Samsung has got on the Windows 8 boat earlier than many, releasing one of the first tablets to sport the new Windows RT operating system. Aside from being one of the first out the gate, the Samsung Ativ Tab looks to be a strong contender in its own right, with a slim build and solid specs.

Shorn of the keyboard of its Samsung Ativ Smart PC brethren, the Samsung Ativ Tab hasn't been released in a vacuum - the Microsoft Surface RT is already out in the wild. Microsoft's flagship iPad 4 rival is also cheaper than the stomach-turningly expensive Samsung Ativ Tab, which starts at £549.99/US$649.99 (around AU$836).

For that kind of money you'd expect a whole lot of tablet, and with a premium build quality, a thickness of just 8.9mm (0.35 inches) and coming in at a surprisingly light 570g (20.1oz) - compared to the 680.4g (24oz) Microsoft Surface - the Samsung Ativ Tab certainly makes a promising first impression.

The specs are fairly impressive too. Under that slender shell there's a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, with room for expansion via a microSD card.

The Samsung Ativ Tab's 10.1-inch 1366 x 768 display may only have a 155ppi, but in use it's not too bad - jaggies are noticeable but not distracting. It also pips the Microsoft Surface, which has the same resolution but a slightly bigger 10.6-inch screen, leading to a 148ppi.

Rounding out the package there's a 5 megapixel main camera capable of shooting 720p video, along with a 1.9 megapixel front-facing one.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

It's a decent list of specs, but it's still hard to get past that price tag, particularly for a tablet running a new and largely untested operating system.

Samsung has set its sights squarely on the top end of the market, but with competition from other Windows 8 tablets, the iPad 4, Google Nexus 10 and other Android tablets, it's going to take a lot to convince us that it's worth taking the plunge on a Samsung Ativ Tab.

Features

On paper the Samsung Ativ Tab sounds pretty decent, but certainly not like the god among tablets that the price tag might lead you to expect. Its dual-core processor is clocked at a respectable 1.5 GHz, but with many tablets - including close rivals such as the Microsoft Surface - now rocking quad-core processors, it doesn't seem that impressive.

On the flip side, each core in the Microsoft Surface is clocked at a slightly lower 1.3GHz, while on the Android front the Google Nexus 10 also only has a dual-core processor (albeit clocked at 1.7GHz). But both of these tablets cost less than the Samsung Ativ Tab.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

The Samsung Ativ Tab has 2GB of RAM to call upon, which is exactly what we'd expect from a top-end tablet right now, since it's become pretty standard. The 10.1-inch PLS TFT capacitive touchscreen has a Microsoft Surface-matching resolution of 1366 x 768, which for the size isn't terribly impressive, giving it just 155 pixels per inch.

In layman's terms this means it's not all that sharp. Pixels are often visible, giving things a slightly ugly jagged edge. It could be a whole lot worse, and you quickly get used to it, but we'd expect better from a premium tablet.

Viewing angles are reasonable, unsurprisingly the screen is at its best when viewed square on, but viewing it from a distance or other angles is still perfectly possible - the image is just slightly darker.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

There's a generous 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage, and in both cases that can be supplemented by microSD cards of up to 64GB, so storage is one thing that shouldn't be a problem here at all.

The Samsung Ativ Tab is Wi-Fi only, so it's not as useful as some tablets when out and about. But free Wi-Fi is available all over the place these days, so unless you're out in the sticks it's not such an issue.

Finally there's a 5 megapixel camera on the back capable of shooting 720p video at 30fps and a 1.9 megapixel snapper on the front. Neither is particularly impressive, but they should be more than adequate for a tablet, because, after all, who even uses a tablet to take photos?

Samsung Ativ Tab review

The main camera is also substantially better than the 1.2 megapixel offering on the Microsoft Surface.

All of that is kept going by an 8200 mAh battery, which on paper at any rate is a pretty decent size, though it's dwarfed by the iPad 4's 11,560 mAh battery.

Looks-wise it's not too shabby either, it's a tiny 8.9mm (0.35 inches) thick, and though the shell is plastic through and through, the rear is painted to look like brushed aluminium. It pulls it off, looking metallic and expensive. Unfortunately the illusion is shattered as soon as you touch the Samsung Ativ Tab, since it feels unmistakably like plastic in the hand. Still, it does at least feel like sturdy, expensive plastic.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

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Beyond the faux-metallic finish the back of the tablet is pretty plain. Samsung's logo is written in fairly small lettering across the middle, while at the top you'll find the main 5 megapixel camera and flash. The back is ever so slightly curved too, which makes it comfortable to hold.

The front is plainer still, with the 10.1-inch screen taking up most of the space, while around that there's a black border.

At the top you'll find the 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera, along with an indicator light, which turns on when the tablet is charging, and a light sensor to automatically dim the screen.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

Just below that there's another Samsung logo, while at the bottom there's a start button, which will turn the screen on or return you to the start menu if you're on any other screen.

To the left and right of the screen there is a pair of narrow speakers, running down the top half of the tablet.

The edges of the tablet share the brushed aluminium sheen of the back. On the top edge of the tablet you'll find a 3.5mm headphone port at the far left, a power button just to the right and a volume rocker to the right of that.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

It strikes us as a slightly unusual position for a volume rocker - we'd be more comfortable with it being on the left or right edge, but perhaps that's just from the familiarity of having it there on many other devices.

Near the centre of the top edge there's a pin prick-sized microphone, while to the right of that there's an HDMI port, a full-sized USB port (which supports USB 2.0) and a microSD card slot, all of which are hidden behind little fold-away covers when not in use, keeping the edge uncluttered and elegant.

On the bottom edge there's a keyboard dock port and a pair of keyboard dock pin connectors, the keyboard itself being an optional extra. You'll also find the DC jack down here.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

The left and right edges of the tablet are free of any buttons or ports, which make them comfortable to hold, though you need to make sure not to grip too high on the tablet or you'll obstruct the speakers.

Its light weight means the Samsung Ativ Tab is very comfortable to hold for long periods, without feeling off-puttingly light. The curved edges also aid in the comfort stakes, and there's enough grip to it that there's no fear of it slipping out of your hands.

Thanks to Expansys for sending us a Samsung Ativ Tab to review.