For the last four years my daily driver has been a Surface Pro 3. It’s been my favorite mobile PC of all time. I have produced more digital work on it than on any other single system. In part because it’s physical design allows it to be used comfortably almost anywhere and it’s power allows it to do most anything. Put it on a desk and it can give any Ultrabook a run for it’s money. Dock it with external monitors, keyboard, and mouse and it makes a powerful workstation. Strip off it’s keyboard and pick up the stylus and it’s a good tablet.
Notice I said “good” tablet. From my prospective, the Surface Pro 3 is a little too heavy to be a great tablet. I can hold it in one hand, resting on my upraised knee and write on the screen for a while but that is basically the only position that works for me. I get tired fairly quickly and have to take a break. Its also a little too big for couch surfing. Size issues aside I’ve been able to make it work all these years.
I’ve been on the look-out for a smaller tablet that was still powerful enough to be my main system. I have to run PhotoShop, Illustrator, Visual Studio, write documents, run multiple apps, and I’m not a fan of waiting. My task demands tend to rule out systems that use the Atom processors. I’ve tried them a few times, I like my Dell Venue 8 Pro, but it just isn’t quite fast enough and lives most of it’s life in my desk drawer.
I’ve had my eye on Samsung’s Galaxy Book since it launched. The combination of Intel’s m-series processor and the small 10.6″ footprint caught my attention. There are mixed reviews of the tablet out on the intertubes. They run the gambit from best tablet ever to POS. I’ve had good experiences with other Samsung equipment so I decided to give it a shot. Originally I had purchased the tablet for my spouse, to replace her aging iPad mini but although she liked the tablet itself, she didn’t enjoy Windows. She ended up with a new iPad and I inherited the Galaxy Book. Neither of us could be happier.
The Galaxy Book comes in two sizes 10.6″ and 12″. For my use the 10.6″ is the ideal size. It’s essentially the same size as the smaller iPad Pro. The larger system is roughly the same dimensions as my Surface Pro 3 and so doesn’t solve my one-handed couch surfing problems. I’m also not sure that any 12″ tablet is going to beat Microsoft’s. None of the units that I’ve tried so far have managed to pull it off.
I think the best way to describe the device’s physicality is to say that holding it feels similar to holding an iPad. It’s thin, light, and made of premium materials. The screen is vibrant and just the right size. The speakers sound surprisingly good but they are side facing which causes me to turn up the volume. There’s no rear camera, just a front facing one for video calls.
The front camera is not compatible with Windows Hello and there’s no onboard fingerprint scanner. If you own a Samsung phone you can use a service called Samsung Flow to pair your phone’s security devices to the tablet. I can use either the Fingerprint or Iris scanner on my Note 8 to logon to my tablet. It was a little clunky to get running but it works surprisingly well once your get the hang of it. Flow also sends all of your phone’s notification messages to your tablet and let’s you reply to them.
The device ships with a case that contains a keyboard and touchpad combo. The keys are small but I have no trouble touch typing at full speed. The keyboard isn’t backlit and that’s a bummer, but I didn’t have to shell out an extra hundred bucks for it so I won’t cry too much. The touchpad is fine, it gets the job done and has a lot of options for gestures which I like. The case looks nice and doubles as a multi-angle stand. It has two positions for typing, a couple for vid watching, and one specifically for drawing or writing.
That brings us to my favorite piece. The S-Pen is great. It has pressure sensitivity and tilt support. The ERM (Wacom) digitizer is accurate and doesn’t suffer from parallax issues. The shape of the S-Pen basically requires that you hold it the same way every time that you pick it up. The clip and button location force the situation but luckily it is fairly comfortable. The tips are replaceable and it comes with two different styles
If you’re not in love with the Pen itself there are several other options. There are a few different Wacom styluses that will work, the S-Pen from a Note phone will work, and there are several third party ERM compatible devices available like those made for the Surface 1 and 2.
Samsung teamed up with STAEDLTER to make a truly epic digital pencil. It’s an exact replica of the classic Noris #2 pencil down to the freshly sharpened tip. You can find them on Amazon for less than $30.00 if you catch a sale. It’s my favorite stylus ever, period. That’s saying something considering that I’ve owned and used almost every type of digital writing instrument ever made. Yes, I have an Apple Pencil, and the Studio Pen, and a Wacom Intous, and an XP-Pen and a Dell, and . . . . . . .
When it comes to performance, I’m impressed. I’ve been using it as my main system for a few weeks and haven’t experienced any wait-rage yet. I’m not one for elaborate benchmarking. I find that the results of such testing are often irrelevant. All that matters is the ability of a device to do it’s tasks in a satisfactory manner. That being said, web pages are snappy to load and Outlook runs well. Photoshop and Illustrator both run fine and there’s no lag when drawing. I’m even able to play some games; Sims 4 and Skyrim both play well as does Fruit Ninja and several others from the Windows Store. Multi-tasking is no issue either.
The same USB C dock that enables DEX mode on my Note 8 works on this tablet to connect an external monitor, keyboard, and mouse. When “docked” the system makes a decent workstation although I rarely use it as one. Most nights you can find me on the couch writing on the Galaxy Book in tablet mode just like I’m doing now.