Long battery life, screen with good use of the front space, compact size and light weight. That could be the description of a smartphone, but they are the characteristics of the Galaxy Book S, an ultrathin notebook from Samsung that comes with a hybrid processor: the Intel Core i5-L16G7.
This chip is part of the family Intel Lakefield, which combines a high-power core with resource-saving cores. This approach means that the Galaxy Book S does not need a cooler. That’s why it’s so thin: closed, the laptop is only 11.8 mm thick.
But, how is the performance of a laptop with this type of processor? Samsung speaks on batteries lasting up to 17 hours. Is that really it? And how to deal with the Book S offering only two USB-C ports? This is what you will discover in the next few moments.
Video review of Galaxy Book S
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The Galaxy Book S was provided by Samsung on loan and will be returned to the company after testing. For more information, visit tecnoblog.net/etica.
Design and connectivity
It is no exaggeration to say that the Galaxy Book S is one of the thinnest notebooks on the market. On the table, it can be put through a closed folder for the most inattentive look or even be easily mixed with magazines. As already stated, when closed, the laptop is only 11.8 mm thick. The current MacBook Air, a reference in this regard, has a thickness of 16.1 mm, just for you to have an idea.
The compact dimensions, when combined with the weight of only 950 g, make the Galaxy Book S an excellent laptop to take to and fro. You don’t even need a specific backpack for this: it fits very well in medium-sized bags or briefcases.
Do not think that lightness implies fragility: the Book S has a predominantly aluminum body that, much more than the air of sophistication, fulfills the mission of giving it an aspect of a robust and well-built product.
You may have noticed, however, that all this fineness it has a side effect: the laptop has no space for conventional USB or HDMI ports. In fact, the device only comes with two USB-C ports, a connection for headphones and a microphone, as well as a microSD slot on the bottom.
If you want to connect a mouse or USB stick to the Galaxy Book S, for example, you will have to use the adapter that came with the model.
Anyway, this notebook was designed for those who need a lot of mobility. People who have this usage profile often don’t carry a lot of accessories, so they won’t have a lot of problems with the small number of doors we find here.
Ensuring wireless connectivity is perhaps more important. In this regard, the Galaxy Book S does not do ugly: it has Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax 2 × 2) and Bluetooth 5.0. Both types worked well during the tests.
Ah, did you notice that there are no ventilation outlets here? The laptop’s processor, to be addressed later, does not require a cooler. Is it necessary? No, but the laptop gets a bit hot with heavy applications.
You may also have noticed that there are no upgrade slots here. The Book S has soldered RAM memory. You can try changing the SSD, but obviously you will have to open the device for this.
Screen, webcam and audio
The model’s screen is a 13.3-inch TFT LCD panel with a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels. Don’t worry: this is not one of those average displays that are common in notebooks sold in Brazil. Here, the panel displays vivid coloring and intense shine, which can reach 350 nits.
This is in normal mode. In external mode, which can be activated in the Samsung Settings tool or with the Fn + O keys, the brightness reaches 600 nits. This allows the Galaxy Book S to be used relatively easily if you are in your backyard on a sunny day, for example.
Let it be said that the screen generates some reflection, but not to the point of ruining the experience or affecting the viewing from different angles, which, by the way, is quite pleasant here.
A detail of the screen that Samsung is keen to highlight is the touch sensitivity. This is a characteristic that, to be frank, I would easily dispense with. As the Book S does not have a tablet mode, this feature ends up being useful for few people – in my case, it only serves to make me uncomfortable with the fingerprints.
On the other hand, the use of the frontal space is convincing. On the left and right sides, the thickness of the edges does not reach half a centimeter.
The upper edge, on the other hand, is slightly thicker, but this detail allows the webcam to fit there. The component does a good job: the colors are not faded, as in many cameras of this type, and the 720p resolution can handle meetings in Zoom or the like, as it has to be.
Failing to address the audio would be an injustice. For an ultra-thin notebook, the Galaxy Book S has surprisingly immersive audio. We are talking about two pairs of 1.2 W each that, although they practically do not reproduce bass, offer high volume and a clear sound that hardly distorts.
Keyboard and touchpad
As we are facing a notebook to be taken up and down, the combination of keyboard and touchpad needs to work very well, right? It works. Let’s start with the latter: the touchpad has a smoother surface than the rest of the laptop and that makes your fingers slide easily here.
In addition, the answer is quick and accurate. From a more intense dragging movement to a very smooth touch, everything is detected with the right intensity. So, when you can’t use a mouse, the touchpad will be able to show service.
The keyboard is very comfortable. It has wide keys, despite the compact size of the Galaxy Book S, and smooth click, but at the same time, it is not too soft.
In addition, the keyboard comes in the ABNT2 standard (has a ‘ç’ key), has an Fn key that, like Caps Lock, can be locked (in both, an LED lights up when this happens) and comes with a fingerprint reader integrated with the power button on the top right – the component is fast and works great with Windows Hello in unlocking the operating system.
Yes, the keyboard has an LED backlight, but in light green instead of the traditional white. Below the screen, on the right side, Samsung has implemented a brightness sensor that not only adjusts the brightness of the display but also activates the LEDs. The maximum brightness is not the most intense. I would say, in fact, that the intensity of the light comes in the right measure so as not to bother the eyes.
If the keyboard goes idle – when you watch a video, for example – the backlight will automatically be turned off to save energy. You can configure the activation time of this feature or disable it in Samsung Settings.
Performance, software and battery
To talk about the performance of the Galaxy Book S we need to put the Core i5-L16G7 chip in perspective. This is a processor that essentially consists of an attempt by Intel to mix powerful cores with cost-effective cores to optimize resource consumption and thereby reduce power consumption.
It is an approach that resembles the big.LITTLE technology found in ARM chips available for cell phones. Incidentally, the first version of the Book S was launched with an ARM technology processor, the Snapdragon 8cx. However, until the closing of this review, Samsung had no plans to release this version in Brazil.
In the case of the Core i5-L16G7, a single 10-nanometer Sunny Cove core accounts for heavier workloads while four low-consumption Tremont cores, also 10 nanometers, take care of the least demanding tasks. Hyperthreading is not supported.
This scheme makes the Galaxy Book S handle the applications that are most common in the daily lives of most users. Word, PowerPoint, Chrome with about five tabs open, Spotify and Netflix were examples of software that ran smoothly in the tests.
But there are limitations. You may notice some delay in loading spreadsheets with a lot of data or crashes in software or games that require a little more of the GPU (Intel UHD Graphics). It happened in the game Asphalt 9: Legends.
In fact, even opening applications can be a little time consuming at times, although they work well when loaded.
I didn’t notice any problems with multitasking, not least because the laptop has 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB SSD (there is a version with 512 GB). The capabilities of the two components are sufficient for the Book S proposal: to handle the most common tasks, for productivity.
Yes, because, as it may have already become clear to you, the model is not an option for those who want to run games or heavy applications. Lakefield is not a processor focused on high performance, but on autonomy.
Speaking of which, Samsung says that the battery of the Galaxy Book S, with 42 Wh, reaches up to 17 hours of duration, but this in video playback and in very specific conditions of use. In practice, the battery lasts much less, but still manages to present an interesting range.
For the test, I ran two movies on Netflix that added up to almost five reproductions with maximum brightness on the screen (but not in external mode), I used Chrome for an hour and listened to music via Spotify and speakers for an hour too. These tests caused the load to drop from 100% to about 20%.
You can tell then that the battery can have something between eight and nine hours of autonomy with moderate use. It is a very good average. If the situation gets worse, it is possible to activate the Battery Plus mode by pressing Fn + Z. This feature stretches the battery life to around 12 hours, but makes performance drop a lot, so it only serves for emergencies.
The recharge time from 1% to 100% with the laptop turned off was three hours. The charger is small and resembles the models used for cell phone recharging. The procedure can be done through any of the equipment’s USB-C ports.
In terms of software, the notebook runs Windows 10 Home with some Samsung tools, such as Notes, Dex (integrates the laptop with certain smartphones of the brand) and Settings, which is very important for configurations. Yes, the notebook comes with an antivirus trial, but it is possible to remove it.
Samsung Galaxy Book S: is it worth it?
The prices suggested by Samsung for the Galaxy Book S are R $ 7,199 for the 256 GB version and R $ 7,499 for the 512 GB option. With these values, you can buy a gaming notebook that, as such, has much more processing power.
Not that the Lakefield chip is bad. It tries to fulfill a purpose that is typical of ARM processors for cell phones or tablets: to provide sufficient performance for everyday use and, as much as possible, to save battery power. High performance is not the priority here.
That’s why the Galaxy Book S is worth it, yes, but for a very specific audience: people who are constantly on the move, that is, stay away from home or the office frequently.
For them, the robust finish, the quality of the LCD panel, the comfortable keyboard, the precise touchpad and even the fingerprint reader add up to points, but the small dimensions, the lightness and the long battery life are the decisive factors, because these attributes facilitate transport and reduce the need for outlets nearby.
Now, if mobility is not a priority for you, probably the Galaxy Book S will be nothing more than curiosity.
In a scenario without a pandemic, this notebook would be very useful for me at press conferences, for example, events where everything is very busy and there are rarely outlets available. But, for use at home or in the office, I would opt for a model with more ports and a more powerful processor.
Samsung Galaxy Book S Notebook
- Compact and very light
- Screen with great brightness level
- Comfortable touchpad and keyboard
- Robust finish
- Battery with interesting autonomy
- Few ports for connectivity
- Good processor just for productivity
- Screen: TFT LCD, 13.3 inches, full HD (1920 × 1080 pixels), touch sensitive, brightness up to 600 nits
- Processor: Intel Core i5-L16G7 (Lakefield) with five cores and UHD graphics
- RAM: 8 GB of LPDDR4x
- Storage: 256 GB or 512 GB expandable with microSD up to 1 TB
- Drums: 42 Wh (four cells), recharging via USB-C
- Connectivity: USB-C (2), Wi-Fi 6 (Gig +), Bluetooth 5.0, connection for headphones with microphone
- Webcam: 720p resolution
- Operational system: Windows 10 Home
- Others: fingerprint reader, keyboard with LED backlight and ABNT2 standard, light sensor, two pairs of AKG speakers with Dolby Atmos, Mercury Gray colors (tested version) and Earthy Gold
- Dimensions (mm): 305.2 x 203.2 x 6.2-11.8 mm
- Weight: 950 g