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Samsung Ativ Windows 8 line-up review

Samsung ATIV

Hybrid tablets lead Samsung’s four-pronged Windows 8 assault

Samsung used its pre-IFA Mobile Unpacked event to unveil its impending Windows 8 launch line-up of laptops and tablets, under the ATIV brand. With something for everyone, including Windows RT powered tablets, mobile phones and hybrids running the full version of Microsoft’s latest OS, there was plenty to see, but we managed to get some brief hands-on time with each one.

Samsung ATIV

First off, the ATIV Smart PC – a hybrid tablet with detachable keyboard dock running Windows 8. The tablet itself is an 11.6in slate that weighs 750g and is a little under 10mm thick. As it’s running the full version of Windows 8 the processor inside is an Intel Atom Clover Trail model, paired with 2GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.

Atom chips aren’t exactly powerhouses, but Windows 8 performed very well, running through the start screen and loading applications smoothly. It is at least power efficient, so the Smart PC should be able to last an average of 14 hours away from the mains.

Samsung ATIV

The tablet felt light enough to hold for long periods of time and the high definition 1,600×900 screen looked sharp at 11.6in. It has 10-point multi-touch sensitivity that responded well to Windows 8 gestures, and had reasonably good viewing angles from what we could see. We weren’t too keen on the faux brushed metal effect on the rear, but it does at least match the bundled keyboard dock. There are also USB, MicroSD and uHDMI ports dotted around the edges, covered by plastic flaps that are fiddly to open.

It might add another 750g to the weight of the unit, but the dock also provides a traditional keyboard for those that can’t get used to touchscreens. The Chiclet-style keyboard has a standard layout, with the Windows key switched to resemble the operating system’s new logo, but typing didn’t feel particularly pleasant, even during our short time with the unit. The space bar had plenty of travel but very little bounce, and the opposite was true of the top row of alphabet keys. It felt inconsistent, not something you want when typing for long periods of time.

There’s also a touchpad beneath the keyboard that has the same 10-point multi-touch capabilities as the screen. It’s made from plastic, and felt smooth to the touch, although the lack of physical buttons might put some people off. You can of course ignore it and use the touch-screen, even when the tablet is docked to the keyboard.

Samsung ATIV

Naturally it includes Wi-Fi, but Samsung will also be producing 3G and 4G LTE variants as well –whether these make their way to the UK will depend on support from mobile phone carriers, but there’s a good chance you’ll be able to pick one up from the network provider of your choice.
Samsung also includes one of its S-pens with the ATIV Smart PC, along with the same intuitive interactions found on the Galaxy Note and incoming note II. It’s fairly slick, even in Windows, and adds another way to interact with your device.

A more powerful version of the Smart PC, dubbed ATIV Smart PC Pro, is aimed at business users. It has a full HD display in the same 11.6in form factor, along with a much faster Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, 256GB SSD and an estimated eight hour battery life. This is despite being just 12mm thick and only weighing 884g without the dock.

Samsung ATIV

If you’re prepared to abandon the keyboard completely, Samsung has you covered with the ATIV Tab, a 10.1in tablet running Windows RT. It has a 1.5GHz dual core processor of unknown brand inside, as well as a 1.9-megapixel front webcam, 5-megapixel rear camera, uHDMI input and USB port at the sides. It weighs just 570g and is only 9mm thick, which certainly feels light in the hand.

Windows RT is still something of an unknown factor, as it hasn’t been properly released to consumers yet, but from what we’ve seen it’s an exciting new OS that could shake up the tablet market – particularly here as it comes with Microsoft Office pre-installed. This means full access to all your word documents and spreadsheets, with no difference in formatting between your tablet and your PC. You also get 7GB of SkyDrive storage, for instant cloud backups.

We weren’t too keen on the overly plastic back bezel – Samsung caught a lot of flak for using plastic in the premium galaxy S3, so it’s disappointing to see the same again here, even if the pattern is slightly different. It at least feels firm, and you’ll spend most of your time looking at the front of the screen anyway.

Samsung ATIV

Traditional laptops won’t be ignored when Windows 8 launches, despite the hype surrounding new hybrid devices. Samsung’s top-end Series 9 Ultrabook has received some minor hardware tweaks to better suit the new operating system, including a refined touchpad that will make better use of the multi-touch gestures built into the OS.

Samsung ATIV

Of course, having made the announcement at its Mobile Unpacked event, Samsung had to give us a glimpse of the ATIV S, a Windows Phone 8 device that will launch in the next few months. We weren’t able to get any hands-on time with the dual-core 1.5GHz device as Microsoft has a multi-billion dollar exclusive deal with Nokia, demanding to be first to show off its mobile OS, but the spec sheet alone looks impressive. A 4.8in HD AMOLED display, 8 megapixel rear camera, NFC capabilities and full support for Microsoft Office, in a device less than 9mm thick should be more than enough to turn heads when the ATIV S goes on sale later this year.

With a full line-up of Windows 8 products swiftly approaching on the horizon, Samsung’s first offerings certainly have potential – we’ll wait until the end of IFA to declare our favourites though, so make sure to check back over the next few days if you’re considering buying a Windows 8 machine.