chassis is more iPad-like than Surface-esque, it's still a big device. As a standalone tablet, it's too big and heavy to hold in your hands and watch a half-hour of "The Office," let alone an entire movie. The fanless tablet also got rather hot when used for a long period of time, making it uncomfortable to hold. It all makes the included keyboard case accessory, which doubles as a stand, an even more important addition.

Accessories included

One of the Samsung Galaxy Book's biggest advantages over the Surface Pro line is that it comes with a keyboard case and stylus.

samsung-galaxy-book-5177-007.jpg

The keyboard case protects the screen without adding too much bulk.

Josh Miller/CNET

The tablet magnetically docks into the folio case, and the back flap can fold back into a stand. There are few different configurations, but thanks to the awesome screen quality, viewing angles are great no matter how it's set up.

While the keyboard chassis is buttery smooth and pleasant to touch, its plastic build lacks the refinement of Surface Pro. One of the perks of the Surface is its well-designed kickstand, which can position the screen at nearly any angle, all the way to 165 degrees. The Galaxy Book lacks a kickstand, instead using its keyboard cover to prop the body up, and it feels floppy and vulnerable to bending if not set on a flat surface.

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The keyboard folio case is nothing to write home about.

Josh Miller/CNET

Because the keyboard covers the entirety of the 12-inch tablet's screen, it's pretty big. If it wasn't placed on a completely flat surface, it would feel wobbly to type on, lifting easily if more pressure was put on one side than the other. When typing with it on my lap, it felt like the keyboard easily bent, and since the tablet leans back onto the stand, it's sometimes hard to balance.

The Galaxy Book comes with the same S-Pen stylus that's packaged with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 ($400 at Amazon). I liked using it with the Android tablet, and I can say the same with this Windows 10 model. It works quite well for sketching and taking notes. The stylus has a precise tip made out of rubber that feels more like drawing on paper than writing on glass, and it supports tilt, for thicker lines when drawing at an angle.

It doesn't require charging or pairing via Bluetooth, so it's a conveniently low-key accessory. Unfortunately, the stylus doesn't magnetically connect to the tablet. Storage is left to the pen holder available on the keyboard case. However, as a concession, the S-Pen has flat sides to help prevent it from rolling off your desk and a built-in clip in case you want to safely store it elsewhere. (You know, like in your nerdy pocket protector...)

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The S-Pen doesn't magnetically connect to the tablet. Instead the keyboard has a pen holder.

Josh Miller/CNET

High-end internals

The Galaxy Book has an AMOLED display, which is essentially the same as the OLED displays found in the high-end TVs. Image quality looks clear, bright and sharp, even from extreme side angles. A great viewing angle isn't hard to find.

It makes for a great portable TV, with speakers located on the top-right edge and top-left corner, and sound quality is loud enough for watching with another person, though nothing to write home about.

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The Galaxy Book's Super AMOLED screen is probably better than your TV screen.

Josh Miller/CNET

Performance was robust enough for casual tasks like editing a Word doc, web surfing and HD video streaming, as well as multitasking while doing any combination of the aforementioned activities. Apps launched quickly, even in split-screen mode, and navigation was snappy.

The system stuttered at times, especially when multiple apps were open in the background. Chrome crashed for me a handful of times too. Microsoft's Edge web browser performed a lot more smoothly.

Specs

  • 2,160x1,440-pixel resolution
  • 3.1GHz dual-core seventh-gen Intel Core i5
  • 4GB or 8GB of RAM
  • 128GB or 256GB of storage
  • MicroSD card slot expandable up to 256GB
  • LTE models available
  • Two USB-Type C ports

Samsung claims that the Galaxy Books lasts up to 11 hours of video playback. After testing, it averaged 10 hours and 40 minutes of streaming video. With heavy use it lasted me about 5 hours -- simultaneously operating multiple windows while websurfing, working on Google Docs and streaming video.

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Book is a top-shelf Windows tablet with a price to match. Its robust processing power, high-end display and essential add-on accessories make it one of the best tablet-hybrids.

Unfortunately, it just doesn't nail productivity-centered design as well as the Microsoft Surface. Powerful performance and a compact build, isn't enough to dethrone the impeccably constructed Microsoft Surface as king of the PC hill. But, it's hard to understate just how much better it feels as a consumer experience to get the must-have keyboard and stylus included, rather than being forced to buy them separately and at premium prices.

Samsung Galaxy Book

Price as reviewed $1,300
Display size/resolution 12-inch, 2,160x1,440 touch-display
PC CPU 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-7200U
PC Memory 4GB DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620
Storage 128GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Multitasking multimedia test 3.0 (in seconds)

Samsung Galaxy Book
458
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12
510
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
519
Lenovo Miix 510
618
Huawei MateBook
825

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 3 multi-core

Samsung Galaxy Book
6,864
Microsoft Surface Pro 4
6.775
Lenovo Miix 510
6,361
Acer Aspire Switch Alpha 12
6,331
Huawei MateBook
5,293

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

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