Samsung has signalled its intentions for the forthcoming release of Windows 8 by announcing a raft of hybrid tablets that couple the portability of tablets with the usability of a laptop.
The Samsung Ativ Smart PC is a hybrid tablet that comes with a keyboard dock to enable you to use it as a tablet or a laptop.
The 11.6-inch tablet itself measures 9.9mm thick; it’s slightly less svelte than the Asus Vivo Tab, announced at IFA 2012, or even Samsung’s own Ativ Tab the super-thin Windows RT version that runs on ARM.
The Samsung Ativ Smart PC runs on an Intel Atom Clover Trail chip, much like the Asus Vivo Tab. The 32nm chip offers x86 performance and compatibility, but the smaller DI size offers better performance and improved power management, with Samsung promising up to 14 hours of battery life.
However, the dual-core graphics part of the Clover Trail SoC architecture is not brilliant, and while the Samsung Ativ Smart PC wasn’t stretched by our hands-on tests, it will be interesting to see whether the 533MHz core can handle the rigours of tablet gaming from the Windows Store.
It’s made of silver plastic, which looks attractive to the eye, but less so to the touch. There’s plenty of flex in the plastic, and it’s weighty – at 750g without its keyboard partner and 1.5kg when used as a laptop. When you want to disconnect the tablet from the keyboard, you press the large plastic button in the centre, and a reassuringly strong mechanism lifts it from its dock.
Weight is an issue with the Ativ Smart PC, and it looks as if Samsung might have blundered into the same trap as Asus and made the tablet part of the hybrid too heavy, so that the whole device wants to tip backwards when you’re working in laptop mode.
As journalists scrambled to take their pictures of the device on the IFA stands, Samsung Ativ Smart PCs were rolling backwards, which could be an issue for people working on their laps or uneven surfaces.
The plastic finish is continued onto the keyboard, which doesn’t have the same refined feel as the Asus Vivo Tab, but was actually more comfortable to use. The keys are bigger and have deeper travel, making them more suitable for prolonged typing. This is just as well, seeing that Office 2013comes bundled.
While Asus has paired with Wacom for the Vivo, Samsung has brought its S-Pen technology to the Samsung Ativ Smart PC, with the stylus built into the bezel. For us, this is the single best achievement of the Ativ Smart PC, and the S-Pen technology worked a charm.
The pen was accurate and intuitive, works really well in Windows 8 and the handwriting recognition was some of the best we’ve seen – an absolute triumph.
With some of the great S-Pen features that have graced the newly announced Samsung Galaxy Note 2, the S-Pen and Windows 8 could herald some genuinely game-changing features.
Elsewhere, there’s Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G compatibility, and All Share Play, Samsung’s proprietary streaming and sharing service. It also supports 10-finger multi-touch, a given for any modern touchscreen device.
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