As expected, Samsung delivered the Galaxy Note 10 and 10+ to great fanfare at its summer Unpacked event. But the device I was most excited to get my hands on after the splashy keynote wrapped up wasn’t the Note 10. It was the Galaxy Book S.
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be anything special about the clamshell Windows 10 computer. But look again: How many other 13-inch laptops can claim up to 23 hours of battery life, have built-in LTE and a touchscreen, and weigh barely over two pounds?
The Galaxy Book S isn’t going to win any design awards — it looks like any other thin-and-light laptop — and after trying it out, I admit it could use some more work.
For example, despite being very light, the Galaxy Book S isn’t balanced very well. You can’t open the laptop with one hand without the whole bottom lifting up. This is because the touchscreen is heavier and more rigid than the keyboard half.
Speaking of the keyboard, it feels very cheap, with a lot of mushiness when you press each key. The trackpad’s fine and the touchscreen is responsive, from what I could tell.
There’s also an acceptable amount of ports: two USB-C, a headphone jack, and a microSD card slot for storage expansion.
But all of the cheapness can be improved in future versions of the Galaxy Book S. What makes the Galaxy Book S so significant is the chipset Samsung chose to power 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 use Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx chip.
Without getting too nerdy, this is essentially a mobile chip — like the ones inside most Android phones — optimized to run full Windows 10.
Think about it for a second: a chip made for phones and tablets can now power a Windows 10 laptop and in many way surpass what an Intel chip can do.
As I said back in December when Qualcomm announced the 8cx chip, it’s a big fucking 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 clear: extremely long battery life, fast-enough performance (for most tasks such as web browsing, streaming 4K video, and working with documents), powerful connectivity (faster cellular connections and WiFi), and immense graphics performance for gaming.
Still not getting the full picture? Here’s the kind of performance Qualcomm told me consumers can expect from laptops with the 8cx chip:
Qualcomm says the 8cx chip offers comparable performance to an Intel U-series processor running on 15 watts (found in laptops like Dell’s XPS 13) and up to 3x faster than Apple’s latest MacBook Air, which uses a lower-powered 7-watt Y-series Intel chip.
I don’t know if the Galaxy Book S will run circles around the new MacBook Air. I don’t know if the 23-hour battery life is legit or not; a Samsung product rep told me the battery life stat is for continuous video playback. And I don’t know if the lightweight laptop will snap in half after a rough journey in my backpack.
What I do know is there will be tons more Snapdragon 8cx-powered laptops from other computer makers. The Galaxy Book S isn’t a one-off. It will be the start of a new wave of laptops with mobile-like capabilities when it comes out in September starting at $999. And it’s about time thin-and-light laptops got more interesting.