When Microsoft released the first Surface Pro on February 9, 2013, the device was supposed to be the final nail in the coffin for a company fading in relevance. The critics had their knives out for Microsoft’s first laptop-tablet hybrid that ran a full version of Windows. Business Insider said the device didn’t quite work as a hybrid and would only appeal to a small niche of PC users. Trusted Reviews, as well as many other sites, rightly criticized the poor battery life. And it’s hard to forget about the flimsy Type Cover, which was practically unusable.
Then, in June 2014, something finally clicked for Microsoft. The third version of the Surface Pro grew larger (and lighter) while adding satisfying battery life, and the device was usable as both a PC and tablet. The Surface Pro 4, released in October 2015, perfected what was already almost perfect about the Surface Pro 3. People complained about the poor battery life at first, but Microsoft fixed that in an update by the end of the year.
Since then, there have been several clone devices by HP, Lenovo, Sony and others. Last year, Samsung came closer than the others in matching the Pro 4 with the Tab Pro S. The 12-inch hybrid had a gorgeous OLED display, but the highest-end version only ran an Intel Core M mobile processor while only being filled with 4GB of RAM. The higher-end 2017 version of the Tab Pro S, which is now called the Galaxy Book, has fixed most of the shortcomings of Samsung’s 2016 tablet hybrid. After using both the Surface Pro 4 and new 12-inch Galaxy Book extensively, it’s safe to say that Samsung’s latest is the first to match and even outdo the Pro 4 in many categories.
For the purposes of this comparison, the versions of each with the Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD are compared. The Galaxy Book with these specs costs $1,329, which is about the same price as the Surface Pro 4 and $129 Type Cover. Samsung includes their keyboard cover in the box.
The 12-inch Galaxy Book’s 12-inch Super AMOLED screen displays perfect contrast ratios and vivid colors. If you show a screen that contains black at the edges, you won’t be able to differentiate it from the physical solid black bezels. Another advantage of an AMOLED screen is that you don’t get backlight bleeding, which affects the Pro 4 and similar devices with LCD screens.
It’s true that the 12.3-inch screen of the Surface Pro 4 has a higher pixel resolution (2,736 x 1824) compared to the Galaxy Book’s 2,160 x 1440 resolution. But the human eye can only tell a little bit of a difference, and while the Pro 4’s screen is great, it’s not eye-popping like Samsung’s device.
Samsung’s S-Pen, which has enhanced the Galaxy Note series, is slightly larger with the Galaxy Book. It’s easily the best tablet stylus besides the Apple Pencil. Unlike the pen-on-glass feeling you get with the Surface Pen, Samsung’s S-Pen feels rubbery and natural on the screen. The S-Pen uses Wacom technology on their Pen, which offers a smoother and more realistic writing experience. The N-Trig Surface Pen positions accurately with the Surface Pro 4, but the writing feels a little unnatural and squiggly.
The biggest thing that differentiates the Surface Book from the Surface Pro is that it’s a tablet-laptop hybrid, with tablet being the first word. It’s like an iPad Pro that actually runs Windows with a powerful processor. It is 1.6 pounds without the keyboard cover and is a great multimedia device as well as a digital note-taker’s dream come true. This is the perfect device for those who love Apple’s tablets but feel unsatisfied with using a mobile operating system and want full desktop productivity.
Better Battery Life
The Surface Pro 4’s originally disastrous battery life has improved since Microsoft updated the firmware. Playing a streaming video in a loop while web surfing with 80 percent brightness gives you about five hours of battery life—this is okay, but not spectacular for 2017. Under the same circumstances, the Galaxy Book will give you about six hours.
Surface Pro 4 Wins Some Categories
Not everything about the Samsung Galaxy Book is better than the Surface Pro 4, which stresses the laptop aspect more. The Surface Pro 4 is sturdier on your lap, where the Galaxy Book wiggles around unless you put it on a hard surface. The keyboard cover that Samsung includes has improved from last year’s cramped one for the Galaxy TabPro S. However, the keys are slightly too mushy and don’t have the comfortable “click” that pressing keys on the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover has. Samsung should be complimented for at least including the keyboard with the device, unlike the $130 Type Cover Microsoft owners must purchase.
Even though the Galaxy Book allows for an eye-popping media viewing experience, the speakers certainly won’t excite your ears. The sound is slightly low and tinny, even though it’s still acceptable. The Surface Pro 4 stereo speakers offer a louder and more vibrant sound. If one doesn’t like the stereo speakers on the Galaxy Book, they can always use a Bluetooth speaker or headphone.
It’s a tough choice at deciding which device is better. The Galaxy Book won’t be for everyone, especially those who want a laptop replacement that can be used comfortably on surfaces that aren’t solid. However, the Surface Pro 4 can’t compete with the tablet comfort, display, battery life and note-taking capabilities the Galaxy Book offers. The Surface Pro 5, said to be a minor upgrade from Pro 4, may tilt the balance. But for now, the Samsung Galaxy Book is the best tablet-laptop hybrid on the market.
Daryl Deino is a writer, actor and civil rights activist who has appeared on shows such as The Untouchables, Parks and Recreation and Two Broke Girls. Besides writing for Observer, he has also written extensively about technology, entertainment and social issues for sites such as the Huffington Post, Yahoo News, Inquisitr and IreTron. Follow him on Twitter: @ddeino.