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Samsung Galaxy Book S – The thinnest, lightest laptop with the longest battery life I have ever used

For the last few weeks, while the influencer world was busy with testing and reviewing the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Galaxy Z Flip smartphones, I was diligently using and testing another equally important and impressive Samsung product—Galaxy Book S—the latest always on, always connected PC (ACPC). My verdict? It defines what portable laptops are meant to be. However, being an analyst, I can’t stop myself from giving the rundown on why I think so and how it provides a glimpse of the future of laptops. 

Purchasing and setting up Book S

The Galaxy Book S comes in only one configuration—the Snapdragon 8cx processor, 8GB LPDDR4X RAM, and 256 GB SSD (MicroSD slot supporting up to 1TB) with Windows 10 Home OS. I bought mine on the Samsung website. Ordering was a breeze, although Samsung may confuse buyers by showing only Verizon and Sprint as the supported carriers. I bought the Verizon version by paying in full ($999 + tax). However, it came factory unlocked and it worked perfectly fine with Sprint, T-Mobile, and Google Fi. I am reasonably sure, would work with AT&T as well. I have sought clarification from Samsung on whether the Verizon and Sprint versions are different SKUs and have any major differences, such as spectrum bands supported, carrier aggregation combinations, etc. I am yet to hear back from them (will update this article if I do in a reasonable time). Surprisingly, I believe Samsung is artificially limiting the reach, and the market opportunity by only showing two operators, even though it works with virtually any operator. This is important because other laptops in this category only support certain operators. For example, HP Spectre works only with AT&T and T-Mobile.

The set-up was easy. I did have an issue with the keyboard backlight not working, which was resolved with a Windows update. Backlighting has three levels, which is nice, but the first step is dim enough that you might confuse it for not working except in low light situations.

Incredibly thin and light, with extremely long battery life – perfect for travel or the office

I have used a lot of laptops in my professional life, and that is an understatement. By far, this is the thinnest, lightest laptop that did everything I wanted, while providing the longest battery life. The official dimensions can be found here. My workloads are primarily productivity-focused. As I had explained in my earlier article, I use more than 15 email windows, multiple sessions of Microsoft Office applications including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and usually have more than 20 browser tabs open at a time. The Samsung Galaxy Book S with its Snapdragon 8cx processor never struggled under this load. There is something to be said about the new chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser, which comes as a default. It is fast, stable and supports Chrome extensions, so I never miss my previous favorite Chrome browser! Edge provides native ARM64 support, so its battery life performance versus Chrome which runs in 32-bit simulation mode is beyond compare on the Snapdragon compute platform. 

The Galaxy Book S is a perfect companion for a road warrior like me. However, thanks to COVID-19, my travel is severely curtailed. During the limited travel I did with the Galaxy Book S, I never carried its charger for single-day trips or in town meetings. That means no backpacks, no other bags to carry, just the Book S like a notebook. At the end of each of those days, I ended the day with more than 30-40% of the battery still remaining. Truly remarkable. 

Without travel, I have converted the Galaxy Book S into my home workstation. With external 32’ WQHD (1440p) monitor, mouse and keyboard, all connected through a USB-C hub, I almost forget that it is a laptop, such is the user experience!

The Galaxy Book S always gets compliments about its thinness and weight, whether I use it in meetings or when I go to my son’s karate class etc. Many wonder how one could fit a fan in such a thin chassis. Some of my curious IT friends even tried to search for the fan and vents! It is the kicker to tell them that it has no fan or vents, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx processor inside.

The secret behind the incredible size and battery life of the Galaxy Book S

The biggest challenge laptop designers face is the tradeoff between size (thinner and lighter) vs. performance and battery life. Designers seem to have reached a saturation point in that tradeoff. It all boils down to the thermal characteristics of today’s processors—higher the performance, more the power used, and more the heat generated. There are two options to manage this heat—either use a fan and proper ventilation or throttle the performance. Most of today’s laptops, even the ones such as MacBook Air, utilize fans, which makes them big and bulky while also increasing the power consumed. Premium sleek devices such as the older generation Microsoft’s Surface line-up uses throttling which compromises the user experience. In terms of increasing battery life, the only option is adding bigger batteries, which increases weight.

Now comes the Snapdragon 8cx compute platform used in the Samsung Galaxy Book S. Built using the best from Qualcomm’s mobile heritage, combined with the performance you’d expect of a PC. It is based on Arm’s architecture, offering similar performance as x86 based Core i5. Snapdragon 8cx provides consistently higher performance with minimal heat production in an extremely power-efficient way. So, without fans or cooling constraints, and without the need for bigger, heavier batteries, device designers can develop extremely thin, light, and high-performance laptops, such as Samsung’s Galaxy Book S, whose battery-life is measured in days not hours.

Galaxy Book S vs. Surface Pro X 

Since I have reviewed and have been using the Microsoft Surface Pro X for the last few months, a comparison between the two is another question I am often asked. Well, I like them both. They have some common uses but many where one is more suited than the other. For example, as I had explained in my article, Pro X can be off-balance when you try using it on your lap, whereas the Galaxy Book S proved to be a perfect fit for such uses. As a detachable 2-in-1, the Pro X is ideal if you like to use your device also as a tablet and use the stylus. The Galaxy Book S is a clamshell design that is more suitable for a driver or a workstation easily connected through USB-C docks and such. Although the Galaxy Book S has less RAM (8GB vs. 16GB), I haven’t seen that affect my productivity apps much. But if you are using more graphics and processor-intensive applications, the difference might be more apparent. Of course, Pro X, with all the accessories costs upwards of $1500, whereas Galaxy Book S is around $1000. I currently use both devices. All my content is on OneDrive and these being always connected, I can seamlessly switch between the two, no matter where I am.

The biggest concern of ACPCs still remains the app compatibility. More apps are being ported over to run natively in ARM64, though there are applications, like some games and video editors and such, that are still incompatible. It is worth noting though that most of those demanding applications don’t run well on other thin and light notebooks either. The other concern for some is around high cellular data pricing, but operators now have bundled options where one can get reasonably priced unlimited add-on data plans. 

A glimpse of the future

The Samsung Galaxy Book S is only the second ACPC based on Snapdragon 8cx, and supports the best in class 4G LTE connectivity, with peak speeds up to 1.2Gbps. But we are at the dawn of 5G, which promises to provide multiple gigabit user speeds, extreme capacity, and lower latency. 5G ACPCs (aka 5GPCs) will be the best devices to utilize this unprecedented connectivity everywhere, as I have explained here. Book S gives a glimpse of what those 5GPCs have to offer in the years to come. In fact, the world’s first 5GPC has already been announced, and many are on the horizon. I can’t wait to get my hand on those!

 

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Prakash Sangam
Prakash Sangamhttp://www.TantraAnalyst.com
Prakash Sangam is the founder and principal at Tantra Analyst, a leading research and consultancy firm covering IP strategy, 5G, IoT, AI, as well as client and cloud computing. He has more than 20 years of wireless industry experience working for Qualcomm, Ericsson, and AT&T. A prolific writer, blogger, and speaker, Prakash enjoys analyzing technical and business challenges and transforming them into impactful strategies and persuasive messaging. He is a regular contributor to Forbes, EETimes, RCR Wireless, Medium, and other leading publications and has been on the speaking circuit for leading industry events, including Mobile World Congress, and CTIA. Prakash holds a Bachelor’s of Engineering in electronics and communications from Karnatak University in India, and a Masters of Business Administration from San Diego State University. He can be reached on twitter @MyTechMusings

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