Hands on: Samsung Ativ Tab 3 review

A cheaper Windows 8 tablet - but does it feel too cheap?

What is a hands on review?
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  • Should be affordable
  • Sleek, light design


  • Cheap-feeling plastic
  • Intel Atom CPU

What's that? Another Samsung Windows 8 tablet running atop an Intel Atom Z2760 CPU that uses polycarbonate for a chassis and looks a lot like the Galaxy Tab 3 range that was recently announced?

Yes, indeed: that's what Samsung has just unleashed on the unsuspecting public with the Ativ Tab 3, most thinking they were safe from the deluge of tablets that the South Korean firm was throwing onto the market.

It's not fair to disparage the new Windows 8 tablet just because it looks so similar to other devices from the mothership - it's actually a decent device in its own right.

For a start, it's the thinnest Windows 8 tablet in the world and has 2GB of RAM to power things along.

It's not running Windows RT either, so you'll have a full whack of OS power to play with when it comes to programs to use - the Windows 8 interface works effectively on the 10.1-inch screen and, while the 1366 x 768 resolution looks a little grainy, it's acceptable because Samsung tells us is going to be skewed more towards the 'affordable' end of the market.

Samsung Ativ Tab 3 review

The 550g weight is also another real selling point, as while its Ativ Q sibling is a rather chunky unit that may cause your arm to fall off on the train, this comes in with a much more sprightly mass (yes, we know mass isn't technically the right word there).

Samsung Ativ Tab 3 review

The battery life is another of the Ativ Tab 3's selling points, tagged to last for 10 hours, which is good enough for 'most' long haul flights, according to Samsung's official press materials. It's always good when these things are absolute, isn't it? Lest a slew of returns occur at Hong Kong's airport, with disgruntled Ativ Tab 3 owners annoyed at the lack of power they encountered whilst watching Van Wilder: Party Liaison for the fifth time on the flight.

Samsung Ativ Tab 3 review

The ports are much less generous than on the Ativ Q or the other Windows 8 laptops, with only a microUSB, microHDMI and microSD slot showing that you can connect to other devices. In fact, it's actually the same as the Samsung Galaxy S4 - so if you own one of those, you'll be set. Actually, no, that's not true as the HDMI and USB ports are combined on the smartphone. Sorry about that.

Samsung Ativ Tab 3 review

The S Pen makes a lot of sense on the Ativ Tab 3 as the 1024 levels of sensitivity can be applied to a wide number of applications throughout the device, which makes it really easy to annotate text or direction, which we can see many using this device for thanks to the ultra-light weight on offer.

Microsoft Office Home and Student edition is pre-installed on the Tab 3, meaning out of the box it's going to be a useful addition to those looking for a more simple laptop substitute, and if the price isn't too destructive, we can see this turning a few heads in your local computing emporium.

Samsung Ativ Tab 3 review

Side Sync can be used here too: this allows you to pop a Galaxy S4 (as well as other Android-based smartphones) next to the unit, connected through wires or wirelessly, and the mouse cursor will be able to use the smartphone as a second screen, giving you the ability to drag and drop files across from one device to another.

As you can see at the event itself, the Galaxy Tab 3 will come with its own natty cover, that works via magnets to provide a stand AND A KEYBOARD for anyone that doesn't want to preserve the super-thin frame of the Ativ Tab 3, and instead wants to stop it getting smashed in a bag.

Samsung Ativ Tab 3 review

Samsung Ativ Tab 3 review

Samsung Ativ Tab 3 review

Samsung Ativ Tab 3 review

As you can see, the material is a plastic, but it has a certain heft to it that's pleasing. As mentioned, it makes your Ativ Tab 3 so much thicker, but given you get protection (and the option to magnetise on a keyboard) we'll accept it.

Samsung Ativ Tab 3 review

Early verdict

It's fashionable to bash Samsung tablets due to the fact they don't seem to have a dedicated purpose half the time: they're either made with low specs or offered for far, far too much money.

Samsung Ativ Tab 3 review

In the case of the Ativ Tab 3, we get the feeling that could be about to change. The Windows 8 market is quietly gaining traction, and the sheer number of extras on offer here make it an attractive proposition.

We're awaiting a price before making any rash calls but we were quietly impressed with the Ativ Tab 3, despite the cheap feeling plastic and flexible chassis.

Samsung needs to start pushing down into the lower end of the tablet market when it comes to price, and this could be the device to do it.


Phones and Tablets Editor

Gareth (Twitter, Google+) has been part of the mobile phone industry from the era of the brick to the tiny device in the pocket... and now watching them grow back up to behemothic proportions once more. He's spent five years dissecting all the top phones in the world as TechRadar's Phones and Tablets Editor, and still can't resist answering the dreaded question - "which new phone should I get?" - with 15 choices.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.