Samsung Ativ Smart PC review

It's hybrids galore as Samsung gears up for Windows 8

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If the idea of Windows 8 is that it's 'no compromises', someone probably should have brought that mantra up during the design meeting for the Samsung Ativ Smart PC. This thing is all sorts of compromises.

What you're looking at is Surface RT hardware that thinks it's a Surface Pro. Except it's not as cheap as the former, it's not as powerful as the latter, and it's not as nicely made as either.

This idea of convertible Windows 8 tablet-laptops is all well and good, but as a tablet, this is underpowered. As an Ultrabook, it's criminally underpowered.

We liked

The best thing here is easily the battery life, which is great while in use. That it runs down quickly on standby is frustrating, but doesn't change how much work you can get done on it.

The S-Pen is a highlight, too. The precision it offers is well beyond what capacitive styluses offer. It's good for navigating the desktop environment on the go, and for taking notes.

The screen isn't bad in terms of colours and viewing angles, and the touch sensitivity is spot on. The rapid wake/boot times are good as well, though nothing you wouldn't expect for a tablet.

We disliked

It's just too underpowered. We're sorry, Intel, but this Atom just isn't cutting it for Windows 8. Yes, it runs. At its best, it's fairly smooth. But when faint praise like that is the absolute best we can offer, that's a problem.

Responsiveness is all over the place, multitasking is a pain and there's only 26GB of available storage. Oh, and the clamshell isn't that nice to type on. And the screen is low resolution for the price.

Ah yes. The price. What. The. Flip? This is where the Samsung Ativ Smart PC goes from being an underperformer to an affront. At nearly £700/US$750/AU$1,000, it costs as much as an Asus Zenbook UX32A, which is much better made and comically powerful in comparison.

Final verdict

The Samsung Ativ Smart PC is the worst part about computers - the uncertainty - amplified and distilled into a convertible tablet. It's too fiddly, too slow, and too low-quality.

Yes, it has its good moments - the battery life and the pen input. But the Acer Iconia W510 has almost the same spec and beats it for battery life, while the pen input is something you can look to either the Surface Pro or this tablet's own big brother, Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro, for.

Ultimately, though, the question is: why would you buy this for this price, when you could have something orders of magnitude better? Get an iPad 4 or Google Nexus 10 for a better tablet experience. Get an Ultrabook (like, any Ultrabook) for a better Windows 8 experience.