(Cybertech) – It often seems like the different parts of tech megacorps barely talk to each other. Sony, as one example, makes the best camera sensors and many of the best mirrorless cameras – but its Xperia phones have never been at the top of phone camera performance.
The Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 2 shows no sign of this kind of dislocation. If you took a Samsung Galaxy Note phone and turned it into a laptop, it might look a bit like this. The Flex 2 has 5G mobile internet, is lightweight, expensive, and has a slot-in-stylus. And, oddly enough, its battery will outlast plenty of Galaxy phones.
Whatever you take a ‘lifestyle laptop’ to mean, the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 2 probably fits the mould. However, we don’t think it’s necessarily the best choice for those who actually want an everyday work computer – as its keyboard is shallow and the price is pretty darn high. Still, if you care more about being able to live-stream your next meeting than spending that extra few hundred quid, then the Flex 2 is probably just what you need.
- Dimensions: 304.9 x 202.3 x 14.9 mm
- Weight: 1.26 kg (1.427kg measured)
- ‘Royal Silver’ finish
Samsung has tried to fit everything into the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 2. It has a flexi hinge. It has 5G connectivity.. It has long battery life. There are generation-spanning connections. And not one but two cameras. We’re not sure what else Samsung could have shoved in without going full The Simspsons bubble car.
The look of the Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 2 is much more subdued than last year’s Galaxy Flex, though. Rich, deep Royal Blue has been traded in for Royal Silver. We’re not sure what’s so royal about this though. This is simple silver, with a texture that takes away the tacky-looking sparkle some cheaper metal laptops have.
Samsung doesn’t say too much about the specific alloys used in the Galaxy Book Flex 2, but applying the eye, finger, teeth and tongue tests – yes we’re kinda gross – we can make a few guesses. The lid and underside seem to be aluminium. The inside has the slightly softer, less metallic feel of an aluminium-magnesium alloy.
This may be the key to keeping the Galaxy Book Flex 2 weight low. It weighs 1.247kg according to our scales. There are several lighter 13-inch laptops out there, but most of them trade away a metallic feel to shed a couple of hundred grammes. After a decade of reviewing laptops, we’re not sure the trade-off is always worth it. There’s something about the way aluminium telegraphs quality that just doesn’t get old, and you get it here, in most of the panels.
Display & Stylus
- 13.3-inch display, 1920 x 1080 resolution
- Full DCI P3 colour coverage
- S-Pen stylus
The Galaxy Book Flex 2 also has one of the best stylus implementations found in laptops. A bold blue pen slots into the front part of the frame. It’s not hidden around the back, it fits into place with a nice positive click, and a custom S-Pen interface pops-up on the screen when you pull it out.
This is similar to what you’d see in a Galaxy Note phone when removing its stylus. There are shortcuts to the few Samsung pre-installed extras, like doodle app Pen-up, the screen write tool and note-taker app. You can add shortcuts to this screen to, if you actually have a good art/design app use for the stylus.
The S-Pen uses Wacom tech, for 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. And if you press the button on the barrel while the S-Pen is within around an inch of the display surface, the stylus menu pops up.
The screen itself uses Samsung’s QLED tech, as seen in the company’s TVs. This has a Quantum Dot layer to improve colour performance and, sure enough, colour depth is extremely good, comparable with an OLED screen.
Maximum brightness is also up there with the brighter high-end laptops. However, other screen elements are just OK.
This is a 1080p resolution laptop selling at the price of a 4K one. Still, it’s arguably unreasonable to expect such an upgrade when the Galaxy Book Flex 2 has 5G connectivity. It’s an either/or situation, to avoid the price getting yet higher, perhaps.
Contrast is the part that takes some of the shine off this particular QLED screen. It’s not all that high for an ultra-high-cost laptop, and makes raised blacks a little too noticeable in a room with dim lighting. This is something to consider if you’d use the Galaxy Book Flex 2 as a mini TV.
Some normal LCD screens pop that bit more, even if they don’t have the same colour depth. The Galaxy Book Flex 2 also has reasonably large screen borders, on the bottom edge at least. Compare this laptop to the 13-inch HP Spectre x360 and you’ll notice a big chunk of wasted black space. Cutting this down is a key part of laptop design these days.
The Galaxy Book Flex 2’s 360-degree flexi hinge could be a little stiffer too. We noticed a little wobble when using it outdoors for work. This is a typical hybrid hinge, in that you can rotate it all the way around so the lid sits on the underside. The screen has a glass top surface, and it’s a touch display. Samsung hasn’t left anything out here.
Keyboard & Touchpad
- 3-stage backlight
- Glass effect plastic pad
- Qi charging via touchpad
We are not huge fans of the Galaxy Book Flex 2’s keyboard, though. While it is an upgrade over the keyboard of the previous Flex, we’re still dealing with shallow keys that are not ideal for long-form typing. They feel crisp and solid, but you can’t beat keys that simply move a bit more.
There’s a 3-level keyboard backlight for night typing, though, and a solid fingerprint scanner below the enter key. But, come on Samsung, did you really have to make it dark blue?
The Galaxy Book Flex 2 touchpad is unusual. This clicker doesn’t use any advanced haptic tech. It’s a traditional touchpad mechanism, where the click actuation gets shallower and firmer as you work your way up its surface.
However, while it feels almost exactly like glass on the finger glide, it isn’t. We assume it may use the same kind of ‘plastic glass’ Samsung uses in phones like the Galaxy S21. It honestly took us an age to work out this isn’t actually glass. We’d still prefer glass, but in this situation we don’t have much of a right to complain loudly.
This material may be used to improve one of the Galaxy Book Flex 2’s strangest features: wireless charging through the touchpad. This uses the Qi standard, which can transmit through glass, but perhaps the plastic allows for more efficient power transfer.
You wouldn’t want to charge your phone using the touchpad. It’s slow, better suited to a pair of earphones like the Galaxy Buds. This smells like Samsung trying its very best to tie its different product lines together, with limited real-world benefit. Still, it could be a first-world-problem lifesaver if you accidentally leave your earphone charge cable at home.
The best Chromebook 2021: Our pick of the top Chrome OS laptops for school, college and more
- Intel Core i7-1165G7 CPU
- 8GB LPDDR4x RAM
- 512GB NVMe SSD
The Galaxy Book Flex 2 is among the many Intel Evo laptops we’ve reviewed. This means you get at least one Thunderbolt 4 connector, guaranteed fast wake-up from sleep, and one of Intel’s 11th Gen processors.
In this case it’s the high-end Core i7 paired with 8GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. The CPU we like, but the rest is a reminder of how much extra we end up paying for features like the S-Pen and 5G.
Even the Dell XPS 13, hardly renowned as a beacon of value for the bargain hunter crowd, costs an eye-opening amount less with the same specs. The hybrid HP Spectre x360 costs less, too, and that’s with double the RAM. Only the top-spec Spectre gets remotely close on price, and that has twice the RAM, twice the storage, and a 4K OLED display that blows the Galaxy Book Flex 2’s QLED out of the water for punch and sharpness.
We’ve made the point: the Galaxy Book Flex 2 is far from cheap.
However, we do like what it has inside. The Core i7 has Intel’s Xe graphics chipset, the best thing to happen to Intel laptop CPUs in ages. It has finally caught up with AMD for gaming performance in integrated hardware.
You can play The Witcher 3, Hellblade: Seuna’s Sacrifice, GTA V and even Red Dead Redemption 2 at a decent enough pace. And while some, like Red Dead Redemption 2, require a drop down to 900p or 720p resolution, we still consider that a win.
We’re thinking about the Galaxy Book Flex 2 as an entertainment laptop you might use while killing time at an airport (at some undefined point in the future). Or while in a depressing hotel. Or while stuck at your in-laws at Christmas, the seasonal spirit having worn off, replaced by heartburn and a longing to do anything but watch crap TV. If that all sounds too far off as you’re stuck working from home, it’s still useful for quick sessions on your lunch break.
We are also quite impressed by the Galaxy Book Flex 2’s cooling system. The laptop runs silent with light work, and even after loading the CPU at 100 per cent for 40 minutes, the noise level was fairly low. Fan noise is more like a consistent whoosh of air rather than a tiny airplane trying to get off a runway, and is easily drowned out by the internal speakers, or a podcast playing on your phone.
It’s not silent like a MacBook Air, and when dealing with lighter workloads that need fan assistance there’s some more distracting much higher-pitch sound before the big boy fan takes over. But for a laptop with a Core i7 CPU? Not bad at all. There was also minimal performance loss, suggesting the cooling system does keep the internals at a comfortable-enough temperature.
The Galaxy Book Flex 2’s speakers are no more than fine, reasonable, acceptable. There’s a hint of bass but maximum volume and sound projection is nothing special.
Battery & Connections
- 69.7 Wh battery
- 65W charger
- Thunderbolt 4
Samsung puts more effort into the Galaxy Book Flex 2’s battery. It’s a relatively large 69.7Wh unit, larger than the MacBook Air’s 49.9Wh cell or the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1’s 51Wh one.
The Samsung lasts around 13.5 hours when streaming video off YouTube, or 11.5 when used for light work with the screen brightness maxed out – a setting you might want to use outdoors. The Flex 2 would probably last even longer if it had an AMD Ryzen processor, based on our experience of reviewing other such laptops, but the display is clearly efficient.
You might long for a 4K display in the Flex 2, but it would likely have a major affect on battery life.
There’s still more to cover in the Galaxy Book Flex 2. It is one of the few laptops with two cameras. There’s a 13-megapixel one on the keyboard plate and a typical 720p one in the display surround (which, as is typical, doesn’t perform well in low light, and its image detail is limited in all conditions).
So what are we meant to use that second camera for? We’d love to use it for Zoom calls, as picture quality is so much better. You could prop the Galaxy Book Flex 2 up in its tent position and use it in that fashion when connected to a monitor. But it also means never looking at your friends and co-workers as you talk to them. Not ideal.
The second camera is not, in our opinion, particularly useful. And, no, we don’t want to go around taking photos with a laptop. This seems another case of Samsung bunging in more features because it has found another cubic centimetre of space going spare.
Samsung also tries to cover almost all possible needs in the Galaxy Book Flex 2’s connections. There’s a USB-C port that’s also used for charging. You get another USB-C with Thunderbolt 4 support. A full-size HDMI is here for all your TV/monitor plug-in needs, there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microSD slot, and a classic larger-style USB-A, and a SIM tray for mobile connectivity.
The Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 2 is an incorrigible show-off. It has features you don’t get elsewhere, some of which will be very useful, particularly for frequent travellers. There’s a 5G SIM slot, a wireless-charging touchpad, and an S-Pen stylus that you don’t have to keep in a pen holder, unlike many laptop pens. Battery life is great for an Intel CPU model, and it is lightweight all considered.
We’re not sure its list of priorities will sync with the genuine wish-list of too many buyers, though. The Flex 2 costs a small fortune, the keyboard is shallow, the speakers are nothing special either. And while display colour is excellent, its real-world impact is limited by just OK contrast and resolution.
The Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 2 is undoubtedly a neat laptop, because it offers a toy-box of features. But we’re not sure how often we’d recommend one to an actual, y’know, real person – because the cost implication and genuine usefuleness of those features present notable limitations.
HP Spectre x360
One of the best convertible laptops money can buy. It’s the one to get if you value a high-quality keyboard and a small-footprint design that fits into smaller bags easily. It’s not cheap, but delivers more resolution and RAM than the Samsung for less cash.
Writing by Andrew Williams. Editing by Mike Lowe.