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Galaxy Book 12 review: come for the screen stay for the…?

When Samsung showed us the Galaxy Book 12 at MWC last year, I have to say, I was surprised ,as Samsung had told us that they weren’t planning on releasing any laptops or Windows devices in the EU/UK anymore. Obviously they changed their mind and we got an amalgam; the Galaxy Book 12 is here nearly a year later, but is it awesome enough to warrant a purchase?

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Review
Disclosure: Samsung UK PR sent us this Unit for Review, they have not compensated us in any way for this review, it is completely my (Dom) own thoughts. The only people overseeing this before it goes live are other MTT editors. I have been using this for over a month.

Speeds and Feeds

  • 12” 2160×1440 sAMOLED Display (3:2 Aspect Ratio)
  • Intel Core m3 or Core i5 7200U processor (ours was the i5)
  • 4gb of 8gb of LPDDR3 RAM (outs had 8gb)
  • 128gb or 256gb or SATA-III SSDs (ours had 256gb)
  • 13mp rear camera
  • 5mp front facing camera
  • 2 USB-C ports, USB 3.1 Gen1 w/ DisplayPort
  • Detachable Keyboard base
  • 754g
  • 219.3×199.8×7.4mm

For more specifications, head on over to Samsung.

Hardware

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 ReviewThe hardware portion of the Galaxy Book 12 is probably the most important, as it is just Windows on the software side. Size wise, the Galaxy Book 12 is kind of large for a tablet, and at 754g it isn’t a particularly light one either, but it is quite well made, with what appears to be a metal chassis, some plastic accents for antenna permeability and the fan grilles. Yes, fan grilles, although the lower end model of the Galaxy Book can be passively cooled, the 15w CPU on the model we have here is a little too much to ask for. Those fans aren’t too distracting though, at least whilst you’re in laptop mode, they spin slowly enough that they don’t create too much noise and shake the chassis. In tablet mode, however, the Galaxy Book 12’s fans are definitely noticeable, almost feeling like a rotating mass vibration motor, they most certainly take you out of the assumption you’re using a tablet, and back into the reality which is that you’re using a laptop without a keyboard.

Having a look at the front, it’s quite a simple affair, we have the beautiful namesake of the device, the 12” Super AMOLED screen from Samsung Display. This thing is absolutely gorgeous. If you thought Samsung mobile displays made everyone else look shameful, wait until you see a tablet/laptop with a Samsung OLED display, it is next level, It’s made even better by the colour, lines and accents in Windows 10. Below the screen, we have the apparently mandatory brand logo, in case you forgot who you paid £1200 to. Above the screen is where the 5mp front-facing video camera lives, for selfies (please don’t take selfies on a laptop) or video calls, and next to it is the very well hidden ambient light sensor so that the Galaxy Book 12 can auto-adjust its screen brightness to your surroundings. The bezels surrounding that gorgeous display though are a little bit of a mixed bag, they’re 17mm, which is a lot, especially in Laptop mode, which I pretty much exclusively used this in, but in tablet mode, the large bezels do tend to make more sense. I still think that they are still too large for that use, maybe slimming them down to 13mm or so would be a better fit.

On the left and right sides of the Galaxy Book 12 we have all the ports, the left have side has the MicroSD tray d ventilation grilles, on the right-hand side we have the second grille, our 2 USB-C ports and the 3.5mm audio jack. These USB-C ports are pretty much all you have (bar the microSD slot) for getting stuff onto the Galaxy Book, and honestly, I’m fine with it. Would I have prefered these to be USB 3.1 Gen2? Sure, but I don’t even have stuff that is saturating USB 3.1 Gen1 all that much, so I’ll be fine. I’m also not too upset over neither of them being Thunderbolt 3, as that would have jacked up the price, and honestly, an i5 7200U is going to bottleneck you on an eGPU setup much more than you’d think.

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Review
These USB-C ports are what you use for Data transfer, for charging and for display out, and I’ve used them for all three. In fact, I plugged my Aukey USB-C hub into the bottom USB-C port on the Galaxy Book for a few days and used it as my main PC. I had my monitor and peripherals plugged into the hub as well as a charger, then plugged the hub into the Galaxy Book, honestly It worked much more flawlessly than I was expecting, but that is the benefit of USB-C. The lack of USB-A ports isn’t an issue for me as I’ve made the USB-C switch already so I have a number of dongles and hubs lying around, but if you don’t, I can see why the lack of USB-A ports might be troubling or inconvenience you. I feel like Samsung could mitigate this a little by including a small USB-C to USB-A adaptor in the box.

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Review
Up top of the Galaxy Book, we have the power button and volume rocker, as well as two microphones and another fan grille. The buttons on the Galaxy Book are a little disappointing, for such an expensive device, they are clicky, sure, but they rattle around in the chassis and are plastic, they feel cheap, and definitely do not feel as if they belong on a product that costs up to £1200.Luckily, the software does invert them when you go into portrait mode, and they work as they should there. Undocking the keyboard lets you have a look at the bottom of the Galaxy Book, wherein you’ll find a massive trough, and a few magnetic pins for connecting to the tablet portion, this is a much deeper trench than I was expecting, and makes sense as to why the tablet isn’t going anywhere whilst the keyboard base is near, you really have to try to disconnect them, which is a plug in my book. Lastly we have the rear of the Galaxy Book, which is supremely boring, we have that plastic panel that extends to all but the edges of the top, the rest is the metal chassis with the Samsung logo in the centre, and the Intel Core i5 sticker in the bottom right, that’s it (well, there is also a serial number sticker on my PR unit).

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Review
The Keyboard attachment is something I was really let down by though. Which it looks quite nice, the keys are a reasonable size, they have backlighting etc and the “kickstand” allows you to use the Galaxy Book at multiple angles, there is just so much I dislike here.
The keyboard base itself is so flimsy, that when you’re trying to use it on anything other than a sturdy strong surface, it’ll feel like it’s going to break because of how much it is bending, that is not a great experience as something that is meant to be portable. Next, up the kickstand, the angles are just off the one you’re most likely to use still feels a little too shallow of an angle, and once again, using the galaxy book on your lap on anything other than that top slot is going to make you fear for your £1200 investment. The Galaxy Book does use magnets to lock into place though, and as we all know, magnets are cool, I just wish there was a better angle for this, or for them to alter that top angle a little more.

Next is the keys, you know, the important part of a keyboard, they’re somehow both clicky and mushy, and the amount of mistypes I have gotten whilst writing this review is insane, and I don’t envy future me for having to edit this. Whilst on First blush everything seems fine, if you actually look at each key individually, each key has a significant amount of wobble to it, meaning that is you hit the corner of a key it may feel as if you’ve fully depressed it, but in actuality, no keystroke was registered, Lastly, It just doesn’t always seem to be able to keep up with the seed I type. It doesn’t appear o be a Bluetooth keyboard as the latency is too minuscule, but whatever it is, IT does most certainly have a typing speed limit, and I seem to be butting up against that more often than not.
The Galaxy Book 12’s external hardware is actually really nice is a little boring, that’s fine. The standout feature is the display, and that’s really what you want.

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Review
Performance

Performance of the Core i5 7200U inside here paired with 8GB of RAM is really quite great for laptop tasks, and even some light production level tasks like 3D rendering and 3D modelling. As I only have a single license for my video editor, I can’t transfer it from my desktop to this if I’m not going to be keeping it, but I did do something I know to be quite heavy, which is modelling some stuff in Fusion 360 and slicing it in Cura ready to be 3D printed. These programmes are interesting to use as they aren’t Microsoft programmes, meaning they haven’t got the high level of optimisation that Microsoft’s own programmes do for the lower power Intel processors. For instance, 3D builder, the 3D file viewer and editor baked into windows absolutely flies on this, and it makes sense, Microsoft can optimise the living daylights out of it so that it works well all the way down to an Intel Atom machine (I’ve tested it) all the way up to the i9 7980xe. But Cura and Fusion can’t be that optimised.

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Review
Fusion 360 will have the fans spin up, not really enough to be distractingly audible, but definitely more so than when doing practically anything else on the Galaxy Book. Now Fusion actually worked a lot better on this than I expected it would, but I feel that it has more to do with the active cooling than the raw power of the CPU, case in point, the Y series of chips from Intel that were previously called Core M chips would handle this far worse due to the tight thermal constraints and the lack of active cooling on most designs. Cura also worked better than I expected it to, boot up times were still longer than I’d like, but I’m sure that’s just a Cura issue at this point, but Cura 3.1 sliced models effectively and the preview of the model and the alterations were nearly real-time, and I’m impressed.

I didn’t run any games on this outside of some free games from the Windows Store, not because I didn’t want to download Steam on here, but because everything I would have needed to do “proper gaming” on this would have made my desk look like it was invaded by octopodes. The Galaxy Book, plus the USB-C hub for charging and peripherals like a mouse because gaming with a trackpad isn’t great, then a charger, etc just isn’t worth it, it stops the device being portable at that point. On the flip side, Jetpack Joyride is as fun as ever.

Battery

The Battery of the Galaxy Book 12 is really nothing to be all that excited about. Samsung Claim up to 11 hours, but unless I have a seriously dodgy unit, I was lucky if I got half of that. What makes it worse, is the idle battery drain on this device seems really poor, even when compared to my YogaBook, which I had slammed over its Idle battery drain. Qualcomm Windows devices can’t come soon enough.

Charging the Galaxy Book 12 is also a bit of a mixed bag, luckily, the Galaxy Book uses USB-C to charge, which is awesome, but the adaptor that Samsung includes in the box seems a little anaemic, and It also seems very iffy about what cables it wants you to use it as well. None of the chargers I had lying around would work with the Galaxy Book at any acceptable levels, and when I use the official Samsung charging brick, I had 2 cables that weren’t the official ones that actually charged at a reasonable pace. This is something we’re going to have to get a little better at doing, maybe pop a message up on the display stating that the brick you’re using is not providing enough power to both charges and use the tablet at the same time, but currently, a charger that fits, isn’t necessarily the charger that’ll, you know, charge.

Misc.

So what about the miscellaneous stuff? Well we have the pen and that’s about it, Luckily for me and you, the pen is awesome. The included Galaxy Pen is pretty great, it is an ovalised rectangle with a metal pen clip at the top and replaceable nibs at the business end, which Samsung also include in the box, a nib puller and several pen nibs.

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Review
Samsung claims that the Galaxy Book S-Pen is capable of 4096 levels of pressure, and I believe them. It is a Wacom digitizer, meaning that the Pen requires no batteries, which greatly improves the experience in my opinion, but you do lose out of some of the neat Windows 10 pen stuff, such as clicking the button to launch OneNote etc. Samsung have implemented their own set of pen applications and shortcuts, such as hover the pen over the display and press the button brings up Air command, allowing you to create notes, annotate on the screen etc. this is really cool.
But using the standard Windows Inking settings and drawing spaces show the insane sensitivity, angle tracking and more that the Galaxy Book can do, and I used the pen much more often than I thought I would, despite my incredibly lacklustre drawing skills.

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Review
What is also important, is that because it is just a standard Wacom digitizer, the S-Pen works on other Wacom devices, such as my YogaBook, but also the other Wacom pens work on this, such as the marvelous Staedtler Noris Digital, the Wacom stylus I have been using since MWC last year on my YogaBook due to it is great in hand feel, lightweight and perfect size, Samsung also sent me another Noris Digital to test with the Galaxy Book, but it appears to be defective, much to my dismay.

Conclusion

The Galaxy Book is a weird product. It’s a gorgeous screen, nice performance, sturdy and reliable with a stellar pen experience, but on the other hand, the battery life is sub par and unreliable, the keyboard addon leaves much to be desired and it is expensive. Samsung priced this like a laptop, which it mostly is, but the places it is not a laptop show how kludgy this thing is.

Whilst I like the Galaxy Book, aside from a single person, who is a teacher, I’m having a hard time thinking of people to recommend this to, She liked it as she could annotate student work on the fly and send it back to them without printing it off, and she’s mostly at a desk and isn’t really phased by the extra power this has over the Core m3 model, but I could recommend her countless other devices with great pen support at this price or lower.

Samsung had a good first try with the Galaxy Book series but needs to try harder to become a recurring player.

Samsung Galaxy Book 12

£1269.00
Samsung Galaxy Book 12
8.9

Design

8.5 /10

Build Quality

9.0 /10

Display

9.9 /10

Battery Life

9.0 /10

Value

8.0 /10

Pros

  • Absolutely Stunning Display
  • Quiet operation
  • USB-C ports done properly
  • S-Pen is shockingly good.

Cons

  • Keyboard is blah
  • No Windows Hello
  • Poor Battery Life
  • Expensive

About Domenico Lamberti

Technology has been a big part of my life for years, whether it be ripping the family computer apart to see how it worked, playing with the new phones that Dad brought home from work. Senior Reviewer for MTT.

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