Samsung ATIV Smart PC 2014

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There is no doubt that more and more manufacturers are delivering tablets with Windows 8 OS. Samsung decided to cover almost every aspect of this market and we are able to see new devices from this company while one of the newly added is the Samsung ATIV Smart PC.
Design
If you are coming from most Android tablets or even aluminum iPads, the ATIV Smart PC will feel a tad heavy at 26oz (750g), given its all-plastic construction. However, considering that Samsung’s tablet has a larger 11.6” screen, and runs full Win 8 that has backwards compatibility with all programs ever written for Windows – something that typically requires a cooling fan – the weight is actually quite decent. Tell that to your wrist, though, as prolonged holding of the polycarbonate ATIV Smart PC2014 chassis brings fatigue much faster than with a typical ARM-based 10” slate, for instance, despite that there’s plenty of side bezel for your thumbs to grip it tight without touching the display.
The 9.9mm thin polycarbonate housing resembles the material used in the making of the blue Galaxy S III, with brushed metal looks, but hollow plasticky sound when you knock on the back. The back is a looker with the faux brushed metal housing, the elevated Samsung logo and the metal rim around the 8MP camera with LED flash by its side, and its tapered sides help in holding the tablet more comfortably.
The power/lock, volume rocker and screen orientation keys are situated discreetly on the sides in the top left quadrant – flush enough to blend with the chassis, but still easy to feel, and with good tactile feedback. Moreover, we have a full suite of ports and slots – microSD, USB 2.0, SIM card, and even a microHDMI for TV-out, covered with fitting protective flaps that are easy to pry open.
The Windows key underneath the display is slightly recessed, preventing accidental presses, and with a clicky tactile feel as well. Below it at the bottom are the dock connector and the keyboard attachment mechanism openings, which make it very easy to snap the tablet in and out of the dock with the push of a button.
Keyboard dock
Samsung throws in two extra input methods with the ATIV Smart PC – the S Pen stylus we all know and love from its Note family of phones and tablets, tucked neatly in the silo at the lower right corner, as well as a keyboard dock with a hinge mechanism, that transforms the Windows 8 tablet into a full-fledged notebook.
The metal hinge mechanism seems sturdy and the tablet snaps into place with one quick motion. Pulling it out is a bit harder, though, as you have to push the release button with a significant force before the latch springs are released, but we wouldn’t want that mechanism iffy anyway.
The sturdy metal hinge wraps around the back, making the assembly easier to carry around, but adds to the overall weight, which with the dock is north of three pounds (1.45kg), so as much as a typical 11” ultrabook, which, however, come with much better specs and storage.
The keyboard buttons are of the island type, pretty easy to type on, yet with a somewhat shallow travel, which is a common drawback on such dock attachments. The touchpad, for that matter, is sensitive, and with a decent click feedback.
Camera
There is an 8MP camera with LED flash on the back of the ATIV Smart PC, and a front-facing shooter for video chat. The interface is pretty basic in the Camera app, only letting you adjust the resolution, brightness, contrast and exposure, but you can always scoop an app from the Windows Store for color effects, HDR and the like.
The camera takes some time to focus, and the photos appear somewhat soft and undersaturated, with less detail than we would expect from the camera’s resolution.
The tablet shoots Full HD 1080 video, and the footage is mediocre, with wandering focus, pale colors, and can be quite noisy in low-light scenarios.
Multimedia
The biggest gripe about the default Win 8 media apps is not the music player or picture application, but rather the default video player, which doesn’t support such popular containers like MKV. Thus you’d have to resort to 3rd party apps or the good old desktop mode again to install any video player your heart desires, which gives you one less reason to stay and use the Modern UI elements. Samsung even throws in CyberLink Power DVD for free, though we prefer lighter solutions.
For a tablet the ATIV Smart PC sports pretty decent stereo speakers, which don’t sound too flat, or distort too much at the highest volume.
Conclusion
Jack of all trades or a master of none? The Samsung ATIV Smart PC25014, as other Intel Atom-based tablets with Windows 8 sound great on paper – thin and light, they are capable to run legacy Windows programs, and have battery life comparable with iOS or Android slates. The compromises for achieving such a combo, however, are not to be taken lightly. While the ATIV Smart PC is airy for an 11.6” tablet and well built, its weight is not comfy to hold for a prolonged period and with the keyboard dock is as much as an 11” ultrabook.
Thus the main advantage of the ATIV Smart PC is that it gives you double the battery life your typical notebook would offer, as well as all the input flexibility that comes with the S Pen and a detachable screen-keyboard dock combo, so if for some reason you need full Win 8 for all-day computing on the go, Samsung’s Atom-based slate would do the trick, but only in light usage scenarios.
For heavier usage you’d have to resort to something like the Microsoft Surface Pro, which is more expensive, or altogether get a notebook like the $500 Asus VivoBook, for instance, with the same size touchscreen as the Smart PC, same weight, and much better specs and storage, while spending the money you’d spare for an affordable tablet to use on the go.
The actual direct competitors of the ATIV Smart PC2014 here, however, are other such Atom Win 8 slates, like the Acer Iconia W510, which has a tad smaller screen for the same price, but its keyboard dock sports an additional battery, so you can muster twice the endurance of the Smart PC, while it doesn’t have the added S Pen functionality tucked in.
Or, alternatively, you can get an iPad 4 with hundreds of thousands of tablet-oriented apps, or a Nexus 10 with high-res display, yet if you need Windows 8 with this battery life on a tablet, there aren’t many such slates to choose from at the moment.
Samsung ATIV Smart PC Back