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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.