I Want to, But…

The Mac faithful boast about the Apple lifestyle and devices working well together. Samsung sells a compelling ecosystem, too, that is much broader than personal computing devices—everything from TVs to washing machines, and all in-between.

As an owner of smartphone, smartwatch, and tablet from the South Korean manufacturer, I have longed to add a laptop to the mix. Last year’s Galaxy Book3 Ultra checked off most benefits on my list, but no touchscreen and a then recent purchase of Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio stopped any irrational purchase. Two months ago, Samsung started selling the Galaxy Book4 Ultra, with touchscreen, and I was intrigued.

But until this week, I had little interest—and, then, the company cut the price as part of a Spring sales promotion; suddenly, the complete Samsung ecosystem was within reach and compelling with all the hardware-enabled, software-tweaked Artificial Intelligence features for the laptop.

I read or watched beaucoup reviews—and, coincidentally or not—a bunch of them posted as the sales event started. As much as I really, really wanted the honking 16-incher—with superior battery life, content creation utility, and overall performance compared to my Microsoft notebook—benefits aren’t enough.

Surface Laptop Studio is underpowered and feels it, with the quad-core microprocessor. Charge doesn’t last anywhere a full workday’s time. That said, the thing is a tank; keyboard is cozy comfortable; haptic trackpad is nearly flawlessly functional; the enclosure shows no fingerprints, creating illusion of perpetual newness; the keys also don’t show grit or oils from the fingers, unlike every Mac that I have ever used; the overall appearance is visually delightful; and the overall balance of design and function makes me happy. That’s all without discussing the utility of the screen, which pushes out beyond the keyboard to create an easel or down to a make a drawing pad.

So, yeah, I love the thing, except for the two big gotchas at the start of the previous paragraph. Basic config: 14.4-inch touchscreen (2400 x 1600 resolution and stylus support); quad-core 11th-generation Intel Core H35 i7-11370H processor; 4GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics; 32GB RAM; 2TB SSD.

So what stalled my interest in Galaxy Book4 Ultra? The OLED screen is fantastic, as are reviewer reported performance and battery life. The Samsung computer is worthy by many more measures. Specs impress: 16-inch AMOLED touchscreen (2800 x 1880 resolution); 16-core 3.8-GHz Intel Core Ultra 9 185H processor; 8GB Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 graphics; 32GB RAM; 1TB SSD. But…I mainly write; quick testing today at the local Best Buy raised qualms about the off-center keyboard and massive trackpad and my muscle memory being adapted to something else. Keys are tacky, too, unlike the Studio.

Little things that add up: Mechanical trackpad (not haptic); 16:9 aspect ratio versus 3:2 (my preference; on the Surface Laptop Studio); stylus not supported; no Windows Hello (fingerprint reader instead); only near-400-nit brightness (dimmer than my current notebook); and 1TB maximum storage (2TB preferred). The last two, along with the keyboard placement, put the brakes on any purchase—and still I want the thing but my head will prevail.

Both laptops pack worthy Nvidia GeForce RTX discreet graphics; 32GB RAM; displays with 120Hz refresh rates; two Thunderbolt-compatible ports; similarly disappointing 1080p Webcams and acceptable but not exceptional speakers.

The whole point of this post is so that I can catalog reasons for letting go Galaxy Book4 Ultra and keeping Surface Laptop Studio. The decision isn’t easy because Samsung software offers so much utility across devices. That’s the appealing benefit. But the off-center, tacky keyboard and massive trackpad are, for my aging brain and fumble fingers, dealbreakers. Damn.

I used Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra to capture the Featured Image, inside Best Buy. Vitals: f/1.7, ISO 32, 1/60 sec, 23mm (film equivalent); 12:14 p.m. PDT. I used the Windows 11 Photo app to blur the background.