In the recent years, Intel’s domination of the consumer CPU market has weakened. The rise of AMD caused problems for Intel since 2010 but in 2020, Apple embarrassed it by dropping its chipsets for the Mac and launching its M-series of processors. Apple’s MacBooks now provide more than 20 hours of battery life while delivering significantly better performance than Intel-powered machines. However, under CEO Pat Gelsinger’s leadership, Intel has been improving, and its latest 13th generation Raptor Lake release shows that things are getting better for the American semiconductor chip manufacturer.
I have been testing the new Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro, which despite its “Pro” moniker is more of a MacBook Air rival. In fact, it falls somewhere between a MacBook Pro and a MacBook Air. And thanks to Intel’s new silicon, it provides for a viable alternative.
Raptor Lake on Intel’s 10nm SuperFin
Intel’s ascendancy has always been rooted in its chip manufacturing business being the best in the world. In 2010, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC) overtook it, and Intel ceased to be the apex predator in microprocessor fabrication. Its timelines went off the rails and, in the process, it launched buggy and inferior products, as well as outdated CPUs. Raptor Lake has also been launched late, but it is competitive enough and its core i7-1360P chipset is rapid on the Samsung GalaxyBook3 Pro.
The processor feels as fast as the latest M2 MacBook Air, if not faster. As an added bonus, it supports Xbox Game Pass and could handle lightweight gaming. The most impressive thing about my experience with the Galaxy Book3 Pro was that it never slowed down or overheated, even when I was running more than 50 tabs on Microsoft Edge while parallelly running Notion, Lightroom, Word, and VLC player. I also did some light video editing and Intel’s Xe graphics held up fine.
It also has a decent six to seven hours battery life. Now, this isn’t the nine-hour that Samsung claims, and nowhere close to the 20-hours that Apple’s ARM-based M-series processors can provide. But it is still convenient for most people. I would often commute from South Delhi to Gurugram and even when I got stuck in traffic, the notebook didn’t lose its performance on battery power.
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Headache for the Lenovos & HPs of the world
The usual headliners in the Windows notebook ecosystem are Lenovo, Dell, and HP. However, Samsung is flexing its muscles and these incumbents could face some trouble.
The GalaxyBook3 Pro notebook comes with a gorgeous 14-inch AMOLED screen. Its colours just pop out like candy from the panel. This is usually the type of screen one finds on Samsung’s Galaxy phones, and it is rare on laptops because it is expensive to implement. So, it is not an exaggeration to say this notebook has perhaps the best panel in the segment. I watched Star Trek: Picard (2020) and The Mandalorian (2019), and boy, these science fiction shows looked stunning on the notebook.
The keyboard and trackpad are superb too. The springy chiclet-style keys are nicely spaced out, and the capacious trackpad is almost as smooth as the one on the Mac, so you’re in for a great day-to-day experience. On top of this, there is an adept Windows Hello-compliant web camera that works great for Zoom calls. You also get twin USB-C ports, one USB A port, an HDMI connector, and an SD card reader. The USB-C connectors can also do 65-watt fast charging with the supplied charger, which is another handy thing. On a Mac, you wouldn’t get so much flexibility.
It is the epitome of a portable notebook. The 14-inch model is largely made from aluminium and so it weighs only 1.17 kg and has a thickness of 11.3 mm, which is at times thinner than phones. It leaves the Apple MacBook Air behind in this regard, and even the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which feels heavier especially when the Magic Keyboard is added to it.
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Not as solid
Samsung’s latest notebook has a lot going for it, but it is not without its flaws. First, the laptop hinge is too flexible, causing the screen to shake on the desk when someone types frantically. If you use the notebook on-the-go, the screen will wobble a lot. The screen is also very reflective, which makes it far from perfect in sunlight. However, the AMOLED screen’s superb brightness levels help to make up for this.
Overall, the Galaxy Book3 Pro does not feel as solid as products like the Lenovo ThinkPad or MacBook Air. Perhaps a little more weight and a few more millimetres of thickness could have counteracted this.
With a laptop as slim as Galaxy Book3 Pro, there is no possibility for good enough speakers. Samsung claims that the AKG-tuned speakers are excellent but they are barely audible. The Galaxy S23 Ultra smartphone has better speakers than the notebook.
Lastly, the fingerprint scanner is unreliable.
The Samsung Galaxy Book3 Pro costs upwards of Rs 1, 35,000, which makes it more expensive than the Apple MacBook Air M2. The latter has a better battery life and build quality, but gives similar performance. The Samsung notebook offers a better and bigger screen, potential for gaming, and more flexibility with ports.
Ultimately, the decision will come down to which ecosystem you use. If you’re entrenched in Apple’s ecosystem, then obviously the Macs are going to be very attractive. But say if you have an iPhone but you don’t want to use macOS, but prefer Windows, then this notebook makes sense especially now with Intel’s Unison app you can synergise your iPhone with an Intel powered Windows notebook. If you have an Android phone, then the Galaxy Book 3 Pro will make more sense. However, creative professionals are likely to opt for Apple’s notebooks as they offer better software.
Sahil Mohan Gupta is Editor, Technology at Acko Drive. Views are personal.
(Edited by Ratan Priya)