Image: Samsung

Samsung has set itself up as the anti-Apple, offering high-quality mobile devices, wearables and laptops that can easily compete with Cupertino hardware for power and capability. The big difference between Samsung and Apple are their ecosystems: While the latter builds its own, Samsung ships devices loaded with Windows and Android.

I want to get something out of the way: I’m an Apple user, from my laptop to my phone to my streaming music service. When I review a laptop like the latest Samsung Galaxy Book Pro, I come to it with two mindsets: Do I like this as a piece of hardware regardless of ecosystem preference, and/or could I see myself purchasing it.

SEE: Power checklist: Troubleshooting hard drive failures (TechRepublic Premium)

In this case I’ll be explaining why it’s yes to the former, and no to the latter, and it’s not because I’m firmly entrenched in Apple’s ecosystem, either.

The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro: What I reviewed

The Galaxy Book Pro line comes in several different configurations: There’s a 15″ and 13″ version, multiple colors and various internal component options that take it from a $999.99 laptop up to a $1,299.99 one.

My evaluation model was a 13″ one in mystic silver, which means it’s limited in terms of its hardware options. An Intel Core i5, 8GB RAM, and a 256 GB SSD are it if you want the 13″ model. The alternative, at 15″ has beefier specs, but also isn’t configurable, as it only ships with an Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD.

Regardless of specs, the Samsung GB Pro really feels like a direct attempt to take on the MacBook Air, right down the specs, dimensions and weight.

a 2019 MacBook Air next to the 2021 Samsung Galaxy Book Pro. The resemblance is striking.

The question of how the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro stacks up can find its answer in comparing it to the MacBook Air. It isn’t a true one-to-one comparison (macOS and Windows hardware can sometimes perform differently with the same basic specs), and so I won’t be comparing them in terms of performance and internals. Instead, I’m concerned with how well the Galaxy Book Pro works as a machine for working professionals and home users alike.

The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro: What it does well

As a piece of hardware running Windows, the Galaxy Book Pro is great. It responds quickly, the keyboard feels nice and responsive, the screen looks sharp, the fingerprint reader is easy to set up and use and the battery life is pretty good, too.

I was able to work on the Galaxy Book Pro, even sending some emails and writing an article on it to see how it performed. It handled really well, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a performance laptop that’s lightweight, portable and power-efficient.

Samsung has also added another Apple-like feature with the GB Pro’s close integration with Samsung smartphones. Like Apple’s Sidecar, Samsung tablets can easily be connected for use as an extended screen, and Samsung’s Galaxy Buds headphones will switch between your active device, much like how Apple’s AirPods do.

As I mentioned above, Samsung has positioned itself as the anti-Apple, providing many of the same services for a different ecosystem of devices. If you’ve been waiting for a Windows laptop that will tightly integrate with your mobile device like macOS and iOS, the Galaxy Book Pro, provided you own a Samsung smartphone, this is that machine.

The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro: What it doesn’t do so well

I supported a lot of different machines in my IT days back in the late aughts and early 2010s. One of the machines I remember most strongly were a bunch of touchscreen Toshiba Portégé laptops that one of the medical practices I supported owned. They were neat for their day, and had a stylus pen and touchscreen that was great for doctors and nurses using electronic medical records all day.

I don’t remember those laptops for their capabilities, or the EMR software they contained that still haunts my dreams. What I do remember is how flimsy they felt in my hand: The screen was thin and wobbly, the hinge was unsteady, and the chassis of the laptop itself was plastic, felt cheap and seemed poorly constructed. Unfortunately, that’s also what I’ll remember most about the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro.

Samsung has released a great device that will suffer from the same thing that many ultra-thin laptops before it have suffered with: They feel like they’re going to break when you open them or reposition the screen.

The screen of the Galaxy Book Pro is housed in aluminum, but it’s a bit thinner than it should be, giving the screen a bit of a wobble. The screen joins the chassis, made entirely of plastic, at a hinge that feels as if it’s composed of a plastic that’s just too pliant for the unyielding aluminum it’s connected to, which in turn makes the entire screen feel like it’s liable to break off given a bit too much force.

As has also been my experience with other laptops made of plastic, the keyboard on the Galaxy Book Pro and the entire surface housing it has a bit of flexibility to it. This makes typing feel strange and adds to the sense of cheap construction — a squeezable laptop seems like an easily breakable one.

SEE: Keyboard troubleshooting guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Aside from sustainability, plastic has another big problem: It doesn’t dent like aluminum, meaning its case is more likely to crack or shatter in the event of a drop. I was unfortunately unable to test this with the GB Pro, as Samsung wanted their laptop back in one piece.

The Samsung Galaxy Book Pro: Final thoughts

I really wanted to like this laptop, and Samsung definitely worked hard to create a super-thin machine that performs like a high-end flagship laptop. Unfortunately, plastic components leave it feeling cheaper than its branding and internals, which leaves it slightly underwhelming as a direct competitor to the MacBook Air.

As a standalone Windows laptop for work or home, I like the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro a bit more, but its flaws remain and removing Apple from the equation doesn’t fix the problem. Thin plastic construction will never result in a laptop that has the heft and solidness of a machine that will be a good travel companion and workhorse.

If you want an ultrathin laptop that’s not going to travel much, won’t be subjected to the rigors of multiple users and plays well with other Samsung devices, the Samsung Galaxy Book Pro is a good choice, but be sure to take a trip to a physical retailer so you can get your hands on one first to see if it’s constructed to your personal standards.

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Catch up on the latest tech innovations that are changing the world, including IoT, 5G, the latest about phones, security, smart cities, AI, robotics, and more. Delivered Tuesdays and Fridays