As expected, Samsung delivered the Galaxy Note 10 and 10+ with a lot of noise at its unpacked summer event. But the device I was most looking forward to after the lively keynote was not the Note 10. It was the Galaxy Book S.
At first glance, the clamshell Windows 10 computer doesn’t seem like anything special. But look again: How many other 13-inch laptops can use up to 23 hours of battery life, have integrated LTE and a touchscreen, and weigh little more than two kilograms?
The Galaxy Book S isn’t going to win design awards – it looks like any other thin and light laptop – and after trying it out, I’ll admit it could use a little more work.
For example, the Galaxy Book S is not very balanced despite its low weight. You can’t open the laptop with one hand without the entire bottom lifting. This is because the touchscreen is heavier and stiffer than the keyboard half.
Speaking of the keyboard, it feels very cheap, with a lot of squishiness as you press every key. The trackpad is fine and the touchscreen is responsive as far as I can tell.
There is also an acceptable number of connections: two USB-Cs, a headphone jack and a microSD card slot for storage expansion.
But all of the cheapness can be improved on in future versions of the Galaxy Book S. What makes the Galaxy Book S so significant is the chipset that Samsung chose for Windows 10.
Unlike most laptops that are powered by an Intel or AMD chip, the Galaxy Book S is one of the first laptops to be used Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx chip.
Without getting too nerdy, this is essentially a mobile chip – like the one in most Android phones – optimized to run Windows 10.
Think about it for a second: a chip for phones and tablets can now power a Windows 10 laptop and in many ways outperform what an Intel chip can do.
As I said back in December when Qualcomm announced the 8cx chip, this is a bloody big deal because it could be the beginning of the end of Intel’s iron grip on PCs.
The advantages of the Snapdragon 8cx (and future versions of it) are obvious: extremely long battery life, sufficiently fast performance (for most tasks such as web browsing, 4K video streaming and working with documents), powerful connectivity (faster cellular connections and WiFi) and immense graphics performance for games.
Still don’t have a complete picture? Here is the performance Qualcomm told me that consumers can expect from laptops with the 8cx chip:
Qualcomm says the 8cx chip offers performance comparable to that of a Intel U Series Processor runs at 15 watts (found in laptops such as Dell’s XPS 13) and up to 3 times faster than Apple’s latest MacBook Air, which uses a less powerful 7-watt Intel Y-series chip.
I don’t know if the Galaxy Book S will draw circles around the new MacBook Air. I don’t know if the 23 hour battery life is legitimate or not; A Samsung product rep told me that the battery life is for continuous video playback. And I don’t know if the lightweight laptop will be cut in half in my backpack after a rough trip.
What I do know is that there will be tons of Snapdragon 8cx powered laptops from other computer manufacturers. The Galaxy Book S is not a one-off. It will be the start of a new wave of laptops with mobile-like capabilities when it launches from $ 999 in September. And it’s time thin and light laptops got more interesting.
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