Samsung Galaxy Book review: An excellent 2-in-1 for a good price

Samsung’s Galaxy Book is a 2-in-1 tablet with a detachable keyboard that gets pretty much everything you care about right. Its price, performance, and battery life are all among the best we’ve tested.

While it lacks the razzle-dazzle of flagships like the new Surface Pro, it’s still the sort of all-around performer that will attract a buyer looking for good value. Samsung’s only real swing and miss is a somewhat gimmicky integration with its Galaxy smartphones, which replaces the Windows Hello features that are becoming more common.

Samsung Galaxy Book side

Adam Patrick Murray

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Price: Galaxy Book’s value proposition
  • Features: A mobile pedigree, for better and for worse
  • Keyboard: the Book’s foldable keyboard doesn’t suck
  • Performance: Galaxy Book is among the best
  • Bundled apps: Samsung’s apps are hit-and-miss
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Price: Galaxy Book’s value proposition

While some competing 2-in-1 products we’ve reviewed cost upwards of $1,400, the version of the Samsung Galaxy Book we tested ships for $1,300. The price includes 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, plus optional LTE connectivity via Verizon. A more full-featured version starts with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. There’s also a microSD card slot that accepts cards up to 256GB. Inside you’ll find 2×2 802.11ac Wi-Fi plus Bluetooth 4.1 BLE.

The Galaxy Book family also offers a smaller 10.6-inch tablet, with a 7th-generation Core m3 inside, starting at $630. For both sizes, the associated keyboard and pen ship for free, a trend we’d like to see become more common.

Samsung Galaxy Book

Adam Patrick Murray

The Galaxy Book’s beautiful Super AMOLED display is definitely a selling point.

Samsung rightfully earns praise for its bright, vibrant displays, and the Galaxy Book is no different. The 12-inch, 2,160×1,440 Super AMOLED touchscreen shines 355 nits’ worth of light into your eyeballs, and displays rich colors—though without the advanced options Microsoft built into its Surface Pro. Part of that has to do with the Galaxy Book’s integrated high-dynamic range (HDR) capability, which allows the screen to render brighter brights and deeper blacks. This is a feature typically found on high-end televisions, so the Galaxy Book is unusual, and perhaps unique, among Windows tablets in having it.

I expected the Galaxy Book to lean a bit more upon Samsung’s legacy of quality Android tablets, however. It’s no crime to exclude a physical Windows button, as the Galaxy Book does. I was a bit surprised, though, to discover that the screen bezel was a bit on the chunky side. The Galaxy Book’s dimensions are fine: 11.47 x 7.87 x 0.29 inches, and just over 2.5 pounds with the keyboard attached, or about 2.78 pounds if you add the small, cellular-style USB-C power charger. Still, the tablet felt somewhat awkward to hold in the hand.

Samsung Galaxy Book vs Surface Pro 4

Adam Patrick Murray

Though the Surface Pro 4 (bottom) is thicker than the Galaxy Book, it weighs slightly less when you attach both keyboards.

Features: A mobile pedigree, for better and for worse

Unfortunately, buying a Galaxy Book brings up a new consideration for many: what USB standard your peripherals use. Samsung has committed wholeheartedly to USB-C, with a pair of ports than can be used for charging or for peripherals. That’s fine for phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8, which use USB-C for charging but rarely connect to a wired USB device. The PC ecosystem encompasses a vast number of legacy devices, however, and you undoubtedly own some pre-USB-C device that you’ll want to connect to the Galaxy Book. At least Samsung was somewhat merciful: There’s a traditional headphone jack.

Samsung Galaxy Book USB-C

Adam Patrick Murray

One of these things is not like the other.

Because the two USB-C connections are the only I/O ports available, you’ll either need to invest in USB-C dongles or think about buying new gear.  A $20 USB-C hub, with three USB-A connections and an ethernet jack, is one option. Even better, Samsung is currently offering a free multi-port USB-C adapter if you order the Galaxy Book directly from the company.

Samsung clearly tapped its mobile team in other aspects of the design. Some people simply love taking photos with a tablet’s rear camera, and Samsung’s high-quality 13MP part should serve you well. Photos were sharp and bright, although the tablet can take seconds to focus. A more mundane 5MP camera sits up front.

Samsung Galaxy Book S-Pen

Adam Patrick Murray

The S-Pen may be a bit less ergonomic than other styluses, but you don’t have to charge it, either.

The Samsung Galaxy Book also ships with an S-Pen, the Samsung stylus that its Note phones made famous. Though I’ve begged other 2-in-1 vendors to secure the pen internally, as the Samsung Galaxy Note does, the Galaxy Book ignored my pleas.

Kingdom Come: Deliverance is like an ultra-realistic Skyrim set in the Holy Roman Empire

Kingdom Come: Deliverance has positioned itself as a “realistic Elder Scrolls game.” Taking the first-person viewpoint, the wide-open world, and the get-better-at-a-skill-by-using-it talent system, there are definite similarities.

Just leave all the magic and dragons and whatever behind. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a period drama set in the Holy Roman Empire of the early 1400s, within the kingdom of Bohemia. You play the lazy son of a master blacksmith whose village is invaded and burned to the ground by King Sigismund.

That really happened. King Sigismund did in fact invade this village and raze it, we were told during our demo. It’s excellent impetus for your own rags-to-riches adventure, but has basis in actual historical fact.

kingdom come deliverance 4

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

So “Realistic Elder Scrolls game” is perhaps understating the whole endeavor. It’s obsessive. Listening to Warhorse Studios describe Kingdom Come: Deliverance, it seems like a game tailor-made for history buffs. Every village in the game is an actual historical village in the 1400s. Most of the important characters were also pulled straight from history, with accompanying codex entries the length of a mini-encyclopedia hidden within the menus. Even the maps are done up in the style of the times, with a hand-drawn medieval look I don’t think I’ve seen used in a game before.

It’s like Assassin’s Creed without the accompanying layer of conspiracy theories, more a work of living history than a game in some regards.

Don’t get me wrong, though: It’s an ambitious game too. Our demo focused on the opening 30 minutes of the game, so we didn’t get to see much in the way of story. I pretty much spent my time hauling coal to my father’s forge and then helping him create a sword for the nearby lord.

kingdom come deliverance 2

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

But Warhorse did speak in broader terms about the world it’s building—one that’s a far more reactive take on the open-world RPG. For instance, an early quest tasked us with recovering a debt from a local drunkard. With the right stats we could of course talk the money out of him, or we could beat it out of him. If we fail in that regard, we could return and tell our father, at which point he’ll take care of it. Or if you keep exploring, you might find some other way around the quest, maybe some fellow youths to teach you how to break into the drunkard’s house.

Many of these quests are also time-limited, which further changes how events play out. Another early quest has you grab a beer for your father on the way home. “Get one from the cellar so it’s still cold,” he says as you dash off. Buy the beer and come back immediately and your dear ol’ dad will drink full to bursting. Get distracted, though? The beer warms up, and your dad will lament his lazy son again.

This is a minor example, but from the looks of it Kingdom Come is studded with time-sensitive events that lead to entire quests or quest paths, all sorts of people actually going about their lives and you’re just one more peasant in their midst. It’s very A Mind Forever Voyaging in that regard, or Pathologic—the latter another Elder Scrolls-alike, actually.

kingdom come deliverance 6

Kingdom Come: Deliverance

You can even lock yourself out of quests entirely. Warhorse stated that it wants the main quest to be modular, easily completed no matter the path you choose, but side quests can end at any moment, either before you’ve even started or (if you really screw up) right in the middle of one. If you’re feeling truly sadistic you can even kill quest givers. That’s one way to fail.

Then there are the small touches I’ve already come to love. Saving the game requires drinking alcohol, and only a certain amount can be carried at a time, limiting the amount of save-scumming. And if you wear a helmet into a battle the screen occludes appropriately—you’ll get a narrow band of vision in the middle, surrounded by black.

 

CIA Reveals It Was Hacked by an Insider Network of Snack Thieves

 

The Central Intelligence Agency admitted this week that it had been compromised for months in 2013 by a network of high-tech snack thieves.

A report released this week shows the premier US intelligence body discovered that insider hackers had stolen more than $3,300 worth of potato chips, chocolate bars and other snacks from its vending machines.

The culprits weren’t undercover agents or veteran Al-Qaeda chasers, but instead “contractors” – of which the CIA has thousands, doing everything from terror analysis to servicing the machines that answer American spies’ junk food needs.

A CIA Inspector General’s report on the candy cabal was released following a Freedom of Information Act request by BuzzFeed journalist Jason Leopold.

Unsurprisingly for the CIA, the report is heavily redacted – no names, or sources and methods behind the investigation. But it shows that an unidentified contractor figured out how to get snacks without paying.CIA Reveals It Was Hacked by an Insider Network of Snack Thieves

The machines took stored value payment cards from the FreedomPay company.
The contractor figured out that if you disconnect the cable that connects the machines with FreedomPay’s cloud-based payment systems, they would accept a card that has no more funds.

The culprit told friends who also disconnected the machines’ cords to download snacks for free.

But, of course, the agency finally caught up. After suspicions were raised, CIA officials put surveillance cameras on the machines, and figured out the scam.

The main perpetrator “admitted to originating the idea of how to effect the thefts based on his knowledge of computer networks,” according to the report.

Members of the cabal were rounded up, interrogated and then escorted from the building and fired by their employers.

 

Amazon has unveiled an early peek of Prime Day deals

 

Amazon’s Prime Day is just hours away, and the online retailer wants to keep anticipation high. To that end, the company has unveiled a sneak peek at some of the deals you can expect throughout the 30-hour extravaganza.

As is typical for Amazon, the company’s preview includes some generic promises, such as up to 40 percent off gaming laptops—but a handful are truly excellent deals. We’ve picked the top three that jumped out to us. Keep these on your radar, and when Prime Day sales truly kick off at 6 P.M Pacific / 9 P.M. Eastern on Monday evening, we’ll be tracking the best of the Prime Day tech deals on PCWorld.com.

Note: To take advantage of Prime Day sales, you must be a member of Amazon Prime. This service is Amazon’s $99-a-year club that offers free two-day shipping on orders, as well as a litany of frills like free premium video and music streaming, free online photo storage, a Kindle lending library, and various promotional offers. New Prime members get a free 30-day trial, which means you can sign up, get the Prime deals, and then dump the membership before the $99 fee kicks in.

Amazon Echo for $90

amazon echo

Amazon

This is easily the best deal yet for Amazon’s smart speaker. The lowest ever price was during its pre-order period, when early adopters could snag it for $99. This undercuts that by $10, and the lowest price on CamelCamelCamel by $40. The Echo—powered by the Alexa digital personal assistant—is a fantastic smart speaker for those looking to get started with smart home gadgets.

Nokia has an Android flagship in the works to challenge the Galaxy S8

 

HMD, the Chinese firm that paid big bucks to slap the Nokia brand onto Android phones, has big plans. It unveiled a new Nokia 3310 to rapturous applause at MWC, as well as a line of mid-level Android devices.

According to a new report out of China, that’s not all. HMD is said to be working on two flagship phones that will pack Qualcomm’s cutting-edge Snapdragon 835, the same chip that (probably) powers the upcoming Galaxy S8.Nokia phones 2017

The report, from Chinese site MyDrivers, says that Nokia will be unveiling an all-metal flagship phone with dual cameras, a big screen, and a Snapdragon 835 under the hood. Those are eerily similar specs to what the Galaxy S8 is set to launch with, and close to basically every other Android flagship that launches this year.

Differentiation is going to be particularly hard because HMD can’t use the Nokia PureView camera tech that the company used to be famous for. One of the only reasons for buying one of Nokia’s Lumia Android phones was the camera, but that brand and expertise were bought up by Microsoft. It’s unclear who is going to be making the lenses and sensors for Nokia’s new phones, but it’s unlikely to be anyone you’ve heard of.

That’s not all, as Nokia is rumored to also be working on a second “flagship” device with a smaller screen but more or less the same specs. It’s set to get the same Snapdragon processor, up to 6GB of RAM (!!!!) and a good camera setup. If that comes to fruition, it could be a good option, since one trend the Galaxy S8 and iPhone 8 are likely to follow is increased screen size.

 

Apple Makes an Uncharacteristic Move

 

Apple decided to let reporters in on a secret this week: a new Mac Pro is coming sometime next year. ILLUSTRATION: GETTY IMAGES

Apple is famously tight-lipped between product announcements, preferring to let fans merely speculate about what’s to come.

The company made an exception Monday, when its marketing chief Phil Schiller invited a group of reporters to the hallowed grounds where the company develops Mac prototypes.

The conversation focused on the Mac Pro, according to Tech Crunch, which attended the meeting. The current version of the computer, casually known as the trash can for its cylindrical shape, hasn’t been a particularly strong seller. Apple loyalists have questioned whether the company was going to abandon the professional market altogether.Apple decided to let reporters in on a secret this week: a new Mac Pro is coming sometime next year.

“We are in the process of what we call completely rethinking the Mac Pro,” Schiller said. That means a new Pro and a new external display — just not in 2017. Apple last updated the Mac Pro in 2013. The new machine, though, won’t have a touch screen, as Microsoft’s pro computer, the Surface Studio, does.

Apple also said that it would be coming out with new iMacs later this year that would have better specs — presumably making them more appealing to customers who use a lot of professional apps.

Is this a signal that Apple will be more forthcoming in the future? Probably not. While the company pointed out that its Mac business is close to having the revenue of a Fortune 100 company, desktops just don’t move the needle much in this iPhone world. We expect Apple to stay quiet on the big stuff.

Big Picture: Apple offered a rare view into its upcoming Mac plans.

 

The HTC U 11 will come with an app to show you how to squeeze it

 

Someone’s got an itchy trigger finger at HTC, because a companion Edge Sense app for the HTC U 11 briefly appeared on the Google Play app store, before getting pulled again. It’s designed to walk users through what could be this phone’s most distinctive feature.

Based on a variety of leaks we’ve seen up until this point, we’re expecting Edge Sense (or maybe Sense Touch) to introduce a new way of interacting with your phone: squeezing and scrolling the sides of your handset to navigate around. It’s even teased on HTC’s official press event invite.

Before the app disappeared from view Android Police managed to grab some screenshots. It looks like it will take you through the process of testing your squeeze strength, then show off some of the ways you can use this new input method: taking photos, sending messages, launching Google Assistant, and so on.Image result for The HTC U 11 will come with an app to show you how to squeeze it

Squeeze frame action

A pressure-sensitive frame would help HTC stand out in what’s already a very competitive market as far as 2017 phone launches go. There’s the added bonus of being able to interact with your phone without obscuring the screen, though we’ll have to wait to test the phone to see exactly how well it works.

What we can’t see in any of these screenshots are the Edge Sense options, so it’s not clear how you’ll be able to configure it or what else it can do – presumably you can slide as well as squeeze to navigate menus, adjust the volume and so on, but that’s to be confirmed.

We’re expecting to see a 5.5-inch, 1440 x 2560 display when the phone is finally unveiled on Tuesday, as well as a Snapdragon 835 chipset and as much as 6GB of RAM powering everything under the hood. We’ve collected all the most recent rumors for you here.

 

An ode to my $7 HTC pack-in headphones

 

Headphones are an interesting slice of the technology market, where companies build products that are as much gadget as they are art. Design, style, and personal taste in sound quality and tuning are just as important as the more technical aspects of a pair of headphones. And there have never been more choices: from cheap, sweat-proof headphones for working out, to $300 pairs of cans for blocking out the sounds of your delayed commute, to $55,000 headphones that can probably re-create the voice of god with some accuracy.

Despite this, I’ve proven through long years of history, that I’m definitely not responsible enough for “real” headphones. So instead, my go-to headphone of choice have been these: the HTC Stereo Headphones, Part Number 39H00014-00M, more commonly known as “the headphones that came in the box with the original HTC One (M7).” I found the first pair lying around the house when I was in a rush and needed some headphones, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

To be clear: objectively speaking, these are not traditionally “good” headphones. They are free pack-ins from a smartphone that was released in 2013. They have a fairly major design flaw where the left earbud tends to just arbitrarily fail anywhere between a few weeks to a few months into use. The build quality is poor, the mic / play-pause button is extremely hesitant to work with iOS for answering calls or pausing music, and I’m almost certain that they’re not waterproof.

But that’s exactly the point. Because I can (and do) buy them in bulk off eBay for around $7 a pair, I can (and do) go through about four or five pairs a year. So it’s not as big a deal if I lose a pair on a bus or a plane (done that), forget them in my jeans pocket when doing laundry (also yes, although those still kind of work), or tear them in half because they got caught on a door (again, this is a thing I have done). I can wear them when it rains without fear, or worry about losing them in a snowdrift when I’m shoveling out my driveway in the winter. And at $7, it’s no real loss if I accidentally drop them on a crowded subway car to work and get them crushed by someone walking, since they’re practically disposable.

Plus, for headphones that cost the price of a fancy Starbucks drink, there are a few nice features. Sound quality isn’t awful, although having used plenty of nicer headphones, they certainly aren’t winning any awards either.

Most importantly, they have a flat cord made out of what seems to be the perfect matte rubber material, so they (almost) never, ever tangle. That means that I can casually crumple them up into a ball, stuff them in a sweatshirt pocket or bag, and watch as they magically tumble out knot-free when I need them. Unlike Apple’s EarPods, which tend to fall out of my ears in seconds, the HTC headphones actually stay in my ears relatively well. Additionally, having used the HTC headphones for years, I’ve gone through enough pairs that I have a nice supply of spare earbuds lying around for when I inevitably manage to lose those as well.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to upgrade to some lambskin-cushioned Master and Dynamic cansor a perfectly-tuned pair of B&O Play headphones without worrying about losing, destroying, or breaking them within seconds. Until then, I’ll be sticking with (and destroying) my red HTC earbuds until I run out of random eBay storefronts to buy them off.