Doing technology reviews can be a tough gig, there are the real journalists who have an excellent eye for detail and can actually write, then there are the ones who love tech but don’t know how to string together the words and ramble on.
Then there are the ones who work on publications that have so called audience pulling power despite their circulation falling year on year, these are the ones that big brands gush over till they get a questionable review.
This week I was working on a review of the new Samsung Book notebook that is a direct competitor to the Microsoft Surface, when I came across a review of the same product in a leading morning newspaper, after reading it I had to seriously pinch myself to see if I was actually reviewing the same product.
The reviewer actually writes some of the best reviews out there, so I seriously had to shake my head over this review which panned several aspects of the device I was reviewing.
This is the same publication that gushed about the latest Surface laptops from Microsoft describing them as “highly desirable machine that show off the best that Windows 10 have to offer”.
This is ironic considering that weeks after the gushing Surface Review appeared iFixit tried to take apart the new Microsoft Surface laptops which is an ultra-thin and light unit which starts at $1,498 and seemingly couldn’t do it without completely and utterly destroying it.
Attempting to crack the box apart, the teardown team met resistance from metal feet instead of screws, clips, adhesive, fabric cover and soldered parts.
One of the Surface’s luxury features, the magic Alcantara material – which turns out to be a major reparability downfall. iFixit appeared to need a knife to cut through to reach its internals.
After navigating through walls of plastic, tape and clips, the site found that it would be basically impossible to replace any of the components.
IFixit ultimately gave the Surface a 0/10 for reparability – a full point lower than the Microsoft Surface Book’s 1/10.
Then at the weekend Consumer Report in the USA came out and utterly trashed the Microsoft Surface range of notebooks due to constant component failures.
As for the new Samsung Notebook, the Australian publication described the keyboard typing process as poor something that I could not emulate despite several attempts pounding the keyboard which is a vast improvement over the previous model.
Being a writer the first thing you notice is how good a keyboard is when reviewing a notebook.
For me the Galaxy Book’s keyboard is its stand-out feature, and it’s included in the box for free. I also like the way that the tablet screen attaches to the keyboard, it’s very solid and instantly feeds communication between the keyboard and the screen.
For some the downside could be that the cover which clips on to the screen and then can be folded up toblerone-style to the back of the tablet is limiting in the positions that one can set the screen to, having said that I had no problems writing to the screen at the pre-set angle.
Some media have also complained about the screen saver, which is a bit rich, because all you must do is go to setting and turn the screen saver off if you don’t want it, you can also set the duration for the screen to stay on before it powers down to save energy.
If you are like me I tend to power up my notebooks when I can, even on an aircraft, this allows me to get better brightness to the screen.
The Samsung offering weighs in at 644g, which is around 200g heavier than the 10.5-inch iPad Pro. I found it extremely easy to carry around and it’s significantly lighter than any notebook I use. I also got 7.5 hours battery life out of this device and this was with the screen set to 60% brightness.
Unlike Microsoft and their Surface notebooks, Samsung makes, the bulk of the components in this device which for me is a big plus as manufacturing Companies like Samsung often save the best components for their own devices. Neither Apple or Microsoft make components for their devices, they often buy them from Samsung.
The quality of Samsung made components are obvious when you open the device for the first time and you get to experience the High Dynamic Range (HDR) Super AMOLED screen.
This 12-inch Super AMOLED display delivers an impressive 2,160 by 1,440 resolution.
Samsung make display screens and you only have to compare this notebook with the latest Apple Mac offering or the Surface notebook to realise that what Samsung is delivering is significantly superior when it comes to display resolution, especially when it comes to fine detail in an image such as an Apple leaf or a half-cut Apple.
I took the Samsung notebook with me to Melbourne and it was a pleasure to watch Netflix content on this device, however drawback is that Netflix doesn’t recognise this Samsung device as an HDR-capable device.
Let’s get one thing straight, this is not a replacement for a full-blown notebook, but it’s a dam good alternative especially when you want to travel light without losing most of the functionality of a notebook.
How it differs is that being a high-performance tablet, the Galaxy Book doesn’t have many ports on its edges. Both of the short sides sport speaker grills, the right side holds the two USB Type-C ports and a headphone jack, and the opposite side holds a microSD card slot.
What I did was simple plug in a Belkin USB C to HDMI dock, this allowed me to connect several devices in seconds to the device.
The power and volume buttons are at the top edge of the device for easy access when in laptop mode. Samsung has also added an additional USB Type-C port since the TabPro S which only had one port.
The 12-inch Galaxy Book screen is big enough for most B2B business functions.
Another excellent addition with this device is the pen which comes with 4096 pressure levels and has a tilt sensor that’s supported by Photoshop.
The included S Pen is self-charging so it does not need to be docked, inside the box that the device comes in is an adhesive sleeve that you can attach to an indentation on the keyboard case.
The sleeve places the pen at the left side of the keyboard at all times. The pen’s 0.7mm tip is precise and easy to use to write, sketch, or highlight.
The pen’s latency is not noticeable and I found that I could easily take notes at a press conference, I also found it extremely sensitive when drawing or writing quick post it notes, it also worked extremely well with Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator.
With the pen tip close to the display, you can bring up the Air Command menu by pressing the singular side button on the S Pen. By default, five apps pop up, letting you quickly grab a screenshot, write notes, select parts of the screen, and more.
A big irritant is the button on the side of the pen it’s too far down the pen and like the fingerprint sensor on the Galaxy S8+ It’s in the wrong place. It’s also easy to accidentally click the side button.
Air Command which is linked to five apps, makes using the S Pen much easier in situations where you wouldn’t necessarily think to use a stylus.
The version I tested comes with an Intense vivid 12-inch FHD+Super AMOLED Display, Intel 7th Gen Intel® Core™ i5 Processor, backlit keyboard cover, adaptive Fast Charging, Redefined S Pen and 128GB (MicroSD™ expandable up to 256GB).
It can be purchased outright for $1,599 or Telstra has it listed at $100 a month complete with 10GB of data.
The cost is $1,099 for the 10.6-inch display version.
The bottom line is that the Galaxy Book is a great resource for people who want a device that is light can be easily packed away and carried yet delivers performance when you need it.
It does everything most top end notebooks do. And when considering the quality of the device Vs the overpriced Microsoft Surface coupled with the superior keyboard that has allowed me to type this review without any problems one has to seriously consider this device if you are looking for a high quality two in one.
I also loved the pen especially as I attend a lot of press events and like to scribble notes and “doodle”.
On the downside, the ports are limited but one can easily overcome this by buying a USB C Dock. Remember the Samsung Pen comes free Vs the $139 cost for a Microsoft Surface Pen so buying a sub $50 dock that fits easily in a small pocket more than compensates for the lack of ports.