Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Review: OLED Display Meets S Pen And Portability

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Design, User Experience And Camera

The first thing that strikes you, when you get the Galaxy Book 12 out of the box and powered up, is how slick the tablet design itself is. There are a pair of speaker ports, one on each edge and bit of venting on the top of the device, but other than that its clean lines and super-thin 7.3mm, matte finish, machined aluminum chassis showcases a classic Samsung industrial design signature.  

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 back

The tablet itself has a premium design with very tight tolerances, fit, and finish. It really is a pleasure to hold, and as 12-inch slates go, it's about as light-weight and balanced as you're going to get these days. Weighing just over 1.5 pounds, you're not going to have to make extra trips to the gym to get in shape for wielding this slice of technology. 

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 removed from keyboard case

The Galaxy Book 12's included keyboard cover, on the other hand, doesn't share quite the same premium feel. It's a little on the plasticky side with a little too much flex, though its trackpad is spacious and responsive. Key travel is unsurprisingly shallow, but with a bit of practice, the keyboard area is roomy enough and well-organized such that you'll be up and running fairly quickly. Detaching and reattaching the tablet to the keyboard is clean and simple, with a firm magnetic snap that aligns the edge connectors of both together easily.  

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 OLED Display

But perhaps the most stand-out feature of the Galaxy Book 12 is its 12-inch Super AMOLED display. The picture here certainly doesn't capture the pop and high contrast of AMOLED, nor does it adequately capture its brightness levels. In fact, it's so bright we found ourselves backing down brightness levels so as not to blow out our pictures with our usual camera settings. When it comes to a device like this, where the display commands so much of the user interface and experience, Samsung's investment in OLED technology pays dividends. This is easily the nicest 12-inch tablet or hybrid convertible display you can lay eyes on currently. 

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Left Edge
Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Right Edge
Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Top Edge

In terms of ports and IO, the Galaxy Book 12 is very well-appointed, with two USB 3.1 Type-C ports and a micoSD card slot for storage expansion. Our system came equipped with a 256GB m.2 SATA SSD, but you could also drop in something like Samsung's EVO Plus microSDXC card and expand on that with robust throughput speeds. Speaking of robust, the Galaxy Book 12's dual stereo speakers offer surprisingly good output, though as expected, lack low-end presence as is typical for the device type. What's nice is that they're located on the top side edges of the device such that, whether holding it in tablet mode or in the keyboard dock, you don't end up obstructing them in any way. 

The keyboard cover has three specific magnetic points that capture and hold the plastic rear stand position in place. It makes for a firm and stable setup on a desktop but "lapability" here, to quote a Panos-ism, is less than ideal. Frankly, most 2-in-1's including Microsoft's Surface line suffer this same fate. If you're couch bound with this device, unless you have work to do, it's best to probably detach it from the keyboard and work in tablet mode, maybe with the S Pen. 

Samsung S Pen And Bundled Software

Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Pen and Windows Ink
Samsung Galaxy Book 12 Pen and Air Command

And in terms of pen styluses, Samsung once again has a best-in-class implementation. The pen is really responsive and precise with 4096 points of accuracy. In addition, its button provides a mouse-like interface for capturing blocks of text, for example, by pressing and dragging the tip of the pen over the line of text you want to highlight. Air Command is also back with great features like Smart Select, which easily lets you capture areas of your screen and share them out, or even create and animated GIF of an area of your screen with up to 15 seconds of recorded content. Best of all, the S Pen never needs charging in the traditional sense since it pulls power from the Galaxy Book 12 wirelessly whenever it's close to the display through magnetic inductive charging. Pretty sweet, right? Microsoft is also sweetening the deal these days for all Windows devices, with Windows Ink, which adds a myriad of pen interface features including Sketch Pad (seen above), Screen Sketch, Sticky Notes and more.  

Samsung Flow Galaxy Book 12
Samsung Flow in action.

Another sweet, new feature for the Galaxy Book 12 is Samsung Flow. Think of Flow as a basic IM client and conduit to and from a Samsung Galaxy smartphone to the Galaxy Book 12. In the shot above you're seeing a Facebook Messenger and a Google Hangout conversation both piped in automatically via Flow. We could also setup file transfers this way as well and it just worked. Basically any communication client on the phone will be piped in to the Book with notifications via Flow and you can also log on to the Galaxy Book 12 with the fingerprint sensor on your Galaxy phone. It should be noted that Flow is currently supported for Samsung Galaxy S8, S8+, Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note5 devices. 

Camera And Web Cam

Windows Camera Samsung Galaxy Book 12
Microsoft Camera app boxing my mug with tracking focus.

Sample shot 1 Sample shot 2

Sample shot 3 Sample shot 4
Galaxy Book 12 rear camera samples

Samsung's camera setups are typically top-notch and the Galaxy Book 12 is no exception, relatively speaking. Here you're not going to get the same level of performance as you might get from a Galaxy S8 or S7 smartphone, but as tablets go, still image and video capture is solid. In some lighting conditions, images can appear a touch washed-out, lacking saturation, though low light performance was better than expected with less grain than we've seen from other tablets. Note, you'll be working with the Windows Camera app here but it's full-featured enough to get the job done. Finally, the Galaxy Book 12 has a lower profile than the average notebook, so web cam angles can be a bit unflattering at desk height, unless you prop it up on something to better align with your face. 

Right then. Let's look at performance...

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