Galaxy Book S: Hands-on review
Exceptional battery life and exceptional lightness are Samsung's latest laptop weapons of choice.
Samsung's Galaxy Book S isn't exactly a new product, having been announced alongside the Samsung Galaxy Note10 last August, but it's finally set to make an appearance on our shores on 31 January 2019.
For $1,699, you'll be able to pick up a Galaxy Book S with 256GB of onboard storage from a variety of retail sellers, as well as the Samsung Store in Australia. It will sell in either a silver/grey or pink gold finish, "Mercury Grey" or "Earth Gold" to be specific, with a supplied grey sleeve case.
Ahead of its local availability, I had the opportunity to spend some hands-on time with the Galaxy Book S. Nowhere near long enough to properly put it through its paces – stay tuned for a full review – but enough time to get first impressions down.
Samsung Galaxy Book S: Early upsides
- It's very light. At 960 grams, the Galaxy Book S certainly won't present much of a problem for my shoulders if I'm using it out and about. It's even lighter than the already-pretty-impressive HP Elite Dragonfly, giving it plenty of potential for heavy travellers.
- The keyboard works well. Samsung hasn't always produced the best keyboards, especially for its tablet devices. There's little of the loose rattly feeling that some of those keyboards presented, with decent key travel and a nice, mostly silent approach to typing.
- Plenty of battery potential. The big selling point for the Galaxy Book S is its battery endurance and "always ready" status. It's running on a Qualcomm 7nm Snapdragon 8cx processor with a 42wH battery and the claim is that it's capable of up to 25 hours of video playback before it's exhausted. Samsung hasn't yet let me test out the Galaxy Book S for 23 hours to actually test that, but Windows 10's own inbuilt battery meter suggested that at a 99% charge, it still had enough power to last out 1 day and 4 hours, actually above Samsung's own estimates. Battery endurance is a key factor for the Galaxy Book S's value proposition without a doubt.
- LTE and storage expansion. I couldn't quite test LTE reception – and notably the setting for the briefing is in an office in Sydney that has terrible mobile data reception – but it's not just equipped with a nano SIM slot. It's also microSD capable for storage expansion too. Samsung is making a few different storage models for the international market, but here in Australia we'll just see the 256GB variant. That really doesn't matter when you can cheaply double that (or more) by dropping in a storage card.
- It has a headphone jack! The Galaxy Note10 that was announced alongside the Galaxy Book S notably dropped the 3.5mm headphone jack, but there's one on the side of the Galaxy Book S for all your cabled headphone needs. Based on some of the speaker testing other journalists were doing just near me, the inbuilt speakers aren't too shabby either.
- Almost no preinstalled shovelware. Plenty of PC makers cut deals with other software makers to include a plethora of often unwanted apps preinstalled on consumer PCs. There are less polite terms for this kind of thing, but I didn't spot anything beyond a few core Samsung apps, including Dex and a battery optimiser built for the Galaxy Book S on board on the review units I tested out. That's a welcome step and I'd much rather fill the storage space with apps of my choosing rather than ones that paid money to be shoved in my face.
Samsung Galaxy Book S: Early downsides
- ARM, not x86. Like the Surface Pro X, the use of a Qualcomm chip brings with it easy LTE and battery sipping technology, but at the cost of "full" Windows 10 compatibility. Some drivers and any 64-bit (x64) apps won't work at all on the Galaxy Book S. That may improve as Microsoft builds out 64-bit emulation for Windows on ARM – we're still waiting – but it's a different prospect to buying a laptop based on an x86 Intel or AMD processor.
- It's not a convertible. The Galaxy Book S opens up like a regular laptop, but the hinge lacks 360-degree flipping capability. So despite the fact that it's touchscreen-enabled, there's no capability to flip it around and use it as a large tablet, which isn't exactly an unusual feature for these kinds of thin-and-light laptops.
- It's a touch tricky to open one-handed. The hinge on the sample model I tested out was pretty stiff and there's a definite learning curve to working out how to open it in a hurry. That certainly means it should last the distance in durability terms, but it's also an issue if you just want to access your laptop in a hurry.
Stay tuned for our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Book S.
Images: Alex Kidman