"The Samsung Galaxy Book Flex offers incredible battery life and a vibrant QLED display."
Light, thin design
Outstanding battery life
The QLED display has great colors
Cumbersome keyboard placement
Huge lower bezel
Samsung operates a tech empire. From phones and televisions to air purifiers to vacuum cleaners, Samsung has expanded everything down to the individual components that drive these products.
However, laptops have always been the only small domain outside their limits. Sure, there have been a lot of Samsung laptops over the years, but none that were really worth putting up Samsung's proud banner.
But 2020 is the year of conquering Samsung's laptops, and the Galaxy Book Flex is its war horse. It starts at $ 1,349, though my more expensive configuration comes with 16 GB of RAM, 512 GB of storage, and a Core i7 processor. No question, this is the best laptop Samsung has ever made. But is that one you should buy?
QLED display and battery life
The Galaxy Book Flex has some outstanding features that come from other areas of the Samsung empire. The most notable feature is the QLED display. This comes from Samsung's hugely successful TV business. As an alternative to the standard LED, the Galaxy Book Flex is the first laptop to use QLED that uses quantum dots. The results are groundbreaking.
It's bright (428 nits) and has a high contrast (1,080: 1), but QLED really makes a difference in color gamut and accuracy. It hits 92 percent of Adobe RGB, a color space that most laptop screens struggle with. This colorful, accurate screen is important for photographers. Perhaps it is one of the best photography laptops you can get at this price.
There is even an "outdoor mode" that increases the brightness to 600 nits. This can be useful if you work outdoors. This is Samsung that flexes its muscles.
The Galaxy Book Flex offers the best battery life you can get with a laptop.
However, Samsung has two competitors. The 13-inch MacBook Pro still has a brighter, more colorful screen and a higher-resolution display. OLED screens also offer better contrast and better colors, but are rare on 13-inch laptops. There is only one option for the HP Specter x360 13 and only available in 4K. It looks good, but it's expensive. The Specter is a $ 300 display upgrade, while the Galaxy Book Flex QLED is standard.
In addition, 4K OLED screens are expensive in terms of performance. The Galaxy Book Flex's QLED 1080p is far better in terms of battery life. In fact, the Galaxy Book Flex has some of the best battery life you can get in a laptop.
It delivers almost 14 hours of battery with low power consumption and a whopping 17.5 hours when playing local videos (no streaming). Many laptops promise such numbers, but none deliver as much as the Galaxy Book Flex. It overtook the Dell XPS 13 battery life champion by an hour and lasted more than twice as long as the 4K Specter x360.
Sticking to 1080p helps here, but Samsung also jammed a 69.7-watt-hour battery. It's a huge battery for a laptop of this size that pays off.
S pen and keyboard
The S Pen was also borrowed from another Samsung product – in this case the Galaxy Note. Earlier Samsung laptops also used the S Pen, such as the Notebook 9 Pen and the Galaxy Book 2 from 2018. The pen itself has not changed, but is now in a slot above the keyboard. Clicking on the pin in the slot ejects it, making it quick and easy to access (and you won't lose it). This accessibility has always been special about the S Pen: it is part of the device and not an additional peripheral.
The S Pen is well suited for all common pen functions such as notes, sketching and selecting. A button on the S Pen opens a familiar options menu, with which you can dive straight into the drawing on the screen. These simple apps are fairly simple, but provide a good entry point to try the S Pen for the first time.
A larger pen like the Surface Pen or the Apple Pencil fits better in the hand for illustrations and detailed work. The S-pen is just long enough to fit in my hand and doesn't mimic the feel of a real pencil as well. However, that was never the point. As with the Galaxy Note, the greatest strength of the S Pen is its convenience. It's always there and it's easy to take out and start writing.
The Galaxy Book Flex is a 2-in-1 device, meaning you can fold the screen flat with its 360-degree hinge. Unfortunately, the screen is pretty shaky and the hinge is a bit loose, so using it in a position other than completely flat makes it difficult to take notes.
The S Pen's convenient location also has a disadvantage. To make room in the case, Samsung had to impair the typing experience. The keyboard sits closer to you and leaves less space for the palm rests. They are one centimeter narrower than a MacBook Air and about half a centimeter narrower than the Dell XPS 13. The lack of support is just enough to make typing on the Galaxy Book Flex uncomfortable because the edges of the aluminum case dig into your palms . The keyboard layout also feels tight, although the keycaps are no smaller than most laptops.
To make matters worse, the Galaxy Book Flex uses a keyboard with low travel. It's not as flat as the old MacBook keyboards, but the keystrokes could take a little more depth.
The touchpad is quiet, easy to track and can even be used as a wireless charger. Now there is something I have never seen in a laptop. A Qi-enabled phone or a pair of earphones will charge wirelessly, which is a nice addition. You can't use the laptop often when a phone is in the way, but I could imagine that this is a convenient option in a confined space.
In the past, Samsung made some of the lightest laptops. They were also some of the most flimsy. The Galaxy Book Flex manages to balance these two things by giving aluminum stability and keeping the weight at just 2.5 pounds. It's lighter than the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 and the MacBook Air, but built just as well as the Galaxy smartphones with which it shares its brand.
The Galaxy Book Flex is pretty too. The silver-colored, diamond-cut edges subtly reflect the light, and of course the dark blue color is unforgettable. If you want something different, but even bolder, check out the red on the Galaxy Chromebook, the Chrome alternative to Flex.
Both are a little too brave for my preference. The flex resembles the HP Elite Dragonfly in tone, but is even brighter and more pronounced. Compared to the Flex's two main competitors, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 and the HP Specter x360, the Galaxy Book Flex is the aesthetic that I prefer the least.
It's more than just a color preference. The bezels are my real hang-up. The top and bottom edges are narrow, and to make up for this, the Galaxy Book Flex has an unusually large lower chin. It is a real eyesore. When you sit next to the XPS 13, it's strange how high the screen starts. In addition to the MacBook Air, it even looks strange, which I often criticize for its large bezels.
These bezels spoil the otherwise attractive design.
On the silver sides you will find a selection of USB-C ports, but no full-size USB-A. Two Thunderbolt 3 ports flank the right side next to the power switch and S-pin. The headphone jack, the microSD card slot and a USB-C 3.1 port are on the left.
Next to these connections is a pair of speaker grilles. The audio output is branded by AKG and the result is impressive sound quality. The MacBook Air is in another league, but the Galaxy Book Flex has a fuller-bodied audio profile than some of its competitors and even offers a hint of bass in the mix. It blows the XPS 13 2-in-1 out of the water with thin, downward-facing speakers.
The Galaxy Book Flex is powered by a standard mix of high-end components. On the processor side, the latest 10th generation Ice Lake processors from Intel are used, which provide the laptop with four cores, eight threads and a base clock rate of 1.3 GHz. My test device was the Core i7 variant with 16 GB RAM, although the only 13-inch model sold in the USA only has 8 GB RAM. It also comes with 512 GB SSD storage.
I would like to see more configurations in the future, but the one offered is a fairly fast computer. My daily routine consists of dozens of Chrome tabs, Spotify, Slack, Office and some light photo editing. The Galaxy Book Flex never flinched. It'll crank up its fans and seem to get a little warm by chance, but it was never loud or hot enough to distract.
There are faster laptops like the XPS 13 in this class. The Galaxy Book Flex was only 5 percent behind in Geekbench 5, but 24 percent slower in Handbrake video coding. You may not be planning much video encoding with the Galaxy Book Flex, but the ability to create content may be somewhat limited compared to the powerful XPS 13. Still, it's one of the more powerful laptops with these processors.
The Galaxy Book Flex also has Iris Plus graphics. This is the greatly improved integrated graphics from Intel, which promises twice the performance of the old Intel UHD graphics. The Core i7 model has the best of these Iris Plus graphics, which enable improved content creation and even easy gaming.
It was still struggling with a game like Fortnite, which is unfortunate. You need to reduce the resolution to playable frame rates. But the Galaxy Book Flex can handle lighter games like Rocket League without too much trouble.
The Galaxy Book Flex is everything you could want in a modern laptop. It's slim, portable, and powerful – and outperforms some of the best laptops in key areas like display and battery life. Adding the S-pin to the case is just the icing on the cake.
Some minor user experience issues like the placement of the keyboard and the size of the faceplate prevent them from being really great, but it is without a doubt the best laptop Samsung has ever made.
Are there alternatives?
There are tons of laptop options out there, but the Flex's closest rivals are the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 and the HP Specter x360 13. The Galaxy Book Flex is gaining battery life and display, despite the keyboard and frame size of the other options prefer. The Specter x360 is also a champion in battery life and the cheapest of the three. I prefer the design and look of the XPS 13 2-in-1, although the Galaxy Book Flex's colorful QLED screen is ideal for photographers. I wish there was a 4K option as well as a cheaper Core i5 model.
When you're ready to go without the 2-in-1 element, the Dell XPS 13 remains the best laptop you can buy as it can be configured with a touchscreen.
How long it will take?
The Galaxy Book Flex should last for at least four or five years. The components are up to date and the build quality is excellent. Samsung offers a one-year limited warranty at the time of purchase.
Should you buy it
Yes. The first-class battery life and the display make it an outstanding 2-in-1 laptop.