Samsung ATIV S and ATIV SmartPC tablet hands-on

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Last week, I had a chance to touch and feel two Samsung ATIV products: the ATIV S and the ATIV Tab. 'ATIV' is a new brand for Samsung's Windows-based devices. 

The ATIV S is Samsung's flagship Windows Phone 8 device. It bears some resemblance to the Galaxy S III, though it feels more luxurious thanks to the metal back cover. It features a spacious 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display at 1280 x 720 resolution, which adds up to 306 pixels per inch. Photos and Windows Phone 8 tiles look gorgeous through the AMOLED display.

The ATIV S is slated to ship with a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor clocked at 1.5 GHz. Though I could not dive into third party applications, I noticed that scrolling live tiles felt slightly more responsive than Windows Phone 7 devices.

The other product on hand was the ATIV SmartPC tablet, a full Windows 8 tablet with an 11.6-inch display at 1366 x 768 resolution (135 pixels per inch) . This is an x86-based device, powered by an Intel Atom Clover Trail processor, so it will be able to handle traditional Windows applications like Photoshop, Quicken, and others. 

One thing that stood out to me was how thin and light it was. I could not believe that a full x86 device could be housed inside a tablet shell. Even the smallest of x86 devices, such as Netbooks, tended to be thick and bulky compared to modern tablets with ARM processors today. Ken Price, Director of Mobile Communications for Samsung Canada, noted that "this is what a Netbook should've been in the first place." 

The ATIV SmartPC felt speedy in actual use. Windows 8 Metro UI felt very fluid, and applications felt very speedy as well. It was able to handle 1080p HD video playback with no lag, and I assume the Clover Trail processor inside will be able to handle general computing tasks adequately. Switching from the Metro UI to the traditional Windows UI is only a click of a Windows button away, which I found to be very intuitive. I still find it bizarre that there's a dichotomy of interfaces on Windows 8, but at least it's easy to switch between them.

This particular model supports LTE 4G, and it will be sold as a connected device at Rogers Wireless. Samsung will be releasing a Wi-Fi only ATIV tablet with Intel i5 CPU processor, but that one will be slightly thicker and heavier.

I came away very impressed with both the ATIV S and the ATIV SmartPC Tablet. Samsung's hardware felt very tightly integrated with the software, and Microsoft's efforts on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are commendable, to say the least. Pricing and availability for both products will be revealed in the coming weeks.