Samsung embraces Windows 8 with new device

Sim Ahmed considers whether Samsung will replicate its smartphone success in the PC market

When Microsoft's Windows 8 launched in late October, manufacturers released a plethora of devices to take advantage of the touch-inspired OS.

Among them is the Samsung's ATIV Smart PC. The Korean manufacturer has been making strides in the mobile industry where it is leading the Android pack, and is now looking to replicate that success in the PC market.

Hardware

Looking through Samsung's Windows 8 line up it seems the company is throwing different form factors at the wall to see which ones stick with consumers.

The Smart PC, along with its more expensive sibling running Windows 8 Pro, is best described as a hybrid laptop with a screen that detaches to function as a standalone tablet. It's a great bridge between device portability, and the inevitable need to use a keyboard for business productivity.

The tablet part of the Smart PC looks very much like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, with better (but not completely faultless) build quality. It even has a stylus. Correction: the Smart PC uses Wacom's digitizer technology, although using the stylus feels less accurate than on the Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Meanwhile the main body is one solid piece of plastic fashioned to look like the brushed aluminium Samsung uses in its high end Ultrabooks. The curved sides are mostly free of clutter apart from a mini-HDMI output and volume rocker, and the power button, USB, and micro-SD slots are located at the top.

The flaps covering the peripheral slots are flimsy and attached to the device by small plastic hinges. The micro-SD card flap wouldn't sit flush with the body after opening it once. These little hardware quality faults, while not a major deciding factor, do continue to be a problem with many Samsung products.

Overall, the build quality of the plastic keyboard is good, and the most important element, the hinge, is made of metal, which is reassuring. The keyboard has two USB ports which lets you connect external drives or a mouse to the tablet, again the flaps for these ports are flimsy. The two components together weigh 1.45 kg, which is lighter than the current range of MacBook Pros but not quite as light as a MacBook Air.

Display and camera

The Smart PC's 11.6-inch screen has a resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels, which means you can watch high definition videos.

A pixel density of 135 pixels per inch may only be half of what's available on the latest iPad, but nonetheless the image quality is excellent.

The Smart PC has a front-facing 2 megapixel camera, and an 8 MP main camera which takes very clear images.

Windows 8 and software

The ATIV Smart PC runs a full version of Windows 8, powered by its Intel Atom processor and 2 GB of RAM. The performance of apps is very stable, even when multitasking with multiple apps pinned to the screen.

I have no qualms admitting that I don't enjoy Windows 8 on desktops or laptops. With a mouse and keyboard the horizontal tiled layout feels restrictive. However, when it comes to touch interfaces, tablets in particular, Windows 8 is the clear front runner with its minimal UI. It takes a while to get used to, but once you do, you wonder why Apple and Google haven't got around to doing the same. If the app ecosystem was stronger my next device would be a Windows 8.

Samsung pre-installs some apps on the Smart PC, but thankfully it's mostly been untouched by bloatware. One of the Samsung apps is the S Note app, similar to the one on the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which lets users draw notes on the device using the stylus.

A trial version of Microsoft Office also comes pre-loaded, and the Smart PC's keyboard means this productivity app is not excruciating to use, unlike the usual experience with touch-only keyboards.

Battery

Samsung says the Smart PC offers 14 hours of battery life, or 10 hours while playing video. This definitely wasn't the case for my review device.

A full night's charge would usually keep the Smart PC going for around eight hours, which is still fantastic for a device I'm treating as my personal computer.

The Smart PC doesn't have separate battery inside the keyboard - which is a shame as this is a killer feature for devices like the Asus Transformer Prime.

4 Stars

SPECS

Dimensions: 304 x 189.4 x 19.9 mm

Weight: Tablet 744 g , Tablet + Keyboard 1.45 kg

Display: 11.6 inch LCD, 1366 x 768 pixels

Processor: Intel Atom with 2 GB RAM

OS: Windows 8

RRP: $1299

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Tags PCWindows 8hardware systemsSamsung ElectronicsATIV Smart PCsoftwareComponents

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