Rapid Review: Samsung Galaxy Book2

Samsung is well know for its smartphones, tablets and computer accessories. But it also produces portable computers. The Galaxy Book2 looks like a tricked up Surface Pro but adds a few decent features although there a few interesting decisions made when it comes to specs. It's a competent machine that could find a place in the mobile arsenal of students and travellers although it's a little under-powered for some applications.

What Is It?

The Samsung Galaxy Book2 is a tablet computer with a removable keyboard and support for Samsung's S-Pen stylus. Unlike the Surface Pro, which it could easily be mistaken for, it boasts a pair of USB-C ports for connecting peripherals and power. Unlike most of the convertible computers on the market, Samsung has chosen a SnapDragon processor rather than the usual Intel chip and comes with Windows 10 S, which you can update to Windows 10 Home for free.

Specifications

Size and weight 287.5 x 200.4 x 7.6 mm, 794g
Display 12-inches running at 2160 x 1440 and 216ppi
Processor SnapDragon 850 Octa-core clocked at 2.9GHz and 1.7GHz
Memory 4GB
Storage 128GB with expansion of up to 512GB via micro-SD card
Communications 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0, GPS, Glonass, 3G and 4G (using nano-SIM)
Cameras Front: 5MP, Rear: 8MP
Ports Two USB-C ports, 3.5mm earphone jack
Security Windows Hello support with PIN and fingerprint scanning

What's Good?

The Galaxy Book2 isn't pitched at those looking for a high-end device that will play the latest games and let you edit complex images and video. It's designed to keep you connected and working as much as possible. And on that score it does very well.

I've been using the Galaxy Book2 with my core apps including Microsoft Word and Excel, Evernote, Slack, Brave (for web browsing) and a simple image editing app. All of those work-related tasks were handled easily by the SnapDragon 850 processor with only very occasional lag when I had a dozen browser tabs open as well as four or five other applications. But even then, the lag wasn't enough to frustrate me.

The display is excellent. It's very clear with text, even in small fonts, easy to read. Images look great as well and I had no trouble watching movies with lots of action in dark settings.

Samsung packs a S-Pen in the box, so you can use the Galaxy Book2 as a digital notepad or drawing tablet.. That worked well although I did encounter a slight issue as the S-Pen sensitivity was set to high which meant I ended up with random squiggles on the screen before the stylus made contact with the glass.

Battery life is pretty amazing for a device in this class. I watched a movie, John Wick, streamed from Netflix in full-screen mode over WiFi, after working for a couple of hours. That ran the battery down from a full charge to just 71%. The next day, I picked up where I left off, this time on 4G, downloaded both Wick movies from Netflix (so I could watch them on a plane) and kept working for another hour. That brought the battery down to 60%.

Based on my use, the Galaxy Book2 will easily manage a full work day between trips to the charge. In flight mode, I'd expect to get through most of a trans-Pacific flight from Sydney or Melbourne to LA or San Francisco.

Charging is over USB-C so if you lose or forget your charger, scoring a replacement is pretty easy - unlike the Surface Pro with its proprietary magnetic charger.

What's Bad?

I didn't have high expectations for the quality of the keyboard. The best word I can use to describe it is "adequate'. It has all the keys you expect and a decent trackpad but I didn't find it very comfortable to use. There's a bit too much bounce for my liking but I did type several thousand words with it and got used to it after a while.

The 4GB of memory limit is also an issue. I suspect that my issues with lag were more to do with memory constraints than processor power. Although the in-built storage can be augmented with a micro-SD card, the 4GB of RAM is a hard limit and there's no factory option for more.

I did encounter a problem with one app - and I suspect this is related to Samsung's CPU choice. I tried to install Apple's iCloud software and the installer wouldn't run, saying it wasn't compatible with this version of Windows. As I'd upgraded from S-Mode to Windows 10 Home it wasn't an OS issue.

Should You Buy It

At $1599, the Samsung Galaxy Book2 isn't cheap but it does include the S-Pen and keyboard as well as support for cellular comms. Although the easy comparison to make is with the lookalike Surface Pro, I think the Galaxy Book might be better compared to the iPad Pro.

On that score, it's far cheaper than either iPad Pro with a keyboard and stylus. And it performs as well as an entry level Surface Pro but throws in cellular comms.

Would I recommend the Galaxy Book2? It's a tricky call. On one hand it performs as expected and makes a decent travelling companion or student machine. On the other hand, the 4GB of memory is a significant limitation and I have concerns about application compatibility.


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