Price (RRP): $1699
The Samsung Galaxy Book S is a 13.3” laptop – built on Qualcomm’s SD8cx ARM chipset with an X24 LTE modem. It has all the advantage of ARM – great battery life, instant-on, LTE and the productivity of Windows on ARM.
The Samsung Galaxy Book S is Samsung’s second 2019 Windows on ARM (WoA) offering in an ultra-light clamshell design. The first was the Surface Pro like Galaxy Book 2 (review here), 4/128/LTE in a hybrid tablet design – with its 12” Super AMOLED screen and detachable keyboard that at $1699 is perfect for travellers.
The Samsung Galaxy Book S is a little more traditional. Let’s find out why.
Samsung Galaxy Book S
- Australian website here
- Manual here
- Warranty: 2-years
- Price: $1699 from Samsung Stores, JB HiFi and major retailers
First impression – Mercury Grey or Earthy Gold
The Samsung Galaxy Book S is thin, light and a clamshell. Don’t let my bias for a Surface-like 2-in-1 Hybrid fool you – this is one very attractive device that you cannot help but like.
And at 305.2 x 203.2 x 6.2-11.8mm (thinnest to thickest) x 961g its light as a feather.
Please forgive us if any tests are incomplete – our test suite does not work correctly on Windows on ARM.
Reset your expectations, if not your price expectations as well.
If you feel that $1699 is a lot for what is essentially a ‘big always-connected phone’, then that will also buy some great Intel and AMD notebooks like the Surface Laptop 3 (13.5”, i5), or a MacBook Air that offer more power, bigger screens, shorter battery life and more weight.
Sure it is not perfect – and will be the same with any Windows on ARM device – there are some limitations on software and apps it can run. I don’t want to go into detail suffice to say it runs Office 365, any Windows 32-bit app, any browser-based app, and any Universal Windows Platform ‘UWP’ code. It is perfect for productivity and content consumption – what 99% use PCs for.
If you have 64-bit, CPU intensive tasks like CAD, Photoshop, or any graphics-intensive tasks go Intel/AMD. It also does not run VPNs (a TAPI issue that is yet to be solved), and the only antivirus is Windows Defender. Older USB devices are out, especially those that need legacy drivers or BT devices with a ‘pin’ to connect.
And you are going to need USB-C dongles to connect USB-A, HDMI, and more.
As WoA takes hold, these issues will reduce, but it is not yet an Intel/AMD x86 killer.
The screen is 1920 x 1080, 166 ppi, 16:9 TFT touch screen – it is quite bright, reflective (not so good outdoors) and not as saturated as the Super AMOLED on Samsung’s phones and tablets.
We can’t understand why Samsung would not use an AMOLED. Our test software reveals it is from BOE, a Chinese made TFT LCD. It was developed by BOE to deliver better brightness, colours, and viewing angles.
You can debate about 16:9 (as this is) or 16:10 or even the Galaxy Book2’s AMOLED 3:2 ratio, but we assure you it is one of the better 1080p screens we have seen.
Our best ‘guess’ screen stats are:
- Nits: 300
- Contrast: 1000:1
- 100% sRGB and 72% DCI-P3
- Gamma (Delta E) 3.55 with a slightly cool blue cast
- HDR? No
The clamshell opens to about 135°, and that is good as it helps reduce glare. But it wobbles when open and you touch it.
That ARM processor
It is a 7mn Qualcomm SD8cx eight-core, 2 x 2.84GHz + 2 x 1.8GHz SoC that is the latest in its Mobile Compute Platform. It draws a measly 7W TPD.
Earlier efforts starting back at the SD83x, 84x and even 85x were OK – this is better. It has an X24 modem for up to 2Gbps/316Mbps 4G Cat 18 LTE (you get about 25% of that speed in Australia), an AI engine, Wi-Fi AC VHT80, BT 5.0 LE and GPS, Qualcomm Aqstic sound and aptX.
Before you let Qualcomm’s hype wash over you its not a powerhouse. In Geekbench 5 single/multi-core it scores approx. 700/2700. Interestingly it walks all over the MacBook Air with its Intel Core i5-8210Y CPU but let’s not compare Windows on ARM to macOS on Intel. Wait until Apple release a Mac on an ARM.
RAM is 8GB LPDDR4x-2133Mhz and storage is 256GB UFS3.0 (195GB free). It has a microSD slot (to 1TB).
CPU throttling is not an issue on mains power (USB-C), but it drops to 80% utilisation on battery power. We suspect that is a Windows default but have not been able to adjust that parameter easily. It is silent as it does not have fans.
The Microsoft Surface Pro X (WoA) uses a ramped-up version of this SoC called an SQ1 – it is slightly faster and has a 2.1TF GPU.
It’s Adreno 680 GPU at 1.8 Teraflops is 60% faster than the SD85x predecessor. It has DirectX 12 but at best supports basic games.
Video codecs – watch out
It plays MP4, H.264/265 and YouTube vp9 But it will not play DRM protected content nor any of the ‘downloadable’ formats that Windows users are wont to use.
Samsung claims 25 hours of continuous video loop (forget that this is at low brightness and aeroplane mode) and our video loop tests confirm that.
When we connected via Wi-Fi to the Internet and streamed it reduced to 18-hours.
At 100% load – everything on it lasted just over 11 hours.
It has a 42Wh battery and a QC 3.0 compatible charger. It outputs 5V/3A and 9V/2.77A (15-25W) as well as from 3.3-5.9V/3A and 3-11V/2.25A. It is also USB-C PD 3.0 compatible.
Recharge times varied but averaged about 2.5 hours (switched off). You can hold the power key for a couple of seconds to switch off or use the Windows taskbar.
Depending on your use, you can enable various levels of battery saver. We tried the most aggressive settings, and it made little difference to office work, although the screen was a little dim for video content.
It has 2 x USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps ports and a 3.5mm combo jack. Because its ARM-based you can’t get Thunderbolt 3 so, no big issue.
The UBS-C ports are on the left and the right, and both will accept power – great.
We tested ALT DP over USB-C to a single external screen up to [email protected] We achieved maximum USB-C data rates with a Samsung T2 external SSD.
Samsung recommends its dongle (not supplied), but we tried with dongles from many manufacturers, and all worked.
AKG Tuned, dual 2W down-firing speakers underneath. It decodes Dolby Atmos content to 2.0 and has a pre-set equaliser for Dynamic, Movie, Music, Game, Voice and Personalise Modes. These made almost no difference to the sound.
Maximum volume was 74dB (not overly loud), it had a very narrow sound stage and no bass. We will update the review with frequency response on further testing – we suspect the driver is not performing as it should.
BT 5.0 supports SBC, AAC and aptX. We were unable to test for other codecs.
Connection to our test Sony WH-1000xM3 was rock solid to 20 metres and sounded great.
Keyboard, trackpad (no Pen support)
It is a Chiclet style, four-level backlit keyboard with a 1mm throw and 40g actuation. It is OK for most uses, but it does slow down a touch typist.
There is a fingerprint sensor on the power button (Windows Hello compatible but no facial login).
It has a 720p webcam suitable for Skype – and not much more. There is an indicator light when in use and two microphones provide good coverage.
The touchpad is accurate and almost allows for a full R/L top/bottom sweep.
It supports bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 20, 25, 26, 28, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41 and 66 – almost global coverage.
Importantly it has Band 28 (Telstra 4GX) that is vital for in-building coverage and rural areas. But for the most part, we only got standard 4G coverage and even 3G inside buildings.
It uses a nanoSIM, and there is a separate microSD slot. It does not support VoLTE, so the SIM is for data only. You could make a Skype call (VoIP).
Speeds vary, but as a guide, you can expect on 4GX LTE Band 28 around 40ms ping, 50Mbps DL and 5Mbps upload.
We found the Always-on LTE fast to connect, but data use was not comparable to the task.
But LTE is both a blessing and a problem. We bought a $20/5GB/14-day Telstra sim, and while we were careful to do all updates and file transfers over Wi-Fi, we exhausted the 5GB in a few days. I think it is for two reasons.
First, data session usage appears rounded up in MB increments. Second, because we tend to take internet connectivity for granted – we used it without thinking.
Telstra has a $300/180GB/365-day data-only plan that may be better for this device. There is a useful Data calculator here. Note that for most of the test we were on Telstra 4GX Band 28 – away from its voice bands. You will not have the same quality experience using a voice and data sim from an MVNO.
One great feature is that the LTE module has GPS as well and it is the perfect large screen navigator using Here Maps.
It is Wi-Fi AC but more importantly supports VHT80. If your router supports that (and both our D-Link and NETGEAR test routers do), you can get 866Mbps at up to five metres from the router.
Samsung Ecosystem – Flow/Hotspot/SmartThings/DeX
If you have a Samsung Galaxy phone, you can activate Samsung Flow to display notifications and share data with the device. It works via BT.
You can also use it as a hotspot and control SmartThings if they are on the same Wi-Fi network.
It is DeX compatible via a USB-C cable.
GadgetGuy’s take – Samsung Galaxy Book S is perfect if you know Windows on ARM limitations
It is light, always-on, terrific battery life, and a pleasure to use.
If you analyse your needs and can fit within Windows on ARM limitations, then it’s a perfect little laptop.
But if you are at all in doubt, some great Intel/AMD devices that may not be as light or always-on – will do the job.