Convertible 13-inch laptops are quite common these days, but one underserved area is the 15-inch range. HP has its Spectre x360 15, but it can be rather large and chunky. But besides that, there are not a whole lot of options.
Samsung's new Galaxy Book Flex (which also has a smaller 13-inch model) is one of the first 2-in-1 15-inch laptops that's not a burden to carry or flip into position. Toss in a built-in stylus for quick inking and a QLED display with great audio and battery life, and this is one fun laptop worth considering.
I've been using the Galaxy Book Flex 15 ($1,400), which is now available, for the last few weeks. Here is what I think works and what does not.
$1,400 at Samsung (opens in new tab)Bottom line: The Book Flex is the rare 15-inch convertible laptop that is both slim, stylish, but also packs a lot of features. The innovative QLED display, S-Pen, and design make it stand out. Samsung's software bundle adds value to this enchanting laptop. A smaller 13-inch one is also available.
- Beautiful design.
- Slim, light, and flexible.
- Bright, highly color-accurate display.
- S-Pen colossal trackpad.
- Good battery life.
- Nice software bundle.
- Low screen resolution.
- Glossy display.
- The keyboard is a bit shallow.
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex specs and features
The Galaxy Book Flex 15 is effectively a standard 2020 convertible Ultrabook with a 15-watt Intel processor and Intel Iris Plus graphics.
The strengths of the Book Flex are apparent. The squared, silver edges and blue metallic color scheme make this one unique looking laptop that stands out from the crowd in the right way. The near-perfect symmetry and minimalist, clean design is outstanding. The metal chassis feels premium to match the look.
Samsung understands design, and the Galaxy Book Flex is a beautiful evolution from previous laptops attempts by the company.
But what makes the Galaxy Book Flex really different is two-fold: the 15.6-inch QLED (Quantum dot LED) display and the built-in S-Pen for Inking. Lenovo offers something similar in the 14-inch Yoga C940, but it lacks the punchy QLED screen from Samsung. This laptop is the first to feature Samsung's QLED technology, and it is quite impressive.
|Category||Galaxy Book Flex|
|OS||Windows 10 Pro|
|Display||13.3-inches (16:9) QLED (1920x1080), touch|
15.6-inches (16:9) QLED (1920x1080), touch
|Processor||10th Gen Intel Core i7-1065G7|
|Graphics||Intel Iris Plus|
NVIDIA GeForce MX250 (outside US)
|Memory||8 or 12 GB LPDDR4X|
|Storage||Up to 1TB NVMe SSD|
|Front camera||HD 720P (top bezel)|
|Trackpad||Qi wireless charging|
|Security||Windows Hello IR fingerprint (single sign-on)|
|Connectivity||Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6|
|Ports||2x Thunderbolt 3|
1x 3.5mm headphone
|Audio||AKG Stereo Speakers with Smart Amp|
|Dimensions||13-inch: (W) 302mm x (D) 202mm x (H) 12.9 mm|
15-inch: (W) 355mm x (D) 227.2mm x (H) 14.9 mm
|Weight||13-inch: 2.53lbs (1.15kg)|
15-inch: 3.35lbs (1.52kg)
|Colors||CNC machined aluminum (outer)|
|Availability||US, May 2020|
|Price||$1,350 at Samsung (opens in new tab)|
In addition, Samsung is offering a 13.3-inch model, which is nearly identical to the larger 15-inch one, including the same size battery. For this review, the 15-inch was tested, but all the critiques and praise can be applied to that significantly cheaper $850 model (opens in new tab) as well.
While both versions do use Intel's Iris Plus for graphics, outside the US, there is a 15-inch model that also has an NVIDIA GeForce MX250. However, that GPU is less impressive as Iris Plus nearly matches it already in performance.
Ports are modern but sparse with just three Type-C ports (two Thunderbolt 3 on the right, one USB-C on the left), a UFS/MicroSD expansion slot, and a headphone jack.
Samsung also tosses in a Type-C to Type-A converter, a Type-C to HDMI cable, and two replacement nibs for the S-Pen.
So bright it blinds
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex display and web camera
For the first time, Samsung is using its QLED technology used in its TVs for a laptop. Quantum LED (QLED) is a different way for displays to produce color compared to traditional LEDs (which use a color filter).
QLED results in less washed-out colors, more profound vibrancy, blues, and primary colors that are more saturated.
Thankfully, QLED does not come across as extreme, or as unnatural as a typical OLED display. Instead, the Galaxy Book Flex feels more organic, akin to a traditional LCD, rather than a "too intense" OLED experience.
Perhaps more interesting is the ability for QLED to hit higher brightness levels. Indeed, Samsung has an "outdoor mode" for the Book Flex that, when enabled, ramps up brightness to an absurd 623 nits. Most laptops are lucky to hit in the 400 nits range, and an HDR400 PC usually gets just past 500 nits for comparison.
On the other end, the Galaxy Book Flex can hit a minimum of 34 nits for brightness, which is decent enough for a very dark room without blinding you.
This outdoor mode can be triggered via software or a convenient keyboard shortcut (Fn + F9).
Samsung has different viewing modes, including dynamic, standard, reading, natural, and professional profile. There is a high-dynamic-range (HDR) mode as well, although this is not a wide color gamut (WCG) display. To avoid eyestrain, there is even a flicker-free option, which is a common complaint with pulse-width modulation (PWM) screens.
Color accuracy is also extraordinary. Samsung manages to get 100 percent sRGB, 88 percent AdobeRGB, and a 100 percent DCI-P3 rating. Achieving 100 percent DCI-P3 is exceedingly rare on a consumer laptop at this price point.
The only issue with the Galaxy Flex display is it is full HD at 1920 x 1080. While such a resolution is fine on a 13-inch laptop (indeed, preferred), on a 15-inch one, it starts to get noticeable. Text is not nearly as sharp, and the benefits of a larger display are not as impressive. Samsung has a history of prioritizing battery over max specs on its laptops, and that seems to be the case here.
The front-facing 720P web camera is OK and slightly better than average, but it is still miles behind what Microsoft does in its Surface line. Such a camera would have been fine in 2019, but in 2020 camera quality is suddenly much more important.
Samsung did not opt for Windows Hello facial recognition but instead uses a fingerprint reader.
Shallow but OK
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex keyboard, Qi trackpad, and audio
Samsung doesn't quite have as much experience in making keyboards like Dell, Lenovo, or HP. Its keyboards in the past were good but mushy. Its new ones for the Galaxy Book S and now Book Flex falls on the shallow side. It's not bad, but there is some adjustment to it.
Samsung uses large chicklet-sized keys that are well spaced. A full number pad is also present, which is a feature many users look for in a 15-inch laptop. The backlighting here is better than the Book S, which was so dim as to be almost unnoticeable. The keyboard is quiet to type on too.
A fingerprint reader is placed just before the number pad, and it is fixed into the deck, resembling a keyboard key. It is an excellent reader due to its size and accuracy. Samsung is also using so-called single-sign-on (SSO), which means the reader can both wake and log you into Windows with a one-touch.
The Microsoft Precision touchpad is one of the largest on a modern laptop. It is exceptionally smooth, accurate, and it has a satisfying, albeit soft, click.
In a weird flex, the Flex has a Qi wireless charger built into the trackpad. It's all a bit silly, but if you place your Qi-enabled phone onto the trackpad and then flick a hot-key to turn it on, it will recharge. Note, the trackpad itself becomes disabled while the Qi charger is on, making it more of a gimmick. That said, in a pinch, it's a neat trick. It would have been better, perhaps, to have the Qi charger in the laptop lid to be used when closed.
There are two amped speakers on the side of the Book Flex. Due to the hard, angular edges, Samsung has them on the side and not at an angle below the deck. The speakers are AKG tuned and deliver excellent audio that is clear, crisp and has good separation. There is not a ton of bass, however, but the delivery is still relatively rich compared to other laptops.
lots of features
Samsung Galaxy Book Flex inking and S-Pen
The Book Flex supports inking using Samsung's proprietary S-Pen technology. The pen itself is siloed on the right side, and like the Note series of phones, the user pushes in to eject it. It's more of a stylus than a proper pen, unlike Microsoft Surface Pen, making it ideal for quick note-taking, doodling, and highlighting rather than hours of drawing.
In most reviews, I'd gloss over the inking part, but the Book Flex takes it to another level. The S-Pen, despite its small size, is accurate, smooth, and fun to use (and yes, you can use the S-Pen on your Samsung Note too, and vice-versa). Moreover, Samsung has added a lot of its own software to enhance the feature.