BERLIN: ALWAYS CONNECTED PCS haven't really taken the laptop world by storm despite being the Windows 10 equivalent of Chromebooks. The lacklustre performance and some software incompatibility with running Windows 10 apps on ARM-based instruction sets rather than traditional x86 architecture has kept such machines from finding the limelight.
However, Samsung's Galaxy Book S looks to change that, and at IFA 2019 in Berlin, we got to hands-on time with the machine, albeit after some wrangling with Samsung staff.
The Galaxy Book S is one good looking ultraportable-sized machine. It's slim at 11.8mm thick and minimal too; very much in keeping with the Galaxy brand. And in a copper pink livery, it stands out from the laptop crowd without being ostentatious.
That's all well and good from a visual point, and the Galaxy Book S feels like a well-made machine as well. Where it let it's self down on, from our first impression, is with the keyboard.
While the trackpad was glass coasted and delivered a smooth and accurate mousing-experience, the keyboard lacked travel and the keys caps felt cheap and a bit wobbly.
Typing on it felt a little vague and as if one was tapping on a cheap Chromebook rather than a device that's a good bit more expensive and has a veneer of being aimed at folks who want a premium laptop.
But the slimness comes at a price, and that price is a lack of ports. The Galaxy Book S has a mere two USB-C ports though both are Thunderbolt 3, a 3.5mm headphone jack, microSD card reader...and that's about it. Not exactly a machine for people with lots of legacy USB-A accessories, but it's not the end of the world either as there are plenty of good dongles around.
Still, a lack of port-based faff and extras, means we could easily hold the Galaxy Book S between a couple of fingers; heavy this thing ain't, which is handy for a lugging around a machine with a 13in display.
Speaking of which, the Galaxy Book S comes with a 13.3in touch screen, sporting a fairly run-of-the-mill FHD resolution. That's fine for a screen of this size, but don't expect it to serve up the most razor-sharp of images and graphics.
Under the bright lights of Samsung's showcase arena, it was difficult to get a proper imprecision of the display.
Colours and contrast seemed fine, if not exactly captivating, brightness seemed decent when fully cranked; Though when we reduced the brightness the panel gets very dark indeed.
Samsung is very good at making excellent phone displays, but there's a feeling here that here using LCD rather than OLED panels it slightly drops the ball. Not that the display is bad by any stretch, it just doesn't wow us.
Performance, storage and battery life
This is the first machine to sport Qualcomm's Snapdragon 8cx, a chipset specifically made to run Windows 10 in Always Connected PCs, rather than be a take on the chip maker's usual smartphone SoCs.
The chip itself comprises an octa-core Kryo 496 64bit processor with a clock speed of 2.84GHz on the cores designed for full-power and 1.8GHz on the cores designed to be more energy efficient in less demanding tasks.
That CPU is mixed with Qualcomm's Adreno 680, a pretty respectable GPU found in high-end smartphones.
Given we were being eye-balled and warned off picking up the Galaxy Book S by a security guard without much of a grasp of English, we certainly didn't have the scope to put the chip through its paces.
But it felt like it was running Windows 10 without any hiccups. Things didn't necessarily feel lightning-fast, but then that could be down to the rest of the hardware as much as the SoC.
Things look promising for the Snapdragon 8cx, as some early tests have it showing some decent graphical grunt over Intel's eighth-gen Core i processors. But it's early days, and Intel has its Ice Lake 10-nanometre processors making their debut in thin and light laptops, so Qualcomm might not have the venerable chip maker licked in the laptop chip performance stakes.
But the graphics performance the Snapdragon 8cx could offer, given its smartphone heritage, could make for a machine that doesn't look like a pixel-pushing powerhouse could actually have some gaming chops.
Memory came in at 8GB, which is perfectly fine for a Windows 10 machine, if not exactly something to get excited about.
Storage in this model was 256GB of SSD space, but the Galaxy Book S will offer a 512GB SSD, and that can be expanded up to 1TB with the use of a microSD card.
Samsung reckons the Galaxy Book S will last some 23 hours of video playback, but we wouldn't expect to see that type of endurance in other computing tasks. We couldn't test such stuff on the stand, but we'd place a good bet on the Galaxy Book S lasting a good day's worth of everyday work, followed by a few hours of Netflix once one get back home.
The Galaxy Book S is a very attractive and well-designed machine, much like a lot of Samsung hardware. And it's a good gadget in which to showcase the Snapdragon 8cx as the heart of an Always Connected PC.
But we have our reservations when it comes it the keyboard, which we feel is a disappointment for a laptop that's set to start at $999, some £810, as there are devices like the Surface Pro 6 that can be had for around that amount which offer an interesting hybrid experience, but use a proper x86-based processor to keep Windows 10 ticking along.
Nevertheless, Samsung has created a good gadget here, if not quite something we were expecting from our initial impression.
We'd need more time and scope to give the Galaxy Book S a proper review before casting copper-bottomed judgment. Yet, despite our few reservations, the Galaxy Book S shows there's scope for Always Connects PC to have some very lovely aesthetics and potentially promise laptops that don't need an Intel or AMD processor to deliver the Windows 10 goods. µ