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Samsung Ativ S review

A lack of 4G holds back an otherwise stellar Windows Phone.

The Ativ S is a very good Windows Phone 8 device, offering several things competition from HTC and Nokia does not: a slim build, large screen, removable batter and microSD support. Unfortunately, its held back from being the complete package due to being a 3G phone. Here's how it stacks up in our mind.

We liked

The overall build of the Ativ S is great. It may be plastic, but it sure looks like metal, and it has a more mature design than the colorful HTC 8X and HTC 8S. It also doesn't feel cheap like a Lumia 920 (sorry Nokia but your Windows Phones feel hollow to us).

It's also so light and slim. Given the size of the handset, the weight and dimensions genuinely surprised us when we picked one up. At 5.4-inches, it's already the sort of phone that may poke out of your pocket, so the skinny design is much appreciated.

Samsung Ativ S review

Not only is it thinner than any other WP8 device, its also got a the biggest screen. 4.8-inches is plenty of rumor for those gorgeous Live Tiles, and their colors pop against on a subdued, silver device.

We're also starting to quite like the WP8 OS, mainly thanks to its fun color combinations and those useful, playful Live Tiles. It's not just a vanity thing, being able to get at-a-glance information from them reminds us why we like Android, and the thing we miss most when using an iPhone 5.

Finally, Samsung has really one-upped the competition by including a removable battery, and more importantly, microSD storage. One of our biggest complaints with the HTC 8X was its paltry 16GB of space and lack of removable storage. For this fact alone, the Ativ S could have been the ultimate WP8 device, if not for its lack of 4G.

We disliked

The lack of 4G is a real bummer. While there are advantages to not having it, better battery life and lower monthly rates come to mind, the Ativ S blows its chance at the being the best WP8 by sticking to 3G.

Samsung Ativ S review

While we have grown to like the WP8 OS, the lack of third-party apps really hurts. We know the storefront is growing by the day, but the fact that Google has said it won't be developing for Microsoft phones doesn't give us a ton of faith. Facebook is slow, and the lack of compelling third-party browsers stings too.

The Ativ S could really use Google Maps. The Bing-powered Map solution is adequate, but not great. It's the lack of spoken turn-by-turn directions that really bugs us. The fact that the Nokia WP8 devices have this feature thanks to Nokia Drive makes it hard to say that the Ativ S is better than the Lumia 920.

Verdict

Thanks to an excellent build, good specs, beefy storage and an open body design, the Ativ S is an excellent WP8 option. However, its downright frustrating how close it comes to being the ultimate Windows Phone device, only to see it fall short in key places.

While HSPA+ 3G is nothing to sneeze at, it'll never touch 4G LTE. Therefore we can't fully recommend it over an 8X or Lumia 920 when it comes to data speeds. There's also the rumored Ativ Odyssey, which is said to have 4G LTE on Verizon. That makes us want to hold off altogether until that device comes into the spotlight.

Then when you compare it to an Android phone, or the iPhone 5, it's defintely wanting in the app department. There's also the lack of turn-by-turn directions, which every other phone ecosystem has.

Ultimately, the Ativ S is good, but painfully held back from greatness. The hunt for the ultimate Windows Phone continues, but if you want a device that's subdued but stylish, and will have a cheaper data rate than an LTE phone, the Ativ S is right for you.

Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Maximum Memory Card Size Supported32 GB
Built-in Memory16 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotYes
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyEDGE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSUPA, UMTS
SAR Value0.31 W/kg
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationYes
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyAtiv S
Cellular Generation3G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution8 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Memory Card SupportedmicroSD
Phone StyleBar
ColourSilver
Operating SystemWindows Mobile
Brand NameSamsung
Battery Talk Time14.83 Hour
Screen Size12.2 cm (4.8")
Screen Resolution1280 x 720
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)135 g
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerQualcomm
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 3.0
Operating System VersionWindows Phone 8
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, Instant Messaging
USB StandardUSB 2.0
Pixel Density306 ppi
Height137.2 mm
Width70.5 mm
Depth8.7 mm
Radio TunerNo
Battery Standby Time218 Hour
ManufacturerSamsung
Product NameAtiv S Smartphone
Processor Speed1.50 GHz
Processor TypeSnapdragon
Product LineAtiv S
Screen TypeOLED
Sensor TypeAccelerometer, Gyro Sensor, Proximity Sensor, Digital Compass
Manufacturer Part NumberGT-I8750ALABT
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.samsung.com/uk/
Limited Warranty2 Year