Samsung ATIV Tab Review - A Wonderful Windows RT Tablet (Part 1)

3/23/2013 4:20:42 PM

Samsung’s Windows RT tablet beats Surface RT in many aspects; it’s a pity that it is beaten in price aspect.

In the world that has been gradually dominated by tablets, Microsoft, whose fate is put in desktops and laptops, must act to keep its customers from leaving. After years in Redmon lab, Windows 8 and Surface RT were brought into life but none of all are good in the new world that the brand bravely created. While Windows RT looks and acts alike its big brother, it doesn’t execute your current Windows programs despite that there’s a specific desktop mode. It’s understandable that when common users struggle understanding the difference, Samsung turned down any plan releasing a Windows RT device in the US.

However, the device is available in rest of the world (including Canada), and we brought ATIV into our test. Generally, if I had never taken a trip across the ocean, it must have been a pity, and it is of course the tablet that is able to threaten Surface RT. Thus, should you buy it? Wait for the answer after a little break.

Samsung ATIV Tab

Samsung ATIV Tab


If you have ever handled Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 or Galaxy Note 10.1, congratulations – you have just got the right to pass the next two phrases. Samsung used its favorite design language for the tablet; hence, you won’t find any appealing or distinctive here. Meaning, it stay inside the familiar molded plastic chassis which was painted to look like metal-made. This means that it feels cheap, yet better against shocks and scratches than other device having trendier cases.

In the top-center of the front lies a 1.9MP camera; below the screen is a physical Windows RT home button. The stereo speaker accounted for 1/3 of the screen’s upper surface, with a heavy bezel; you could feel as if your computing work is carried out in Cinerama. Above, we have 3.5mm jack, power button, volume rocker, micro-SD, micro-HDMI and USB 2.0 slots. There’s nothing on either side. Below, you will find charge port, dock contact and slot for keeping an external keyboard whose holes are filled with colored plastic in case you don’t make any further investment. Saying about this, the dock was not available at the time we tested, but if possible, we will update further review.

The device’s back

The device’s back

Below the cover is dual-core 1.51GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 APQ8060A processor, Adreno 225 GPU and 2GB of RAM – similar components are also found in Lenovo IdeaTab S220 and Dell XPS 10. Next to the 28nm chip is 32GB storage. You can’t see a 16GB version of this tablet, mainly as Windows RT occupies 16GB storage. Though, you can still see the common sensor groups and Wi-Fi radio: dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, S-GPS and GLONASS.

It must be a mistake if we don’t finish this part by talking about build quality, and Samsung made real effort to make the device feel as if it could a hard stroke. No matter when we tried to bend or break the chassis from the middle with our bare hands, there was mostly no sound of creaking. We were completely pleased putting it in our pocket without the worry that the device would be damaged during a daily usage. The model features size of 10.4x6.61x0.27in (265.8mmx168.1mmx7mm) and weight of 1.25 pounds (570g), it is more lightweight and compact than Surface RT (1.5 pounds).

The model features size of 10.4x6.61x0.27in (265.8mmx168.1mmx7mm) and weight of 1.25 pounds (570g), it is more lightweight and compact than Surface RT (1.5 pounds).

The model features size of 10.4x6.61x0.27in (265.8mmx168.1mmx7mm) and weight of 1.25 pounds (570g), it is more lightweight and compact than Surface RT (1.5 pounds).

Display and sound

The resolution Microsoft gave first-generation Windows RT devices was 1,366x768 – left far behind by 1,920x1,200 or 2,560x1,600 that tablet buyers have been looking for in a hi-end tablet. Don’t frown at the low figure, as thanks to Windows RT, operation seldom matters. In fact, the only time when you can blame on it is when putting it beside a more pixel-rich screen.

The display didn’t struggle through our tests under the gentle light of winter, allowing you to view from tilt angles or lay it down on the surface without affecting image quality. Of course, if you are to use it to watch films, we suggest investing in dock, stand or other kind of support to free your hands from handling it for long. Placing it next Surface RT, you will easily see its backlight a little more powerful than of Surface RT.

The sideway stereo speaker is quite good yet it struggled with bass-rich tracks. If you are finding way loading Electric Six collections, we recommend you to keep volume at 80% unless you want to hear it louder. In our non-science test which placed the tablet playing music at maximum volume under a towel then moved it to the next room and shut the door, sound quality was still clear and vibrant meaning that you may use it for any surprising ball at hotel’s room in your next trip.

Performance and battery life

In case you have never used Windows 8 or Windows RT before, one of the most unforgettable (plus more inexplicable) is the device’s rhythm. It moves along a different tune from either Android or iOS devices you have used. For instance, when rotating the screen from landscape to portrait mode, instead of making a 90-degree rotation only, the screen waited a beat, zoom out of all, after 1 sec, then performs the transition. It was also one of the times we made ATIV suspended, by opening it during the operation – it would be lagged trying to catch your commands.

Left to right: volume keys, power button and 3.5mm jack

Left to right: volume keys, power button and 3.5mm jack

Similarly, acquaintances of instantly-loaded apps (or seemingly at least) can be indifferent seeing that apps take averagely 5 sec to start working. Tap the video button, and the relaxing red background would fill up the screen, while a wheel consisting of white dot running around lets you know the hardware is working. Though, when loaded, the software was very fast, and we found difficulty making it slow. Even when playing video, downloading an app and continuously switching via 6 or 7 apps, we hardly saw any lagging in switching them.

Based on the fact that Windows RT is still growing, there are not many tests allowing us to imagine a full potential of this hardware. It took 52sec to boot, besides, we seldom saw lagging or performance issue. We could only test it via SunSpider JavaScript test based on the browser, where it brought out a response time of 963.1ms impressively. That made it slightly superior to Surface RT, getting 944ms response time, but lost to the world’s current champion, ATIV S from Samsung, with 890ms.

In test of our battery life for tablet, we repeated a locally saved video with Wi-Fi on and 50% brightness. Samsung ATIV Tab could last for over 12.5 hours – breaking the record set by Galaxy Tab 7.7. That runtime can instantly turn it into our video’s companion for a long flight. In fact, we thought that we could endure for one more hour or more if being hesitant in choosing settings.

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