Samsung Ativ Tab review

Trying to make Windows RT into a top tablet platform.

Samsung Ativ Tab review
The definitive Samsung Ativ Tab review

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The Samsung Ativ Tab is undeniably a high-end tablet, and not just because of the price tag. With solid specs and a sleek, lightweight build, it ticks a lot of boxes before you even start using it.

The large amount of internal storage, complete with a microSD card slot, is also a huge boon, since so many tablets risk being crippled out of the gate by lack of storage. Add to that the powerful and versatile Windows RT operating system and the Samsung Ativ Tab really has a lot going for it.

On the other hand, the screen is a little lower resolution than we'd like, and that £549.99/US$649.99 (around AU$836) price tag is more than a little steep, making even the £399/US$499/AU$559 Microsoft Surface look cheap in comparison.

We liked

The Samsung Ativ Tab has superb battery life - even with heavy use it will just keep on going for hour after hour. This should be essential for a portable device, but so many tablets fail to pull it off. The large amount of storage space is very useful too, while being able to easily get content on and off the tablet with a USB stick is convenient, negating the need to ever plug it in to a PC.

That all makes it great for media too, since you can load it up with movies and songs and rarely need to worry about running out of storage - or running out of battery while watching/listening to them.

The build quality is solid and the comprehensive MS Office suite could be useful for business users. We'd still always plump for a laptop for any serious work, but the Samsung Ativ Tab is better for working on than many other tablets.

We disliked

The price is the biggest problem, at £549.99/US$649.99 (around AU$836) for the smaller 32GB model, it's £70/US$50 more expensive than even a 32GB iPad 4 and £150/US$150 more expensive than a Microsoft Surface.

There are other issues too - Windows RT is a powerful, versatile operating system by tablet standards, but it's also clunky, awkwardly laid out and not always as touch-friendly as you'd expect.

On top of that, the app selection is positively dwarfed by iOS and Android, which is a significant problem, since apps are an important part of any tablet eco system.

The screen is mediocre, with pixels often being visible on both text and images. You get used to it, but it makes it nowhere near as nice to use as it could be - particularly when web browsing or watching something.

Final verdict

Honestly, we're really struggling to get past the price tag. With both its nearest competitor (the Microsoft Surface) and pretty much everything in the Apple and Android camps coming in at less money, we'd expect something really special from the Samsung Ativ Tab.

Sadly we just didn't get it. The Samsung Ativ Tab is a solid, even premium device, with generally good specs, a good build quality and a great battery life, but then so is the Microsoft Surface, and that runs the same operating system and is a whole lot cheaper.

Unless you really can't live without a semi-decent camera on your tablet, it's impossible for us to recommend this over the Surface. Equally, if you're not sold on Windows RT then both the iPad 4 and premium Android tablets such as the Google Nexus 10 are cheaper but arguably better alternatives.

There's not a whole lot wrong with the Samsung Ativ Tab, and in fact it does quite a few things right, but not really enough to justify the price. Right now there aren't many Windows RT tablets to choose from, but that's sure to change.

So if you're set on Windows RT then we'd recommend getting the Microsoft Surface, or waiting to see what else is around the corner, and you never know, this might get a price cut in the mean time.

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

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.