Advantages of the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra:
- Gorgeous OLED screen (16 inches, 120 Hz, aspect ratio 16:10).
- RTX 4050 or 4070 GPU for demanding applications.
- Compatible with Galaxy features.
- Sleek design even with full numeric keypad.
Cons of the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra:
- Uncomfortable, shiny display, not practical for nomads.
- Proper autonomy that requires strong ventilation.
- Large touchpad that generates too many false notes.
- But where is the full size SD card reader?
The 16-inch MacBook Pro is the Ultrabook I personally use for work and play. (And by “play” I mean having fun with visual and graphical effects in Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro. Because yes, I don’t recommend video games on a Mac.
But last week I tested the base model Galaxy Book 3 Ultra, and it’s clear to me now that Samsung wants to push it to the top of the list of best laptops. Ideally over a MacBook Pro.
Specifications Galaxy Book 3 Ultra
Display: 16″ 3K AMOLED (2880 x 1800, 16:10), 120Hz
Processor: Intel Core i7-13700H or i9-13900H
Video Card: Nvidia RTX GeForce 4050 or 4070
RAM/Storage: 16/32GB RAM with 512GB/1TB
Battery: 76 Wh (up to 17 hours)
Dimensions: 35.53 cm x 25 cm x 1.65 cm
Weight: 1.79 kg
Ports: 1x HDMI 2.0, 2x Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB 3.2, 1x microSD, 1x 3.5mm audio jack
Price: from 3500 euros (i7, 32 GB, RTX 4050)
At first glance, the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra is unremarkable. Hide the Samsung logo and it could easily pass for another big-screen laptop. Luckily, its solid aluminum construction feels a lot better than a typical laptop, and the thin corners and smooth curves make this 16-inch laptop feel more portable than a MacBook. If I had to lug my laptop around during my work day, I would choose Samsung without hesitation.
But the advantage of the Galaxy Book lies not only in its elegant design. Weighing just under 1.8kg, it’s significantly lighter than other large laptops I’ve handled. You can lift it with one hand.
The Galaxy Book 3 Ultra is remarkably thin for a 16-inch laptop. Jun Wang/ZDNET
But the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra has two drawbacks: vibration and a glossy screen finish. While the screen is amazing to look at (we’ll get to that later), it tends to wobble when I touch my knees or any slightly tilted surface. The shaking only gets worse as the glossy screen starts reflecting every ray of light around the room, or worse, outside.
Do you notice these jolts when you focus on the display? Probably no. Would it be more comfortable to watch on a matte screen? Absolutely.
What a display!
But believe it or not, I still find the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra’s display to be one of the highlights. It’s a 16-inch 120Hz 3K AMOLED display that uses most of the technology found in Samsung’s high-end smartphones. To put it mildly, the colors displayed on this laptop’s screen are bright, standout, and bright enough in most conditions. For gaming and multimedia use, this is a real treat.
For content creation and multitasking, the 16:10 aspect ratio is ideal here. And while the Ultra doesn’t have the 360-degree hinge or touchscreen of the Galaxy Pro and 360, its more traditional design is more inspiring at work. Also, a touchscreen and a glossy display would have been a visual disaster.
The thin bezels of the 16-inch screen make it a little more manageable. Jun Wang/ZDNET
Optimal use of space?
On the underside of the laptop, there are what I can only call generous but dubious extras. I appreciate the large number pad (though the keys are narrower than my desktop keyboard), the tactile and springy keys, and the abundance of ports left and right, including one for USB-A!
I appreciate that Samsung included plenty of I/O, but I wish one of the two USB-C ports was located on the right side of the laptop. This way I have more flexibility when recharging. Also, Samsung has replaced the SD card reader with a micro SD card reader, which doesn’t make sense if the target users are creators, people who can store photos and videos on an SD card.
The keys have good travel and are evenly distributed over the body. Jun Wang/ZDNET
Another thing I don’t like is the trackpad. Despite the massiveness, the new trackpad is not only off-center, but also does not feel pressure on its upper half. As a result, there were several times when the laptop registered a double press as a single press and vice versa. Remember, I switched from a MacBook Pro and was completely spoiled by its Force Touch trackpad.
Dedicated graphics card matters
The everyday performance of the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra is admirable. My typical workflow revolves around three desktops: one for Slack, Microsoft Outlook, and media playback, another with the CMS and all the tabs I need for my research, and the last one with Adobe Photoshop or Premiere Pro for editing. And then there are random video calls.
My Galaxy Book 3 Ultra was the base model (13th gen Intel Core i7 with 16GB RAM and Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050) and it handled everything without noticeable hitches. We can attribute the laptop’s smoothness to the integration of a discrete graphics card and rather powerful fans.
A closer look at the difference in keyboard layout between the Galaxy Book (left) and MacBook (right). Jun Wang/ZDNET
Thanks to its dedicated GPU, the Galaxy Book handles my usual photo and video editing, high-resolution images, and raw footage without a hitch. The hard test I usually do is apply multiple layers of Gaussian blur to the timeline and see if there are any playback issues on the laptop. The Galaxy Book only showed signs of weakness after its battery dropped below 40%. And in this case, the fans are noisy enough to remind me that my battery is on its last legs.
On a typical work day, I averaged six and a half hours on a single charge, which isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. On the days when I was more into video editing, file uploads, and a bit of gaming (because that’s what you do when you have a dedicated GPU in a laptop), I’ve seen battery percentage drop by 20% every hour.
The test results are…
For those who love benchmarks, here’s how the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra performs in Geekbench 6 and Cinebench R23 tests compared to the 16-inch MacBook Pros (M1 Pro and M2 Max).
By the numbers, the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra goes head to head with Apple’s old MacBook, but the M2 Max version is still head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to multi-core performance.
If your Twitter feed won’t load faster if one laptop scores higher than another, expect seconds (or even minutes) to be spared when it comes to graphics-intensive applications like 4K video export and game downloads AAA.
Like Apple, Samsung has created its own ecosystem. This, in my opinion, is the main reason the Galaxy Book, let alone the Ultra model, is worth considering. With the latest laptops, Galaxy users can sync their smartphones and tablets to use features such as Multi Control, which lets you navigate and control multiple devices using the Galaxy Book keyboard and trackpad, Quick Share for wireless data transfer, and more.
In fact, all of the product photos featured in this article were taken by the Galaxy S23 I tested, transferred to a Galaxy Book Ultra via Quick Share, and edited from a laptop. The process was pleasantly smooth, and it took the two devices less than a minute to recognize each other. It even seemed that there was an error after transferring 4K video from phone to laptop in less than a minute…
Galaxy Book 3 Ultra Review Conclusion
As a result, the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra costs 3,500 euros for a configuration of Intel Core i7, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050, 32 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage. That’s a hefty price tag for a large laptop, but if we compare it to its latest and closest Apple alternative (Mac Book Pro, 16GB/1TB with M2 processor) but more powerful, then Samsung gets away with it. And in its defense, Samsung gives you a lot for the price, including a dedicated graphics card, one of the best-looking laptop screens, and an uncompromising keyboard. The only notable downsides are the glossy screen, large trackpad, and moderate battery life.
Should you buy the Galaxy Book 3 Ultra?
For content creators and business users, especially if you already own a Samsung smartphone or tablet, I think the Ultra Laptop is worth the splurge. It’s also one of the few non-gaming laptops that I wholeheartedly recommend to gamers.
But with a starting price of $3,500, you should consider plenty of other more affordable yet equally powerful laptops, including the MacBook Pro (with an M1 Pro processor). I would also look elsewhere if you rely heavily on the SD card for file transfers. In my case, I continue to shoot photos and videos on a mirrorless device, and the ability to move files locally without worrying about cluttered wireless connections is a must for me.