Samsung Galaxy Book 2 tablet review: Performance takes a back seat to battery life

Samsung bets that you'll take massive battery life and tolerate good-enough performance for web browsing and office work.

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Galaxy Book 2 typing experience

Typing on the Galaxy Book 2’s bundled keyboard is surprisingly decent. Each key offers a rather spacious landing pad for your fingers, with pleasing key travel and resiliency. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the keyboard were simply a holdover from the first-generation Galaxy Book.) The keyboard does flex considerably, though the movement felt more akin to the springiness of an athletic shoe rather than the sag of an old bed.The trackpad is mediocre, however, and it feels small and somewhat unresponsive.

Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Mark Hachman / IDG

The Samsung Galaxy Book’s keyboard is surprisingly comfy, and the trackpad is serviceable.

Samsung has adopted the now-traditional double-folding hinge, which connects the keyboard to the tablet. As someone who prefers a slightly angled keyboard, the ease with which the keyboard unhinges is annoying —there’s even a hidden Samsung label that makes me think the behavior’s intentional. But the final magnetic connector holding the keyboard in place is pretty close to rock-solid, leading me to believe that you could work with it on your lap for prolonged lengths of time. The hinged kickstand reclines way back, almost but not quite flat. 

I’m impressed with the Galaxy Book 2’s speakers. Granted, because of the physical limitations of a tablet, they can’t really deliver even the low-end oomph of a connected speaker like the Harman/Kardon Invoke. But even without any augmentation, the range of sound the Book 2’s speakers deliver is relatively balanced, with good volume. They improve even further with the included Dolby Atmos augmentation—which, somewhat surprisingly, ships off by default and needs to be enabled with an app. With Dolby Atmos enabled, the Book 2 delivers a fairly rich soundscape, from highs to lows.

Galaxy Book 2 apps: A mixed bag

The Galaxy Book 2 offers an acceptable amount of storage (128GB), though anything below 256GB triggers a bit of paranoia that I’ll run out of room. How Windows 10 integrates OneDrive assuages that somewhat, as you can back up files to the cloud and let them remain as “placeholders” on the drive. (For some reason, however, the Book 2 wanted to default to the Verizon LTE SIM that Samsung included—which was set up as a metered connection, and that means OneDrive won’t automatically sync your files to the cloud. I had to disable the cellular connection manually to convince Windows to use my unmetered Wi-Fi and ethernet.)

Connectivity issues aside, however, the fact remains that the Galaxy Book 2 ships with the usual complement of bloatware (Candy Crush, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Disney Magic Kingdoms, etc.), which you’ll want to delete immediately. There’s also the built-in Samsung apps, which we discussed in more detail under the “Bundled apps” section of our original Galaxy Book review. These are more forgivable, especially the Galaxy Book app that ships with some minimal configuration options, such as adjusting the display color warmth or preventing the Galaxy Book 2 from charging more than 85 percent to preserve the longevity of the battery.

Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Mark Hachman / IDG

Samsung’s pen slips inside this large plastic holder, which apparently just roams free inside your bag.

Samsung shipped the Galaxy Book 2 with Samsung Flow, which works to unlock your PC using your phone—something that Windows Hello should make redundant? Samsung Gallery also works somewhat like the Your Phone app within Windows: Originally designed as a conduit to pass photos taken with a Galaxy phone to your Galaxy Book 2, it now can use a more generic Bluetooth connection via a Google Play app that can be downloaded by any compatible Android phone.

The first Galaxy Book shipped with an S-Pen, bundled as a discrete accessory. I criticized the lack of integration. The more recent Samsung Notebook 9 Pen adopted the built-in pen holster used by the Galaxy Note phones and tablets, which I happily applauded until I accidentally jammed the S-Pen wrong-way in. The Galaxy Book 2 uses an odd sleeve apparently re-purposed from a meat thermometer... and, well, given my past history, I’m okay with that. It might have been nicer with an accent color, or perhaps a clip of some sort, but Samsung’s Brutalist design should stop absent-minded reviewers from stuffing the S-Pen where it shouldn’t go. 

Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Mark Hachman / IDG

Here’s the pen, out of its case.

What about benchmarks? Keep reading to find out.

At a Glance
  • Samsung's latest 2-in-1 now looks much like the competition, but with a key change: it uses Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon processor, which delivers game-changing battery life but anemic performance.

    Pros

    • Absolutely the best battery life we've seen, period
    • Re-engineered tablet chassis is on a par with competition
    • $999 price tag is very competitive, and includes keyboard and pen
    • Optional LTE gives you connectivity on the go

    Cons

    • Low overall performance
    • Included apps aren't really necessary
    • Is this app going to work? There's always some doubt
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