Samsung ATIV Smart PC: Introduction

The Windows 8 tablet space at launch consisted exclusively of Tegra 3-based or Core i5/i7 ULV-based systems. That changed with the release of Krait and Clover Trail tablets like the ATIV Tab and Acer W510, respectively, but with 7W IVB and AMD Z60 on the very near horizon, we’re seeing the Windows 8 tablet market start to expand and evolve quite rapidly. After a very positive initial experience with the Windows RT slates, I was very eager to get my hands on an x86-based tablet. So when Anand gave me the chance to review one, I jumped at the opportunity.

And so we have the Samsung ATIV Smart PC, which is also known as the Samsung Series 5 Slate 500T in other parts of the world. It’s an 11.6” 1366 x 768 Clover Trail tablet that ships with Windows 8, 64GB of NAND, a laptop dock, and an MSRP of $749, and shouldn’t be confused with the more expensive ATIV Smart PC Pro (11.6” 1080p, Core i5, 128GB, Windows 8 Pro) or the no-longer-available ATIV Tab (10.1” 1366 x 768, Krait, 32GB, Windows RT). It’s pretty bad, though not quite as ridiculous as ASUS trying to make the distinction between the VivoTab (Clover Trail 11.6”), VivoTab Smart (Clover Trail 10.1”), and VivoTab RT (Tegra 3 10.1”).

Somehow, nobody has broken it to many manufacturers that the name of a product does really matter and just tacking on a suffix like RT or Smart PC means nothing if people don’t grasp the difference between them. The confusion generated by the naming schemes in use is a major factor in the somewhat lukewarm market response to many of the high profile Windows 8 devices. Part of the reason is down to the confusion generated between Windows 8, Windows RT, Metro, Modern UI, and the various other brand names used by Microsoft in relation to the latest Windows release, but the manufacturers haven’t helped things along much either. Microsoft itself can be pointed to as a culprit here as well, unless you think “Microsoft Surface with Windows RT” and “Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro” roll off the tongue easily.

Nomenclature concerns aside, I was actually pretty excited to check out the ATIV Smart PC. It, along with the VivoTab TF810C, were the two slates I had marked as most interesting in my mind during the lead up to the Windows 8 launch. Clover Trail meant good battery life and x86 compatibility, the inclusion of Wacom active digitizers were exciting, and the 11.6” PLS/S-IPS displays seemed promising. The two are very comparable devices, though the ASUS is priced higher at $799, and doesn’t include the laptop dock anymore (it did at launch.) That gives the Samsung a pretty sizable price advantage, as $749 is only about $50 more than the 64GB Windows RT tablets when the keyboard accessory cost is included—more than worth it given the disparity in features and capability. This is even more true when you consider that the street price of the ATIV Smart PC has been fallen to $549 without the laptop dock or $729 with (though we've seen it at $649 at Amazon on occasion).

Tablet Specification Comparison
  Samsung ATIV Tab Apple iPad 4 Google Nexus 10 Microsoft Surface RT Samsung ATIV Smart PC
Dimensions 10.46 x 6.62 x 0.35" 9.5 x 7.31 x 0.37" 10.39 x 6.99 x 0.35" 10.81 x 6.77 x 0.37" 11.97 x 7.46 x 0.39"
Display 10.1-inch 1366 x 768 IPS 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 IPS 10.1-inch 2560 x 1600 PLS 10.6-inch 1366 x 768 PLS 11.6-inch 1366 x 768 PLS
Weight 1.26 lbs 1.44 lbs (WiFi) 1.33 lbs 1.5 lbs 1.64 lbs
Qualcomm APQ8060A
Apple A6X
Samsung Exynos 5 Dual
NVIDIA Tegra 3
Intel Atom Z2760
Connectivity WiFi WiFi , Optional 4G LTE WiFi WiFi WiFi , Optional 4G LTE
Memory 2GB 1GB 2GB 2GB 2GB
Storage 32-64GB 16GB—128GB 16GB or 32GB 32GB or 64GB 64GB
Battery 30.0Wh 42.5Wh 33.75Wh 31.5Wh 30.0Wh
Starting Price $499? $499+ $399+ $499+ $549

It seemed like the ATIV Smart PC would offer a good compromise between the mobility of the ARM-based slates and the power and features of the Intel Core-based ones, something aiming for the sweet spot of the Windows tablet lineup. After spending an extended amount of with it, I think it’s close, but there are some definite areas of improvement.

Samsung ATIV Smart PC: Design
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  • paulbram - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - link

    You REALLY need to check out the HP Envy X2. I just picked up this thing from Staples for $525. It includes the keyboard dock with a second battery in it. In my opinion, it is the best of the convertibles AND it is the cheapest!!!

    The build quality in particular is really quite amazing. It feels like a MacBook air with a detachable screen.
  • hughtwg - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - link

    I agree. While I much prefer using a stylus than getting greasy fingerprints all over my screen the poor stylus support in Windows 8 make using a stylus less than ideal. Other than my touchpad not registering multi-touch gestures when waking from sleep the X2 has been great. Hopefully HP will fix the touch pad soon.
  • nerd1 - Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - link

    Actually HP initially claimed their tablet supports active digitizer (maybe atmel) but so far no one confirmed than. That's was a major dealbreaker for me.
  • new-paradigm - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - link

    The Asus Vivotab also has a wacom digitiser built in. Not sure why anyone would choose the plasticky build of the Samsung to be honest.
  • new-paradigm - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - link
  • new-paradigm - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - link

    Also, I think you may be getting your vivotabs confused. The vivotab has a wacom digitiser and the second battery in the keyboard dock, the vivotab smart has neither.

    Would also have liked a comment on the usability of the tablet whilst docked, as I found from looking at them in the shops that the heavy weight of the tablet causes them to fall over backwards when prodding at the screen whilst it is being used docked on a desk or table.
  • paulbram - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - link

    Not sure about the others, but I can say that I use my HP Envy X2 on my lap all the time and it doesn't seem to be too top heavy. They actually prevent the screen from going back too far, likely to prevent this problem.
  • nordicpc - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 - link

    I love my Ativ. I got one as soon as I could, Staples had them without the keyboard dock back when Win 8 launched. It's been a very solid tablet with way more functionality and performance than I could have ever hoped for. I used a Transformer 2 before, and this is no question better. The only thing that this review missed was the occasional lockups that the OS experiences while in sleep. You have to do a hard shutdown sometimes when the system has been offline for a while. I don't know if he didn't experience it, or if he was asked by Samsung to not note it because they have a fix coming soon, but it seems to be an issue with both my Ativ and my employee's Asus Smart. Seriously though, the Ativ Smart has totally replaced my AMD-based Asus Eee-PC, and I'm incredibly happy with it. Faster than an AMD Athlon X2 with all-day battery life and a very good (although low-res) screen.
  • rburnham - Thursday, March 21, 2013 - link

    This is the tablet I went with. I had a similar Acer tablet initially, but that unit had a problem where it would go into sleep mode and not come out of it without a reset. I returned it and got the Samsung unit and I have been pleased with it. It's a little too big for one-handed use, but other than that it does what I want. The Atom processor really makes a case for Windows RT not being needed at all. Space be a little tight, but with a micro SD card, I can hold all the data I need on the go. Definitely an option worth considering.

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