Have your cake and eat it too
The concept of a hybrid is an interesting one, and something that has failed before. However, this round is different in that not only do these tablets have a more clear function, but they are also more affordable. Th ATIV Tab 7 in particular is loaded with very impressive guts for a tablet, and doesn't have many of the worst shortcomings of the Surface Pro—it gives you ample hard drive space despite the large size of Windows 8, and the keyboard attachment comes with the unit, and not as a separate $100+ purchase.
I don't have to tell you that by loading a tablet up with ultrabook specs and giving it a keyboard greatly enhances the range of what it can do, but I'm going to anyway: The ability to effortlessly switch between laptop and tablet is a huge plus for those of you who have trouble with the on-screen virtual keyboard. However, the keyboard attachment isn't as flexible as it should be, since it can't support the tablet at more obtuse angles due to the weight balance. While the pebble keys are a massive upgrade over other versions of tablet keyboard docks I've seen, the size of the tablet itself lends itself poorly to touch controls if you elect to go without the keyboard: It's not going to make you feel like you're sitting at one of the computers in Minority Report.
The included stylus (S-pen) may be small, but it makes many applications more rewarding, and it stows easily into the frame of the unit in an unobtrusive manner. Additionally, the two full USB ports and the microHDMI out are great if you often find yourself using physical media or presenting material on supplemental screens. Just take care not to tax the hardware too much, as this thing gets hot after a while.
This particular unit has some rough edges, but that's the fault of software in part. Some of the things that have come up as issues (like blue screens when opening the Kindle app) happened with the Surface Pro as well, leading me to believe that these issues may be solved with future updates, or that Windows 8 Pro is still in its infancy and has some kinks to work out before it can be considered on-par with its main competitors. It is designed for a very different workload, so it shouldn't surprise you that tablets sporting Windows 8 Pro are a bit more complicated than iPads.
Really, the internal hardware of the Samsung ATIV Tab 7 seems to be a little overpowered for its likely use—the processor and GPU of the unit handle most gaming and video tasks well, but the unit can get very hot despite large vents (for a tablet anyway) if you tax the hardware, and that's a problem.
I will point out that the battery leaves a little bit to be desired, as it does not last as long as some of the other tablets out there when you give it a heavy workload. Considering the hardware that's inside, it's not really all that surprising, but it's something to be aware of—more power-hungry parts mean more power lost if the battery isn't large enough to handle the added load. It's a tradeoff that you make when you get a device that can handle every function of a normal computer.
Not so great as a standalone tablet
So how do these things all tie together in a normal-use scenario? Well, it all begins and ends with the operating system (OS). While it's tempting to focus on the features of any physical product, the fact of the matter is that most of your experience with any tablet is going to be through the OS and touch interface.
The learning curve isn't that steep for the new controls, but only if you've used a Windows computer in the past. File structure is handled in the same way that it is on a desktop PC, and you can run just about any program that would normally work on Windows 8, allowing you to install your favorite PC games, productivity, and content generation software.
Windows 8 gives the tablet some interesting controls, but it straddles the line between desktop and tablet OS so it has some rougher edges as a result. For example, there are two versions of many system apps—there are two versions of Internet Explorer, one for the legacy desktop, and one for the tablet desktop. This can be a bit jarring, but honestly, it gets a lot easier if you use the keyboard attachment with the touchpad.
It's comforting to know that the tablet can handle a huge workload, but when it heats up as much as it does it puts the worry in the back of your head that maybe you shouldn't play that game, or maybe you shouldn't watch that movie. After a taxing the tablet, we recorded the screen's temperature at anywhere between 117 and 124.5°F (51.39°C). While it's not going to burn you, the heat will absolutely make you re-think using the unit as a tablet until it cools down. It's a stressor that dampens the overall experience, and that's definitely not something you want to be thinking about when you're using your tablet—you want it to work without fuss, right?
If you find yourself wishing that your tablet could handle all the stuff you'd normally be doing on a laptop, or want a tablet with a large screen for use around the house, the Samsung ATIVsmart PC Pro is a great start. The Windows 8 Pro tablet/laptop hybrids are going through some growing pains, but Samsung made this unit with enough tools (like the S-pen) to handle some of those issues fairly well.
For Windows users who haven't jumped to iOS or Android, this may be a good unit to consider when looking for a tablet—you'll be used to many of the Windows operations while dipping your toes in the water of the new touch controls. You can install just about any program you'd normally run on your computer, and you can tote this product around as either a tablet or laptop depending on your desired use. Additionally, the ATIV does not share the same hard drive storage problems as the Microsoft Surface Pro, but you will definitely have to lighten your wallet a bit more to get it.
This unit isn't for everyone: Some people don't find Windows 8 Pro to be their choice in operating system, and others may not need to have a hyper-powered tablet for web browsing and media consumption. Additionally, some people might want better battery life, or the access to a range of different apps, or even a more affordable price that an iOS or Android tablet offers, and that's fine too. However, if you need something more and don't mind spending a bit of money, the Samsung ATIVsmart PC Pro is worth a look.
By the numbers, this tablet is a bit all over the place—its processing power and basic performance were great, but its battery lacked stamina. Still, that may have more to do with its split objectives: Being a good laptop and a good tablet requires some tradeoffs, and Samsung seemed to manage them well enough. Just be sure that you're okay with those tradeoffs before buying, though.
Nothing to write home about
As far as screens go, the one used in the Samsung ATIVsmart PC Pro is fairly mediocre. It works perfectly fine for most usage, but the calibration is a bit... strange, to say the least. For example, it shifts blues to a more cyan-ish color, and undersaturates reds just a bit.Contrast performance is a bit mixed: The peak brightness (357.68cd/m^2 ) is more than adequate for use in several lighting conditions, but the black level (0.55cd/m^2 ) is quite high, and leads to a relatively narrow contrast ratio of 650:1. In its defense, its gamma is near-perfect, with a measured slope of 2.09, which is ever-so-minor in terms of tablet screen issues that it's barely even worth mentioning. This tablet does not have a "retina" display, but for most users with imperfect sight, that should work well enough—the screen has a full 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels), and when you consider its physical dimensions of 10.0625" x 5.75" we get a pixel density of about 190 pixels per square inch. This makes the resolution fairly appropriate, but nothing crazy like an iPad or Nexus 10. #### Performance comes at a price Honestly, it's not all that surprising that power-hungry components chew through battery life quicker than smaller ARM processors do. Considering the difference in performance, it's to be expected that taxing the hardware will result in poorer battery life, so take these results as you will.
The Samsung ATIVsmart PC Pro did not do so well in our tablet tests: It was able to play video continuously for 4 hours, 22 minutes at max backlight and all wireless disabled, then reading War and Peace on the Kindle eReader app for 4 hours, 27 minutes after a fresh charge. While that places it firmly in the "less desireable" category for tablets, keep in mind that there's only so much space in the chassis of the tablet for the battery, and there is a lot of machine crammed in there.
Also keep in mind that because we test with the backlight cranked, you may be able to add some time to your use of the Samsung ATIVsmart PC Pro by turning on auto-brightness, or manually dropping the backlight. Additionally, using resource-intensive processes and wireless connectivity will also drain the battery faster, so expect your battery life to vary depending on what you do with it.
Impressive for a tablet, pretty good for a laptop
It's very unfair to judge a tablet on a few less-than-ideal problems. So, as we continue to broaden our scope in tablet reviews, I've collaborated with the laptop reviewers for Reviewed.com to give you a great range of benchmark scores.
On the whole, this tablet does very well in terms of overall graphics and GPU performance as both a laptop and a tablet, which is very cool to see. Even more demanding contemporary games like Skyrim can be played with an acceptably good framerate—if you were to play Portal 2, you could expect to see 126.22 frames per second (fps) on low quality, and 46.73fps on highest quality. Even compared to the laptops we've tested so far, this is a respectable result.
Using PC Mark and Geekbench, we discovered that the Core i5 processor also holds its own in terms of raw CPU performance as well, scoring a 4421 and 6750 in each test respectably, putting this tablet near the top in benchmarks even among laptops. This is a tablet that is equipped for bear—or at least a high-polygon rendering of one at a usable framerate.
|PC Mark (Higher is better)||4421||Good|
|Geekbench (Higher is better)||6750||Very Good|
|3D Mark Vantage (Higher is better)||P2618||Average|
|Portal 2 (Higher is better) Low settings||126.22fps||Excellent|
|Portal 2 (Higher is better) High settings||46.73fps||Excellent|
Meet the testers
Staff Writer, Imaging@cthomas8888
A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.See all of Chris Thomas's reviews
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