Review: Samsung ATIV Smart PC

Samsung's ATIV Smart PC is a 'convertible' Windows 8 tablet, that docks into a hinged keyboard to create a small laptop.

NameConvertible netbook/tablet: Samsung ATIV Smart PC
At a glance:Intel Atom Z2760,2GB RAM,64GB eMMC flash storage,Longest battery life on our record,0.74kg (tablet only), 1.45kg (tablet and keyboard)
Summary:A device that proves Windows 8 tablets are viable: worth every cent as a netbook/tablet combo.

Samsung’s ATIV Smart PC is the device that convinced me that Windows 8 tablets will be a successful venture. No, it didn’t release some kind of pheromone: it just works better than I would have expected.

The Smart PC is a convertible laptop, closest in design to the Asus Transformer. In other words, it's an iPad-like tablet that docks into a hinged keyboard to create a small laptop.

Samsung's convertible design is a little bigger than Asus. The ATIV Smart PC is an 11.6-inch tablet where the Transformer is 10-inch. However, Samsung kept the tablet slim. At 9.9mm thick and weighing 744 grams, it's only a little bigger than the latest generation iPad, which is 9.4mm thick and weighs 652 grams. As a result, the Smart PC is highly portable and perfectly comfortable to hold one-handed. Even with the keyboard attached, it measures just 18mm thick and weighs 1.45kg: about the size of a netbook.

The screen has a 1366 x 768-pixel resolution, which is reasonable enough considering the Smart PC’s 11.6-inch screen size. It’s no Retina display, but text is clear and I never found myself wanting for screen real-estate on the traditional Windows desktop.

The keyboard is full-sized, with good travel that makes fast and furious typing a comfortable experience. There’s a mid-sized touchpad, which provides a decent alternative to the touchscreen when in ‘netbook mode’. I found the on-screen multitouch so accurate and responsive that I don’t think I ever used the touchpad during my real-world testing.

This is the lowest-spec machine in our ultraportables roundup. It has a brand-new Intel Atom Z2760 ‘Clover Trail’ CPU and 2GB of DDR2 RAM. Storage is 64GB of Samsung eMMC Flash memory, which gives you 39GB of user-accessible free space.

Performance in our standard benchmark suite was not just the lowest in our December 2012 ultraportables roundup  – often by an order of magnitude – but the lowest we’ve ever seen. However, those benchmarks are all tests designed for full-sized laptop and desktop PCs.

Despite the poor benchmark results, the ATIV Smart PC easily handles web browsing, playing back 1080p video (both streaming from the internet and stored on the device), 2D tablet-optimised games.

This is not a PC you’d use to do photo editing or software development – it’s a PC you’d use to take notes at a conference, read in bed or browse the web from the couch as you watch TV. In other words, exactly what you’d use a tablet or a netbook for.

Unlike previous Windows tablets we’ve tested, there was no overheating – or even notable warmth – when pushing the Atom CPU to its limits. The ATIV Smart PC really keeps cool under fire, and runs smoothly just like an iPad or very high-end Android tablet.

The range of connectivity options available on the Smart PC is better than you’d expect from a tablet, worse than you’d expect from an Ultrabook: on the tablet/screen there's a USB 2.0 port, microSD card slot, micro HDMI port and headphone socket. There’s also a slide-out, pressure sensitive pen that you can use with the touchscreen for precision work. It supports wireless 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.

On the keyboard/base there are two additional USB 2.0 ports. There’s no USB 3.0: it isn’t supported by the Atom processor. There’s no Ethernet port, which is disappointing. I wouldn’t expect it to be included in the tablet, but the keyboard is already a USB hub: surely squeezing in a basic USB-to-Ethernet adapter would have been possible.

Battery life is another place the ATIV Smart PC really shines. In our demanding ‘productivity’ battery test, it ran for 8 hours 40 minutes: beating our top score ever, 5 hours 19 minutes, by 63%. That’s the upside to the very low-powered CPU: you could easily get a full day’s work from the ATIV. Our batterly life result could be well exceeded with less intensive usage.

If you have use for a tablet, a netbook, or both, the Samsung ATIV Smart PC is worth every single cent of its $1,299 RRP. It's fantastic for tech-lovers who like to travel light, for around the home, or as a presentation device in the office. In short, it's a jack of all trades, master of two.

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Tags TabletWindows 8Windowsconvertiblenotebookconvertablewin8laptop

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Harley Ogier

Harley Ogier

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