Home Computers Samsung Galaxy Book 12 – taking Windows on the road (review)

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 – taking Windows on the road (review)

Samsung’s Galaxy Book 12 is almost the ideal travel companion with an amazing 12” AMOLED display, S Pen, detachable keyboard, and available with 4G LTE as well.

SS GB bothBefore we get into the inevitable Surface Pro comparisons — and some are valid — consider that Samsung is leveraging its Galaxy smartphone and tablet design and manufacturing expertise, and perhaps going after a different Galaxy (market). Have you considered that Samsung got it right for its intended market and Surface got it right for its different market too?

While it has “full-fat” Windows 10 Home, it makes no claims to be a lap/desktop replacement, nor an enterprise laptop. It is first and foremost a tablet with a detachable cover/keyboard and S Pen — both supplied as part of the same package — and uses USB-C. There is another agenda here and it is not to take on the Surface Pro.

It also has a 10.6”, Intel Core m3 version weighing 648g that I think will be increasingly sought after as an Android tablet replacement, an e-reader, and still have access to the full Windows ecosystem. And I have come to learn that Samsung generally reads the market right with its products usually at, or close to, the top of each category.

Samsung ecosystem

I want to follow on the differences between the Microsoft Surface ecosystem and Samsung – and perhaps you will see why comparisons are not so relevant. Really all both have in common is that they run Windows 10.

Samsung collaborates closely with Microsoft – the latter’s Office apps and OneDrive are installed on its Galaxy class smartphones and tablets and things like Samsung Flow give provide login, sync and handover between Galaxy Android phones and Galaxy Windows 10 tablets.

But it goes even further into Samsung’s grand vision for the smart home and it has now bought Windows 10 into that.

So there are valid and unique reasons to buy a Samsung Galaxy Book – not just that it is another Windows 10 device or a Surface competitor as lesser reviewers have dwelled on ad-infinitum.

Out of the box – Samsung Galaxy Book, 12”, Core i5-7200, 4/128GB, Wi-Fi and 4G (SM-W727YZKBXSA)

  • The tablet
  • S Pen (same as the supplied on the Galaxy Tab S3)
  • Spare S Pen nibs
  • Cover/Keyboard and S Pen clip
  • Fast adaptive charger – 5V/2A, 9V/1.67A, 12V/2.1A
  • USB-C to USB-A cable

The tablet is solid, very well made and weighs 745g. The supplied keyboard adds 415g, a total of 1.16kg.

SS GB header

Switch it on and Cortana helpfully guides you through Windows 10 setup (Creators Update), turn off all the “un-privacy” settings, sign into your Microsoft account and you are good to go – a few minutes work.

Then WOW – the 2160 x 1440, HDR capable, Super AMOLED screen comes to life and you can be forgiven for thinking that just about every other screen you have seen is inferior – because they are.

While the Surface Pro and Surface Book have extremely good IPS screens, this is markedly better.

Specifications (10.6” shown for reference)

 

Galaxy Book 10.6

Galaxy Book 12

OS

Windows 10 Home

Windows 10 Home
Win 10 Pro option

Display
Type
HDR

10.6” 1920 x 1080
TFT LCD
No HDR

12” 2160 x 1440, 3:2 ratio
Super AMOLED
HDR

355 nits

Great colour adjustment

10 point multi-touch

Processor

Intel 7th gen Core m3

m-7Y30, 1.0/2.6GHz

Core i5, 7200U, 2.5/3.1GHz

2-core, 4-thread

Intel HD Graphics 620

Support 3 displays

4K @60Hz Display Port

4K @24Hz HDMI 1.4

RAM


Storage
microSD

4GB DDR3
128GB


Up to 256GB

4/128GB SSD (85GB avail on initial boot
8GB/256GB
same

Camera front

5MP, f/2.2

5MP, f/2.2

Camera rear

N/A

13MP, f/1.9
AF

Wi-Fi/Wi-Di
LTE
GPS
BT

AC, dual band, 2x 2 MIMO
Option Cat 6 (300Mbps)
Yes
4.1

Same
Same, Bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 29
Same
4.1

Audio
Mic
3.5mm

Stereo side-firing
Dual Mic right long side
Yes

Stereo side-firing
Same
Same

Battery

4000mAh
Adaptive Fast charge
Up to 9 hours video

5070mAh
Same
Up to 11 hours video

Ports

1 x USB-C 3.1 – for charge and data

2 x USB-C 3.1 – both for charge and data (these are 10 Gbps)

Dimensions

261.2 x 179.1 x 8.9 mm

1291.3x199.8x7.4mm,

Weight
Wi-Fi/LTE

640/650g

754g/1.16kg (tablet/keyboard)

Colour

Silver

Silver

Security

Windows 10 pin/password/picture password

Same

Inclusions

S Pen (Wacom ERM digitiser)
Keyboard cover
USB-C cable
Fast charger 

Same
Same
Same
Same

What’s missing

Windows Hello

Windows Hello

Price

$1,099 Wi-Fi 128GB
$1299 +LTE 128GB

$1,599 Wi-Fi 128GB
$1,799 +LTE 128GB
$1,899 Wi-Fi 256GB
$2,299 +LTE 256GB inc Win 10 Pro

Australian URL

 http://www.samsung.com/au/tablets/galaxy-book-106-sm-w620n/SM-W620NZKAXSA/

 http://www.samsung.com/au/tablets/galaxy-book-12-sm-w727y/

Screen

A good AMOLED screen is a sight to behold – and this is.

 AMOLED is amazing – real blacks, perfect whites, increased colour gamut, infinite contrast, and each of the 3.11 million pixels can be individually controlled allowing High Dynamic Range (HRD) content (when you can get it) to show lost details in shadows and bright areas. Best of all the text is razor sharp.

SS GB flat

It has numerous settings – Adaptive, Cinema, photo, and basic. Cinema really punches the colour up to more than 200% sRGB while Photo is more realistic colour at 98% AdobeRGB. This is more than the Surface Pro and x2 Spectre at 73% each.

It is a fingerprint magnet – buy a micro fibre cleaning cloth.

S Pen

Microsoft believes that a stylus will play an increasing role in the interaction with Windows and the substantial update to Windows Ink in the Creators release is a testament to that. But trust Samsung to up the ante, offering a 4096-pressure level S Pen that does not need batteries.

SS GB pen

Its collaboration with Wacom it draws power from the screen (think Wireless Charging) and can, therefore, have gesture (Air View/Command or hover) and drawing. It’s 2B tip size (.7mm) and it is a nice, responsive tool to use.

Samsng GB StaedtlerA nice touch was the optional STAEDTLER Noris digital “pencil” stylus in its familiar yellow and black, red tipped pencil shape. Something a little different and sentimental.

Palm rejection is perfect, pen comfort is good, and the pencil on paper” feel and to this end the .7mm tip feels a little more like a fountain pen – silky smooth, just the right resistance, and a good feel.

 

SS GB air commandLike a Galaxy smartphone, hovering the S-Pen stylus triggers Air Command: a menu of apps that allows you to ink on the screen and save the result, create a Samsung Note, project an area of the screen to another display, or simply “smart select” a region of the screen.

Smart Select allows you to do three things - select a region of the screen reproduces the Windows 10 Snipping Tool, which you can share or save to your hard drive. But you can also take that area you’ve highlighted and extract the text, handy when used with a photo of a document. Finally, there’s the GIF creator.

It also fully supports Windows Ink and every app using that – the Adobe suite and AutoCAD for instance.

The writing experience is fabulous.

Keyboard Cover

It is a vast improvement over last year’s Windows 10, Tab Pro S – it is actually usable with well-spaced chiclet island keys, a 1.3mm throw and 80g actuation, good tactile feedback, and no annoying neighbouring key bounce (like Surface). The Windows Precision track pad is large enough to cross the screen in one swipe, there is an NFC “pad” on the right palm rest, and it is backlit.

SS GB key

My only niggling complaint is that the keyboard section lies flat on the table — no incline like the Surface — and as such speeds as measured by a typing test were about 75% of what can be achieved on a Logitech Orion G610 mechanical keyboard. Accuracy, however, was just as good.

The keyboard also acts as the stand and cover. It has four angles – most used are 135° (typing) and 165° (almost flat) but it is a little finicky and relies on origami folds and good luck until you get used to it. It is not the best on your lap as the magnetic bonds can easily part. It also allows the keyboard to be folded back behind the tablet (clipboard style) and it disables the keys.

A small warning – the unit with the cover in type mode takes up 30cm depth. It can crowd an airline fold-out table.

SS GB both

I would have loved a Surface-like kick stand, but this works for travel. I think using a Bluetooth keyboard or even a wired one would enable better desktop productivity, but that opens another can of worms about USB-C dongles etc.

Summary: If you are buying it as a travel companion then the keyboard is fit for purpose. If you are looking for a lap/desktop replacement or absolutely need a kickstand look at the Surface Pro 2017 (with the third-party Brydge keyboard) or HP x2 Spectre 2017.

Battery

Samsung claims the 5070mAh battery gives 11 hours on a standard video loop test (HD, 50% screen brightness, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth off etc). I could not replicate that.

I tried an HD video loop at 50% screen and got over 8 hours, but in general office use as a production PC (Office 365, Web browsing, email, notifications) that came down to around six hours. As with any Windows device, you can play with power plans from performance to battery miser.

It has two USB-C ports on the right “short” side that can be used for data and upstream/downstream charging.

Fast charge was excellent but only if it is switched off – giving 50% in about 45 minutes and zero to 100% in just under two hours.

When in use, fast charge seems to barely keep up with power needs giving a full charge in about four hours. You can also use a standard 5V/2A USB-C charger but recharge time is several hours.

USB-C – you must love dongles

Samsung’s $139 Multiport Adaptor supports HDMI 4K output, USB-A 3.0 and has pass-through power charging, including its Adaptive Fast Charge 12V/2.1A. Take care as many so-called pass-through Adaptors don’t support fast charge, only passing through the 5V/2A!

SS GB multiport

If I were to use it as a desktop replacement then Kensington’s SDC4600P USB-C dock at $349.95 with power would be my choice. It has a 60W power supply, supports dual 4K video (own video card – 1 x HDMI and 1 x DP), Gigabit ethernet and various USB connectors. There is a later version supporting Thunderbolt connections as well.

Kensington

If you are not sure about USB-C versions there is a primer here.

Performance

The Intel Core i5-7200U is used by many Windows laptops including Acer Aspire Spin, ASUS ZenBook 3, Dell XPS 13, HP Envy 13, Lenovo Yoga, Toshiba X30 and many more. It has a PassMark of 4693 which is adequate for general office use, movies, Web browsing etc., but it is not a gaming CPU/GPU.

If you are looking for more power, then you may need to go to the x2 Spectre that uses a Core i5-7260U (one step up) with a PassMark of 5782 and Iris Graphics 640.

Interestingly the SSD is a Liteon CV3-8D128 M.2 SATA and not a Samsung product. It is capable of 500/300MB/s read and write. I got around 400/250MB/s.

Wi-Fi Qualcomm Atheros QCA61x4A. This is a rare MU-MIMO, 2 x 2, Wave 2, Wi-Fi chipset that is theoretically capable of 867Mbps. On the test bed, located 20 metres from the D-Link AC5300, triband, MU-MIMO it got 866.7Mbps – pretty damned good. Qualcomm has had time to get its drivers right – they were poor earlier in the year.  

LTE was not tested but it is Cat 6 (300/50Mbps) and has only basic bands 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, and 29.

Sound

This is a basic Realtek drivers sound setup with no customisation. It produces lower than average volume levels peaking out at 64dB and averaging 41dB in speech. This is OK for personal listening, but is a long way off room filling levels.

Bass kicks in at 100Hz and is solid to the mids and then treble falls off from 10Khz. The sound signature is warm and sweet (bass/mids boosted, treble recessed) and a lack of presets to boost treble means it is not the best for listening to podcasts and vocals.

Samsung could do more here including a custom EQ to fix some of the issues. It is not bad sound, but it is not what other tablets achieve.

Camera

No tablet/laptop camera should be entrusted with happy memories – this one does pretty well using the same Sony Exmor RS sensor (not lens) as the acclaimed LG G6 smartphone.

Front: Sony Exmor R IMX241, 2592 x 1944, 5.1MP, 1.12 μm. 3.6mm sensor, Autofocus, HDR capable. No flash.

It is a wide-angle lens that is good for Skype and small huddle groups. Works fine in daylight and office lighting (500 lumens) but adds too much noise in low light and if using digital zoom.

Rear: f/1.9 lens, Sony Exmor, RS IMX258, 4224 x 3144, 13MP, 1.12 μm, 5.9mm BSI sensor, pixel stacked, Phase Detection Autofocus, HDR capable, shoots in RAW and post processed to JPEG. 3860 x 2160 @30fps with digital stabilisation, no flash.

It is the same sensor as used in Sony Xperia XA, Samsung Galaxy J7, LG G6, and OPPO A57 and is a competent daylight to lower light camera. It has very good colours, good blacks, works well down to 200 lumens. It creates 4MB image size in 4:3 and a 3MB in 16:9.

Video stabilisation is available in 3840 x 2160 @30fps (or less). Watch that you don’t cover the microphones when recording video in portrait mode – they are both on the right long side.

Security:

Although not mentioned in publicity it is TPM 2.0 compliant for enterprise, and mobile device management.

It has all the usual Windows 10 security features except Windows Hello and fingerprint. But Samsung Flow allows biometric log in via selected Galaxy smartphones.

Samsung Flow

It is still early days for this app and it will have expanded functionality over time. You download it from Windows Store on the tablet and Google Play on the Galaxy smartphone. Pairing is via Bluetooth. It uses the TPM feature for security.

SS GB Flow

Once paired you can

  • Push any notification from the Smartphone to the PC and vice versa.
  • Login to the PC with a fingerprint on the smartphone.
  • Share a mobile hotspot including autofill over from Wi-Fi to mobile broadband.
  • Share context between devices.

Pros

  • Amazing screen
  • Cover/Keyboard and S Pen included in the package
  • S Pen’s Wacom heritage offers a superior writing and drawing experience
  • Good typing and trackpad experience
  • 2 x USB-C ports
  • Blisteringly fast Wi-Fi AC, when using an MU-MIMO router
  • Surprisingly good rear camera
  • Battery was as good as Surface Pro 4
  • Really a traveller’s companion

Cons

  • No Windows Hello or fingerprint (but Samsung Flow enables smartphone login)
  • Finicky origami type cover and no kickstand so it is not good on your lap
  • Lower sound levels – Samsung needs to work on this and provide an EQ and presets
  • No included USB-C to HDMI/USB-A and pass through charging dongle
  • Would have been nice to see Thunderbolt Gen 3.

Summary

Don’t measure this by the Surface Pro 2017 or HP x2 Spectre 2017 – measure it by what the Samsung package is, and what its ecosystem can, and will offer.

It is not a lap/desktop replacement — a primary PC — but a premium complement to anyone that owns a Galaxy Smartphone and wants to use it as an extension of same.

It is one of those devices that makes it difficult to give a clear recommendation. I have noticed that in early international reviews that these tended to draw unfair comparisons with the Surface Pro – and, as I have gone to pains to point out, it is not one!

But weeks later many of these reviews are fairer and I think that is where this review sits. Once you hook up the expensive, genuine Samsung USB-C Multiport Adapter it starts to really shine as a good all-around computing device.

There’s a lot to love here. The Super AMOLED screen is breathtaking, performance is quite good and the battery life is acceptable for most use cases. The keyboard is one of the better wraparounds and the S Pen has a lot of potential.

Would I buy it? Yes, for the right use – travel, couch potato, movie watcher, and occasional content creator. It is not up to the commercial use case of the Surface Pro 2017 or the HP x2 Spectre but then I don’t think Samsung had that market in mind.

I am going to rate it for what it is – a travel companion with Windows 10 thrown in for productivity – it is a 4 out of 5. 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

 

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