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
RAM
4GB
Storage
128GB SSD
Display
12-inch, 2160 x 1440 super AMOLED
Stylus and Keyboard
Included
Dimensions
11.3 x 7.9 x 0.3 inches
Weight
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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  • g-unit1111
    Any word on the pricing of this vs a Surface? I would think based on the specs alone that the Surface is the superior device but this looks to be a decent enough alternative.
  • Nintendork
    That piece of junk can't be called an alternative. Haven you seen how cra*ppy ARM performance is in 32bit emulation mode?

    Even on native app arm chips can barely compete with the lowest end of the airmont 3 years old Atom.
  • g-unit1111
    205977 said:
    That piece of junk can't be called an alternative. Haven you seen how cra*ppy ARM performance is in 32bit emulation mode? Even on native app arm chips can barely compete with the lowest end of the airmont 3 years old Atom.


    Maybe the non-Intel i5/i7 Surface models, sure. Although I don't even know if Microsoft makes any of those anymore. Even the Surface Go has a more powerful CPU than an ARM. I definitely would not compare this thing to an actual Intel i5/i7 Surface though.
  • Nintendork
    In fact, Chrome Books are a better alternative, and way cheaper.
  • g-unit1111
    205977 said:
    In fact, Chrome Books are a better alternative, and way cheaper.


    If you're willing to deal with the Chrome OS, then yes. But for those of us that need Windows applications I'd stick with the Surface.
  • hannibal
    This is fine if you use only Win10s mode and only use MS store apps that are native to arm... You you move to real Windows10 and use real windows programs then Surface go is much faster than this. This is just fine if you use internet for example Chrome and you web apps like O365 or Google apps... This very fine device... but in those situations Chromebook is also fine device.
    It all depends on what you want to do with your machine. But running windows programs in emulator mode is not for this!
  • g-unit1111
    60597 said:
    This is fine if you use only Win10s mode and only use MS store apps that are native to arm... You you move to real Windows10 and use real windows programs then Surface go is much faster than this. This is just fine if you use internet for example Chrome and you web apps like O365 or Google apps... This very fine device... but in those situations Chromebook is also fine device. It all depends on what you want to do with your machine. But running windows programs in emulator mode is not for this!


    This device along with the Surface Go allow you to switch to full Windows. It might not be as practical as having something native like the i5/i7 Surface models but it's definitely better than having one that's limited to the app store.

    But as far as Chromebooks go, they may be decent devices but again they are limited by the Chrome OS.
  • jimmysmitty
    537231 said:
    Any word on the pricing of this vs a Surface? I would think based on the specs alone that the Surface is the superior device but this looks to be a decent enough alternative.


    Hell it looks to be a clone. Maybe Microsoft should pull an Apple and sue for the design. I mean it looks spot on with most Surface models.

    Still it is interesting to me to see how much the Surface has inspired design wise. The entire Surface line is pretty killer and took a ton of the spotlight from Apple who used to be the design kings.
  • g-unit1111
    149725 said:
    Hell it looks to be a clone. Maybe Microsoft should pull an Apple and sue for the design. I mean it looks spot on with most Surface models. Still it is interesting to me to see how much the Surface has inspired design wise. The entire Surface line is pretty killer and took a ton of the spotlight from Apple who used to be the design kings.


    It's funny I thought that when I first saw it is that Samsung basically copied all the design aspects of the Surface but changed a few things about it so they didn't outright get accused.

    Yeah I love my Surface, it's replaced all the tablets I used to use. Right now it's hard to consider anything other than a Surface or iPad for tablets.
  • s1mon7
    This is a very disappointing product, considering it's running a weak Snapdragon ARM platform, comes with 4GB of ram, running Windows S.. and for $999?! That's insane.

    I can't imagine why would anyone buy this over anything else in this price range.
  • g-unit1111
    2809234 said:
    This is a very disappointing product, considering it's running a weak Snapdragon ARM platform, comes with 4GB of ram, running Windows S.. and for $999?! That's insane. I can't imagine why would anyone buy this over anything else in this price range.


    Wow, really? $999 for that when I can get a previous gen Surface for $799 and it has a better screen and full Windows? No thanks.
  • markus.ueberall
    I'd be interested to hear about the performance after the switch, with Office 2019 and Adobe Acrobat Reader. If there is no noticeable lag when dealing with larger documents, then this machine might be considered competitive.
  • gunbust3r
    You can get 8GB ram and 256GB+ SSD from anyone else for $1000 or this plus all the headaches of ARM compatibility issues and low performance. But hey it can download your email in standby... Or you can wait 6 seconds after powering up a real device.
  • g-unit1111
    2818478 said:
    I'd be interested to hear about the performance after the switch, with Office 2019 and Adobe Acrobat Reader. If there is no noticeable lag when dealing with larger documents, then this machine might be considered competitive.


    Considerable, there's plenty of better devices out there and I'd far rather have an i5 or i7 than an ARM any day of the week.