Samsung Galaxy Book S: Is it better than the MacBook Air?

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In its recent Unpacked event, Samsung launched a couple of devices. The most notable and anticipated of which was the Galaxy Note 10. However, probably something equally as important was shown to us, that being the Samsung Galaxy Book S.

Samsung isn’t exactly known for making the best laptops. Sure we have the high-performance gaming laptop called the Notebook Odyssey but price-wise it’s out of the reach of many. We also have the Galaxy Book2 but that’s not powerful enough for people who require medium to heavy usage.

What we lacked was something in between. Something to rival the likes of the Apple MacBook Air. Well, fret no more as we’ve finally got what we wanted. How does this new mid-tier laptop stack up against its rival from Apple? Let’s look at all the specifications and find out.

Design

Samsung Galaxy Book S
Image: Samsung

Just like the MacBook Air, the Galaxy Book S features a sleek Aluminum unibody design. This does mean that the quality is pristine and it will definitely feel premium while holding it. Another thing that I enjoy on laptops like these is the simplistic and clutter-free design language. The finish looks unique especially in the Mercury Gray color as shown in the pictures.

Open the lid and you’ll get to see the 13.3″ display with a 720pp webcam on top. There’s nothing else that you’ll find particularly interesting on the upper clamshell. However, move to the lower clamshell and you’ll be greeted with the LED-backlit keyboard that can adjust itself in accordance with the ambient light. Do note that this is a chicklet style keyboard so there’s not a lot of feel and feedback when you press the keys.

Samsung Galaxy Book S
Image: Samsung

Also on the keyboard is the power button that doubles as a fingerprint scanner. It also works well with Windows Hello for secure logins. Below the keyboard, you get a decently-sized trackpad, for which I’m grateful for. Most of us don’t understand the importance of the trackpad, especially on the go. And with a laptop made with portability in mind, this trackpad is perfect. As far as the rest of that area goes, it’s completely empty, just the way I like it.

Move to the back and you’ll come across a fairly clean back. You only have a Samsung logo and that’s about it. Personally, I’m all in for subtle clean designs like this, however, the Samsung logo isn’t centered. It is over to the left, which really triggers my OCD for some odd reason. Maybe I’m nitpicking here but I really wish it was centered.

Performance

Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx
Image: Samsung

Under the hood of the Galaxy Book S, you get a Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 8cx CPU along with an Adreno 680 GPU. This is the second laptop we’re seeing this year with an ARM-based processor, the first one being the Samsung Galaxy Book2. However, unlike the Book2, which used a Snapdragon™ 850, the Book S uses the Snapdragon™ 8cx, which is designed specifically for the Compute platform. This does mean that you’ll get that extra brawn for heavy programs that the Galaxy Book2 lacked. In fact, it even outperforms the 8th Intel Gen Core™ i5 in certain benchmarks.

That’s not all as the 8cx chipset has a lot more to offer. Being an ARM-based chipset, it is designed to give you exceptional standby times without affecting battery life. This means that the Book2 has that AlwaysOn feature which allows you to instantly wake it by the press of a power button like a smartphone. As far as memory is concerned, you only get an option for an 8GB LPDDR4X RAM. You do, however, get options in storage for either 256GB or 512GB SSDs. You can expand it up to 1TB via a MicroSD card.

Samsung Galaxy Book 2
Image: Samsung

As mentioned earlier, the Galaxy Book S is a 13-inch laptop. The display is a 13.3″ 1920×1080 TFT LCD panel. While this resolution is perfect for a display of this size, I’m disappointed that Samsung went for an aging technology such as TFT for a laptop screen. Samsung is known for making the best displays, especially the AMOLEDs. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to experience that here as we’ll have to make do with mediocre colors and abysmal viewing angles.

Lastly, let’s talk about the battery. The Galaxy Book S has a 42Wh unit, which isn’t exactly the most in terms of raw potential. However, this being a device powered by an ARM-based chipset, you do get the added benefit of power-saving compared to other laptops. In fact, Samsung claims this to give you 23 hours of continuous video playback, which is truly exceptional. Needless to say, the Galaxy Book S has you covered in the battery department.

Connectivity

Samsung Galaxy Book S
Image: Samsung

If there’s any downside to the hardware on this device, it’s the exterior connectivity ports. It only gets 2 USB Type-C ports and a 3.5mm headphone jack. That’s it, you’ll just have to make do with these, which might lower the convenience score as keeping Type-C adapters is a hassle. Also, keep in mind that one of the Type-C ports doubles as a charging slot. Other than that this does have Bluetooth® v 5.0Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4/5GHz), and an additional Nano-SIM slot that supports LTE Cat.18. The SIM slot is a handy addition as it makes it easier to stay connected on the go.

Price & Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy Book S starts at $999, which may sound expensive for a laptop like this. However, if you compare it to the likes of the MacBook Air, it starts at $1299. Now it does seem like a bargain and it actually is. You get a premium device that has a surprisingly good performance, specs, and just mediocre connectivity. Unless MacOS is what you’re after, this is a good bank for your buck if you’re looking for a good portable business laptop.

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