Sam­sung Galaxy Book 2 tablet hands-on: Per­for­mance takes a back seat to bat­tery life

Sam­sung bets that you’ll take mas­sive bat­tery life and tol­er­ate good-enough per­for­mance for web brows­ing and of­fice work.

PCWorld (USA) - - Reviews - BY MARK HACH­MAN

Af­ter spend­ing an in­ten­sive few days with Sam­sung’s Galaxy Book 2, we can see that it fol­lows in the foot­steps of the first-gen­er­a­tion Galaxy Book ( go.pc­world. com/bkrv) that shipped last year by aim­ing to be a good value. It’s still a tra­di­tional Win­dows 2-in-1 tablet built around Sam­sung’s ter­rific AMOLED dis­plays and rich sound, with LTE ca­pa­bil­ity, a pen and key­board, sold for a rea­son­able $999 ( go.pc­

But the Galaxy Book 2 has also made some fun­da­men­tal changes. Lured by Qual­comm’s prom­ises of all-day bat­tery life, Sam­sung

switched from the In­tel Core i5 chip it used in the first-gen­er­a­tion Galaxy Book to Qual­comm’s new Snapdragon 850 in the Galaxy Book 2. Our pre­lim­i­nary tests show that per­for­mance suf­fers as a re­sult. On the other hand, bat­tery life im­proves enor­mously—up to an in­dus­try-lead­ing 17 hours.

In ad­di­tion to the CPU switch, the sec­ond gen­er­a­tion makes some other com­pro­mises. The built-in 4GB of mem­ory and 128GB of stor­age is a bit skimpy, for in­stance, and the Os—win­dows 10 Home in S Mode—might turn some off. As we work through more test­ing and file a full re­view, we’ll see if our first im­pres­sions evolve.


Dis­play: 12.0-inch Sam­sung AMOLED (2160x1440)

Pro­ces­sor: Qual­comm 8-core Snapdragon 850 (4 cores @ 2.96GHZ; 4 cores @ 1.7 GHZ)

Graph­ics: Qual­comm Adreno 630 (in­te­grated)

Mem­ory: 4GB

Stor­age: 128GB SSD

Ports: 2 USB-C, mi­crosd, head­phone jack

Wire­less: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac VHT80 MIMO; Snapdragon X20

LTE Mo­dem

Cam­eras: 5MP front, 8MP rear

Bat­tery: 47Wh

Op­er­at­ing sys­tem: Win­dows 10 Home in S Mode (Win­dows 10 Home as tested)

Di­men­sions: 11.32 x 7.89 x 0.30 inches

Weights: 1.74 pounds (tablet), 2.42 pounds (tablet plus key­board), 2.64 pounds (tablet, key­board and charger), as mea­sured

Price: $999; S Pen and key­board in­cluded


Phys­i­cally, the Galaxy Book demon­strates that chang­ing horses mid­stream some­times ne­ces­si­tates a new har­ness and tack. Sam­sung clearly is aim­ing for good-enough per­for­mance this time around. The Galaxy Book 2 is a tad shorter, a bit wider, slightly thicker, and 0.08 pounds lighter than its pre­de­ces­sor.

The first-gen­er­a­tion Book sported a chunky bezel sur­round­ing the screen, and I was hop­ing for some­thing a bit leaner this time around. No luck. For­tu­nately, if you’ve seen a Sam­sung dis­play be­fore, you know

what you get: deep, dark blacks and rich col­ors—though maybe not as rich or col­orac­cu­rate as the dis­plays on Mi­crosoft’s Sur­face Pro 6 ( go.pc­ The AMOLED touch­screen dis­play pumps out a com­fort­able 329 nits of lu­mi­nance, which will work well in­doors and out. While the tablet isn’t to­tally sealed—a cou­ple of vents on ei­ther side seem like some sort of new, strange ex­pan­sion port—it is fan­less.

As for real ex­pan­sion ports, Sam­sung leapt ahead to USB-C with the first Galaxy Book, and the sec­ond Galaxy Book 2 also sports a pair of USB-C ports. Un­for­tu­nately, Sam­sung wasn’t as thought­ful as, say, the Huawei Matebook ( go.pc­ You’ll have to sup­ply your own USB-A adapter if you want to con­nect to legacy de­vices. High-speed Thun­der­bolt con­nec­tions aren’t avail­able, ei­ther.

Keep in mind that the LTE slot also ap­par­ently dou­bles as a mi­crosd holder, though adding or sub­tract­ing ei­ther a SIM or mi­crosd card re­quires one of those an­noy­ing smart­phone poky SIM tools to slide the drawer out. (We’re as­sum­ing that this is user-ac­ces­si­ble; the plas­tic SIM tool Sam­sung pro­vided bent eas­ily and wouldn’t let us in­side to ver­ify.)

There’s no Win­dows Hel­locer­ti­fied depth cam­era, though there’s a fin­ger­print reader on the rear of the tablet, right next to the cam­era. It seemed to have some

prob­lems read­ing my fin­ger dur­ing setup, and I’m not sure of the ad­vis­abil­ity of plac­ing a fin­ger­print sen­sor next to a cam­era lens, which could be eas­ily smudged. Oth­er­wise, though, it works ac­cept­ably.

As for LTE, it’s clearly one of the reasons for buy­ing a de­vice like the Galaxy Book 2. If you want to be al­ways con­nected (and who doesn’t?) a tablet like this will do the trick. I don’t have a Ver­i­zon­pow­ered smart­phone for com­par­ing reception to, but the Book 2 seemed to pick up a sig­nal ev­ery­where a T-mo­bile phone could, and then some. Re­mem­ber that you’ll be able to buy a Galaxy Book 2 from a Sprint, AT&T, or Ver­i­zon store, but you’ll have to pay ex­tra for a con­nec­tion plan.

As noted else­where, though, Win­dows pri­or­i­tized the LTE con­nec­tion over my Wi-fi con­nec­tion. That’s a prob­lem for two reasons: First, not all cel­lu­lar plans are un­lim­ited; and a cel­lu­lar con­nec­tion was (for­tu­nately) listed as “me­tered” by Win­dows. While that pre­vents multi-gi­ga­byte up­dates from be­ing down­loaded, un­no­ticed, over your cel­lu­lar con­nec­tion, it also means that up­dates and Onedrive sync­ing can’t take place with­out man­ual ap­proval.

Fi­nally, don’t for­get that the Sam­sung Galaxy Book 2 ships with Win­dows 10 in S Mode, which re­stricts apps to what’s pro­vided in the Mi­crosoft Store. Do you pre­fer Google’s Chrome browser? Sorry! Re­mem­ber, switch­ing from S Mode to the full-fledged Win­dows 10 Home is a pretty simple ex­pe­ri­ence ( go.pc­, and shouldn’t cost you any­thing. It’s a oneway switch, though.

The real prob­lem is that we still ran into ap­pli­ca­tions—specif­i­cally two of our bench­mark ap­pli­ca­tions—that flatly re­fused to run on our Galaxy Book 2, be­cause of the way they were coded. That’s a risk you’ll have to take.


Typ­ing on the Galaxy Book 2’s bun­dled key­board is sur­pris­ingly de­cent. Each key of­fers a rather spa­cious land­ing pad for your fin­gers, with pleas­ing key travel and re­siliency. (I wouldn’t be sur­prised if the key­board were sim­ply a holdover from the first-gen­er­a­tion Galaxy Book.) The key­board does flex con­sid­er­ably, how­ever, though the move­ment

felt more akin to the springi­ness of an ath­letic shoe rather than the sag of an old bed.

Sam­sung has adopted the now-tra­di­tional dou­ble­fold­ing hinge, which con­nects the key­board to the tablet. As some­one who prefers a slightly an­gled key­board, the ease with which the key­board un­hinges is an­noy­ing —there’s even a hid­den Sam­sung la­bel that makes me think the be­hav­ior’s in­ten­tional. But the fi­nal mag­netic con­nec­tor hold­ing the key­board in place is pretty close to rock-solid, lead­ing me to be­lieve that you could work with it on your lap for pro­longed lengths of time. The hinged kick­stand re­clines way back, al­most but not quite flat.

I’m im­pressed with the Galaxy Book 2’s speak­ers. Granted, be­cause of the phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions of a tablet, they can’t re­ally de­liver even the low-end oomph of a con­nected speaker like the Har­man/kar­don In­voke ( go. pc­ But even with­out any aug­men­ta­tion, the range of sound the Book 2’s speak­ers de­liver is rel­a­tively bal­anced, with good vol­ume. They im­prove even fur­ther with the in­cluded Dolby At­mos aug­men­ta­tion—which, some­what sur­pris­ingly, ships off by de­fault and needs to be en­abled with an app. With Dolby At­mos en­abled, the Book 2 de­liv­ers a fairly rich sound­scape, from highs to lows.


The Galaxy Book 2 of­fers an ac­cept­able amount of stor­age (128GB), though any­thing be­low 256GB trig­gers a bit of para­noia that

I’ll run out of room. How Win­dows 10 in­te­grates Onedrive as­suages that some­what, as you can back up files to the cloud and let them re­main as “place­hold­ers” on the drive. (For some rea­son, how­ever, the Book 2 wanted to de­fault to the Ver­i­zon LTE SIM that Sam­sung in­cluded—which was set up as a me­tered con­nec­tion, and that means that Onedrive won’t au­to­mat­i­cally sync your files to the cloud. I had to dis­able the cel­lu­lar con­nec­tion man­u­ally to con­vince Win­dows to use my un­metered Wi-fi and eth­er­net.)

Con­nec­tiv­ity is­sues aside, how­ever, the fact re­mains that the Galaxy Book 2 ships with the usual com­ple­ment of bloat­ware (Candy Crush, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Dis­ney Magic King­doms, etc.), which you’ll want to delete im­me­di­ately. There’s also the built-in Sam­sung apps, which we dis­cussed in more de­tail un­der the “Bun­dled apps” sec­tion of our orig­i­nal Galaxy Book re­view ( go.pc­ These are more for­giv­able, es­pe­cially the Galaxy Book app that ships with some min­i­mal con­fig­u­ra­tion op­tions, such as ad­just­ing the dis­play color warmth or pre­vent­ing the Galaxy Book 2 from charg­ing more than 85 per­cent to pre­serve the longevity of the bat­tery.

Sam­sung shipped the Galaxy Book 2 with Sam­sung Flow, which works to un­lock your PC us­ing your phone—some­thing that Win­dows Hello should make re­dun­dant? Sam­sung Gallery also ap­par­ently works some­what like the up­com­ing Your Phone app within Win­dows: Orig­i­nally de­signed as a con­duit to pass pho­tos taken with a Galaxy phone to your Galaxy Book 2, it now can use a more generic Blue­tooth con­nec­tion via a Google Play app that can be down­loaded by any com­pat­i­ble

An­droid phone.

The first Galaxy Book shipped with an S-pen, bun­dled as a dis­crete ac­ces­sory. I crit­i­cized the lack of in­te­gra­tion. The more re­cent Sam­sung Notebook 9 Pen ( go. pc­ adopted the built-in pen hol­ster used by the Galaxy Note phones and tablets, which I hap­pily ap­plauded un­til I ac­ci­den­tally jammed the S-pen wrong-way in. The Galaxy Book 2 uses an odd sleeve ap­par­ently re-pur­posed from a meat ther­mome­ter... and, well, given my past his­tory, I’m okay with that. It might have been nicer with an ac­cent color, or per­haps a clip of some sort, but Sam­sung’s Bru­tal­ist de­sign

should stop ab­sent-minded re­view­ers from stuff­ing the S-pen where it shouldn’t go.


Sam­sung’s choice to move from an In­tel Core i5 CPU to a mo­bile chip shifts the em­pha­sis from per­for­mance—where the first Galaxy Book did very well—to bat­tery life. It’s our first test of the new, next-gen Qual­comm Snapdragon 850 ( go. pc­, which prom­ises “mul­ti­day” bat­tery life as well as more speed.

Does the new

Snapdragon 850 have enough oomph for you to be happy? Well, it de­pends. Due to the ane­mic pro­ces­sor and low sys­tem mem­ory, web brows­ing is gen­er­ally ac­cept­able with lim­ited tabs. Of­fice work, like word pro­cess­ing, should be just fine. Youtube videos are child’s play— there’s a spe­cial video de­code en­gine in the Adreno graph­ics chip, and a 1080p video con­sumed about a third of its re­sources. Games? Don’t count on it, es­pe­cially any­thing re­ally mod­ern.

What our tests in­di­cate so far is that the $999 Galaxy Book 2’s per­for­mance is in the neigh­bor­hood of the $399 Mi­crosoft Sur­face Go ( go.pc­, which was a “good-enough” small-form-fac­tor tablet in its own right. Re­mem­ber, though, that the Book

2’s bat­tery life pretty much blows ev­ery­thing else away—it’s over twice that of the Sur­face Go’s!

One caveat: Sam­sung says it will ship its new Galaxy Book 2 with Win­dows 10 Home in S Mode, but it in­ex­pli­ca­bly shipped ours with

Win­dows 10 Home en­abled—which we no­ticed af­ter run­ning sev­eral of the browser­based tests we’d nor­mally use for test­ing a Win­dows 10 S PC. It’s pos­si­ble that run­ning Win­dows 10 Home rather than Win­dows 10 Home in S Mode may in­val­i­date these re­sults—s Mode is sup­pos­edly a more op­ti­mized en­vi­ron­ment, but it doesn’t al­low for any apps out­side of the Mi­crosoft Store. But they seem con­sis­tent with our more tra­di­tional bench­marks.

Be­cause these are browser-based bench­marks, we can com­pare the Book 2 to non-win­dows de­vices, “first”-gen­er­a­tion Snapdragon-powered PCS like the Asus No­vago ( go.pc­, and even Ap­ple de­vices and an An­droid tablet.

First up: WEBXPRT, a good all-around bench­mark which uses HTML5 and Javascript to mimic tra­di­tional web apps. We have a broader data­base us­ing the older 2015 bench­mark, and fewer en­tries tested us­ing the more WEBXPRT 3 up­date. The Galaxy Book lands in the lower mid­dle of the pack.

The Jet­stream 1.1 bench­mark runs a se­ries of syn­the­sized Javascript tests, each de­signed to iso­late a par­tic­u­lar work­load that would af­fect web per­for­mance. The Galaxy Book 2 unim­pres­sively leads the rear guard.

We’ve in­cluded both ver­sions of the older Speedome­ter bench­mark, de­signed to mea­sure the re­spon­sive­ness of web ap­pli­ca­tions. (In real-world browser use, the Book 2 felt as re­spon­sive as a much more pow­er­ful lap­top, es­pe­cially when us­ing Mi­crosoft Edge.) Google’s dep­re­cated Oc­tane bench­mark was also tested. In both cases, the Galaxy Book 2 lands at the top of the bot­tom (or lower mid­dle, if you’re a glass-half-full sort of per­son), as seems to be the gen­eral trend for it.

The Sam­sung Galaxy Book 2, tuned by AKG.

Two USB-C ports pro­vide the pri­mary form of I/O ca­pa­bil­ity...

...even as the Galaxy Book 2 fully re­clines.

Us­ing the fin­ger­print reader re­quires reach­ing around blindly to swipe your fin­ger.

The Sam­sung Galaxy Book’s key­board is sur­pris­ingly comfy, and the track­pad is ser­vice­able.

Sam­sung’s pen slips in­side this large plas­tic holder, which ap­par­ently just roams free in­side your bag.

Here’s the pen, out of its case.

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