Right out of the box, the Ativ S is a big behind the times since it's not a 4G LTE device. Perhaps that privilege is being reserved for the rumored Verizon version, the Samsung Odyssey, but as of this time, we don't know. However, there are distinct advantages to not having 4G. As a 3G HSPA+ device, the Ativ S can offer better battery life and a lower monthly bill than 4G Windows Phones.
Our review unit was on T-Mobile, whose service tended to rise and dip across the San Francisco Bay Area. We rarely had full bars of service, except in the most populous areas of the city.
Over network browsing speeds were routinely disappointing. At this time it's unknown which other carriers will be getting the Ativ S, but we'll update this review when that information is made public.
Over WiFi though, the Ativ S offered snappy Internet Explorer browsing. The TechRadar homepage consistently loaded in about three seconds, and the mobile site formatted perfectly. If you generally dislike mobile sites, there's a nice option to automatically request the desktop version.
It's not as adept as the iOS 6 or Android browser though. You have to choose between having a refresh button, tab button or favorites access on the adress bar. Otherwise you have to get to those option through a scrolling menu.
It's not so bad, this is coming from someone who has been spoiled by the mobile version of Chrome, which does an excellent job of bringing your history and preferences from multiple devices.
There are some third-party browsers for Windows Phone 8, but none of the big guys like Chrome, Safari or Mozilla Firefox. Also, as with iOS 6, there's no way to change your default browser, so you'd better just warm up to Internet Explorer.
Web browsing is one place where the Ativ S's big screen really comes through. Having a big display to show page and make touch selection a little easier makes for a good online user experience. Image heavy sites really pop on the big, bright screen.
When it comes to entering data, like in a search field, it's disappointing, and surprising, that voice dictation isn't supported. It's odd since we found talking to our Ativ S to be quite reliable, and a nice alternative to typing on that cramped keyboard.