Samsung knows how to make a premium device. Just take a look at the Galaxy S22 phones or Galaxy Tab S8 tablets: Elegant designs matched with the best tech. Samsung also knows how to make good budget phones and tablets, like its Galaxy A-series devices, using the right combo of materials and components to cover the essentials at a fair price. This balance between premium features and affordability carries over to the company’s current laptop lineup, too.
The Galaxy Book Pro and Pro 360 models have all the bells and whistles like AMOLED displays, Thunderbolt 4 USB-C ports and premium keyboards and touchpads. The non-Pro version of the Galaxy Book is the more middle-of-the-road option. It has an all-metal chassis for a higher-end look and feel, and the same 11th-gen Core i5 and i7 processors as the Pro models. Samsung also includes better-than-integrated Intel Iris Xe Max discrete graphics in the Galaxy Book, even at its $750 starting price. But it also has one big knock against it compared to the Pro models, and it’s one that some will find too difficult to ignore.
- Good overall performance
- Thin, light full-metal chassis
- Plenty of connection options
- Disappointing display
- Keyboard not backlit
- No fingerprint reader
The Galaxy Book I tested is the $1,000 configuration with an 11th-gen Intel Core i7, 16GB of memory and a 512GB SSD, plus Iris Xe Max discrete graphics. The $750 version drops down to a Core i5 and has half the memory and storage of the pricier model, but those are the only differences. (In the end, it’s also the one I would recommend of the two.) The base configuration is £699 in the UK. It’s not currently available in Australia, but the price converts to roughly AU$1,300.
The $1,000 price for my configuration might sound high, but it is competitive with similar 14- and 15-inch laptops like the Asus Vivobook 15 and Acer Swift 3X. The Swift 3X is the only other laptop we’ve tested with Iris Xe Max graphics and, if you don’t mind the smaller 14-inch display and don’t have other Galaxy devices, is arguably the better deal.
Samsung Galaxy Book (15-inch, 2021)
|Price as reviewed||$1,000|
|Display size/resolution||15.6-inch 1,920×1,080-pixel touch display|
|Processor||2.8GHz Intel Core i7-1165G7|
|Memory||16GB 4,267GHz DDR4|
|Graphics||Intel Iris Xe Max|
|Storage||512GB PCIe NVMe SSD|
|Ports||USB-C (x2), USB-A (x2), audio/mic jack, HDMI out, microSD card slot|
|Networking||802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) Bluetooth 5.1|
|Operating system||Windows 11|
|Weight||3.5 pounds (1.6 kg)|
The Iris Xe Max GPU is a step up from the integrated graphics you’d typically find in a thin-and-light laptop like the Galaxy Book and competes with Nvidia’s entry-level discrete graphics options, like the GeForce MX350. It’s not designed for really demanding graphics tasks, but can speed up things like video encoding and raw photo editing. In other words, it’s not going to help with gaming. With demanding games, you may get playable frame rates at low settings, but set on high you’ll be lucky to break 30 frames per second.
Not a display for creatives or creators
Despite the extra graphics performance, the Galaxy Book’s display is a big disappointment. Part of the issue is my own expectations, which are likely those of other Galaxy device owners. Samsung is known for its high-quality displays, and the one on the Galaxy Book Pro is fantastic. But this isn’t the Pro and, as a Samsung representative pointed out to me, the display in the $1,000 configuration is the same as in the cheaper $750 model. It’s one of the corners that’s been cut to get the price down.
On paper, the display sounds like a bargain for the price, too: 15.6-inch 1080p matte touchscreen LCD with 300-nit brightness. In reality, it has poor color and contrast and only gets worse when you look at it off-angle. For color gamut coverage, it tested at 58% sRGB, 41% NTSC, 43% AdobeRGB and 43% P3. The brightness on my display was 241 nits at 100%. It is a matte touchscreen and full HD, though, so those specs are correct.
If you’re looking directly at it and you have the angle just right, the display is OK. Especially if you’re considering the Galaxy Book mainly for productivity more than for watching movies or editing photos and video. At least it does have an HDMI output so it’s easy enough to connect an external monitor for those times you do need a better display for work or entertainment. And overall performance is strong, and battery life actually ran nearly an hour longer than Samsung’s eight-hour rating, getting 8 hours, 53 minutes on our video streaming test.
A hub for your Galaxy ecosystem
It’s pretty typical for laptop makers to use a lower-end display to balance out the cost of higher build quality and better internal components. The keyboard and touchpad usually take a hit, too. For the Galaxy Book, it means there’s no fingerprint sensor built into the power button, the keycaps have more of a rough plastic texture than the soft-touch feel of the Pro’s keyboard and, probably the worst part, it’s not backlit. The touchpad is also plastic instead of glass.
The Galaxy Book is otherwise a good midrange 15.6-inch touchscreen laptop, particularly if you value ports over things like a fingerprint reader. Plus, it has all the same Galaxy Book Experience software that you get with the Pro models so that all your Galaxy devices can easily work together. You can do things like send files between your Galaxy phone and the laptop, sync photos and notes and quickly switch your Galaxy Buds connection from your phone to the laptop. And if you have a Galaxy Tab S7 or later, you can use that as a wireless second display.
If you need the best display, the Galaxy Book Pro is what you want. (And the Pro is currently only $150 more for the Core i7 configuration.) The Galaxy Book makes more sense if you’re looking for a general-purpose machine with a big screen that’s light and slim enough for a commute or carrying around campus. In that case, the $750 configuration, which is $650 at the moment, is the best deal.