First things first: someone in marketing over at Samsung recently took a much-needed crash course in brevity. The result is that this is no longer a review of the Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T, but instead, is a review of the Samsung ATIV Tab 7 -- the device is the same, but the name has been changed.
The next thing is that it is still hard to separate any opinions drawn regarding the device from our already thoroughly-vetted opinions of Windows 8. So to show our appreciation of Samsung's new-found love of verbal minimalism, this review will return the favor by focusing on what Samsung brings to the table with its best shot at a Windows 8 tablet.
Samsung was nice enough to ship us the ATIV Tab 7 with the maxed-out specs, which means we were treated to Windows 8 Pro as well as AT&T 4G LTE service. This was certainly done to highlight Microsoft's glaring omission of a mobile broadband offering on its Surface Pro and RT.
The processor is the very slightly upgraded Intel i5 running at 1.8 GHz. First-production models shipped with an identical i5 which ran at 1.7 GHz. The ATIV Tab 7 has two other models that are Wi-Fi only, one with Windows 8 Pro and the other with vanilla Windows 8. Aside from those differences, all other specs are identical across all three models.
As an extra bonus, we were also sent the full-featured keyboard dock which turns this tablet into a very slick convertible ultrabook.
Build and Design
The ATIV Tab 7's metal case has a smooth and rounded look compared to the Surface's chiseled form, and it has a semi-glossy finish that gives a slick texture when holding it. It has a generally sturdy feel although with some case flexing when twisted or pressed in the center of the back. The Windows key on the front panel is a physical button with some chrome finish edging but it felt loose in its perch with some play around the edges.
Samsung claims a 1.98 lb. weight, but our model weighed in at an even 2 lbs. due to the SIM chip.
The full HD screen (1920 x 1080) one ups the Surface Pro, literally, measuring 11.6-inches, which is one inch bigger than the 10.6inch screen of Microsoft's offering.
The ATIV Tab 7's specs touted that the brightness maxed out at 400 nits, but our initial impressions didn't match those specs. After digging through the settings, we found the power plan was set to use the adaptive brightness feature on both battery and AC power. Once that was adjusted, the brightness performance matched its specs.
The extra inch for the screen must have netted in some interior room as Samsung chose to use a more traditional storage hole/dock for its S Pen stylus. The stylus fits securely in its storage cubby as opposed to the Surface Pro's more precarious magnetic side mount.
There is some downside to that extra inch of screen real estate, however. The device becomes a little more bulky to deal with especially while holding it one handed. Furthermore, the on-screen keyboard is harder to use with your thumbs -- a la 'texting style'.
Other Buttons and Ports
Taking a tour around the ATIV Tab 7's edge, we see the bottom housing the power port, two holes for the keyboard latches, and a proprietary docking connector.
Along the left edge toward the top is a micro-HDMI port and a silver toned volume rocker which protrudes enough to be easily accessible, but not so much as to get snagged. The right side is barren with only the stylus socket adorning it towards the bottom corner.
Continuing our journey to the top edge we hit the motherlode. From left to right we have: headphone/mic jack, mic hole, Power button, Autorotate on/off button, USB port, another mic hole, air vents, microSD slot, and finally the SIM card socket.
The HDMI, USB, microSD, and SIM sockets are all outfitted with a protective plastic flip cover that dangles from an integrated plastic thread. I have always been wary of the long-term durability of these flaps but in all honesty, I've never had one break on me and have only seen them snapped off on the most brutalized phones.
While the jury is out on the revival of the stylus (Palm III anyone?), Samsung is clearly committed to its comeback, including it in many of its tablets and mobile devices. The stylus is especially useful when using the Windows Desktop as it does not benefit from the swipe-happy finger-mashing usability of the Modern/Metro interface of the Start Screen. The stylus has a well-textured right-click button that is easy to locate by touch alone. So even people with precision pointer fingers can still appreciate the stylus for its quick and easy access to right-click functionality.
The optional keyboard dock is a robust add-on, complete with two USB ports, trackpad, and alternate power port. Combining this with the tablet gives you a solid ultrabook which is hardly noticeable as a tablet with an add-on accessory. Typing feel was quite good with decent responsiveness and very little of the 'squishiness' typical of add-on keyboards. Although the trackpad is on the small side and a little redundant given this is a touchscreen, must people will find it useful due to persistence of habit. It was also appreciated for more precise cursor control when navigating the Desktop interface.
The hinge assembly where the tablet docks is a sturdy thick metal cup that covers and protects the entire bottom of the tablet. A nice consideration of the hinge is that its pivot point is not at the apex which elevates the rear of the keyboard when open, providing a more comfortable typing position than the MS Type Cover's dead flat positioning. However the off-center hinge makes the unit top-heavy so it will often impersonate a "fat-cat-capsizing" and flop over onto its back.
My main gripe with the otherwise well designed keyboard dock is that the release button can only be accessed when the hinge is in the open position. Once the tablet is released, the hinge is now positioned at a very awkward angle to the keyboard making it difficult to slip into a backpack or laptop bag. The hinge can be returned to the closed position without the tablet inserted, but without the leverage of the tablet the hinge tension makes it extremely stiff and difficult to move. Thankfully, the tablet will re-dock with the keyboard hinge in the closed position so the workout routine does not need to be repeated.
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