Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Hands-On: A Shot in the Arm

Credit: Andrew E. Freedman / Tom's HardwareCredit: Andrew E. Freedman / Tom's Hardware

Samsung today announced its newest detachable 2-in-1. The Samsung Galaxy Book 2 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 850-based Windows laptop with Gigabit internet connectivity and LTE. It's a shift from last year's Galaxy Book, which used Intel processors. The Galaxy Book 2 will cost $999.99 when it launches on November 2, including in stores at AT&T in the U.S. with Sprint and Verizon stores to follow later this year.

At an event in New York City, Samsung SVP of product marketing Alanna Cotton hyped the Galaxy Book 2's LTE connectivity and battery life, which she referred to as "multi-workday." The company claims that you can work for 20 hours without charging (that is, if you leave Windows 10 in S Mode).

CPU2.96GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 850
12-inch, 2160 x 1440 super AMOLED
Stylus and Keyboard
11.3 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches
1.9 pounds without keyboard, 2.4 pounds with keyboard
Operating System
Windows 10 Home in S Mode (Can switch for free)

The Galaxy Book 2 will come with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. There's an 8MP camera on the back and a 5MP camera on the front. There are only a few ports, though: two USB Type-C ports, a microSD card slot for expanded storage and a headphone jack. Sound-wise, it has two speakers tuned by AKG with Dobly Atmos technology. Additionally, there's a fingerprint reader on the back near the camera, which was lightning fast when I tried it. Samsung says it also has infrared cameras for facial recognition, but I wasn't able to try it.

Power-users may be disappointed to see that the Galaxy Book 2 will ship with Windows 10 in S Mode, which allows only for apps in the Microsoft Store. You can move to full Windows for free, but Samsung doesn't make the same battery claims there. There's also not a wide range of apps available in the Microsoft Store. It's great if you only need office and a web browser, but if you prefer anything else, you'll want to switch out of S Mode to Windows 10 Home.

The tablet portion has a 12-inch, 2160 x 1440 Super AMOLED display that looked nice and colorful in my short hands-on. But it's surrounded by a rather thick bezel that mars the experience slightly. Typical of Samsung's Windows devices, the Galaxy Book 2 comes in a fairly bland silver. I think it would look nicer in black or, heaven forbid, a few colors like its Galaxy smartphone lineup. The back is a mix of magnesium and aluminum (only on the kickstand) but in a matching finish that keeps things looking uniform.

Unlike the Google's Pixel Slate, the Galaxy Book 2 comes with an included keyboard and stylus. The latter is a plastic, elongated version of Samsung's S Pen. It's notable that those accessories come in the box, as one of Samsung's primary Windows competitors in this form factor, Microsoft's Surface Pro, sells the pen and keyboard separately. That said, the inclusion of these features leads to a higher starting price than the aforementioned competing devices.

While the Galaxy Book 2's keyboard felt fairly snappy in my limited hands-on time, the pen, while functional with 4,096 degrees of pressure sensitivity, felt cheap. The positive there is that the S Pen seems almost impossibly light. And the back side of the stylus serves as an eraser, one of my favorite features of Microsoft's Surface Pen (every Windows stylus should do this). The pen sticks to the side of the Book 2 with a magnet, which is a bit more elegant than last year's solution of a loop attached to the keyboard. And pressing the button on the S Pen when near the display activates Samsung's excellent Air Command software.

Credit: Andrew E. Freedman / Tom's HardwareCredit: Andrew E. Freedman / Tom's Hardware

Qualcomm vice president of product marketing Don McGuire said at the launch event that customers will be able to get devices activated in stores and leave with fully working products, which should make the LTE connectivity aspect easier for customers who haven't hooked up Windows 10 devices to LTE before. Like any LTE device, though, using that data plan will incur a monthly fee. There's a SIM card slot on the left side of the device, but Samsung told me there's no eSIM compatibility.

The biggest complaint about the last generation of Qualcomm-based laptops was that the performance wasn't up to par, so we're looking forward to benchmarking the Galaxy Book 2 and its Snapdragon 850 to see how well it performs. Additionally, some apps didn't work well without the proper drivers (I attempted to install VPN software to no avail), so I'm looking forward to using Samsung's new slate and seeing how well Windows performance and software compatibility has improved.

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