Samsung ATIV Smart PC Tablet Review
Thanks to Samsung (and their patience!) we were able to review the Smart PC, which is a part of their initial line-up for tablets running off of Windows RT and 8. This particular model runs Windows 8 but you should also be conscious that this not a review for the Smart PC Pro, this tablet’s bigger brother.
If you opt to go with the keyboard accessory then $599 is a great price for what the Smart PC offers you. This helps bridge that gap between Windows RT devices and ones with the full capabilities of Windows 8.
Before we delve into the actual review, let’s take a look at the specs.
|Screen Size||11.60 inches|
|Max Screen Resolution||1366 x 768 pixels|
|Processor||1.5 GHz Atom Z2760|
|RAM||2 GB LPDDR2|
|Hard Drive||64 GB Sandisk|
|Graphics Coprocessor||Intel SGX545 GMA|
|Wireless Type||802.11 a/b/g/n|
|Number of USB 2.0 Ports||1|
|Item model number||XE500T1C-A04US|
|Operating System||Windows 8|
|Item Weight:||1.7 pounds|
|Item Dimensions L x W x H||11.97 x 3.52 x 0.39 inches|
|Rear Webcam Resolution||8 MP|
|Computer Memory Type||DDR2 SDRAM, SODIMM|
|Hard Drive Interface||Serial ATA|
|Audio-out Ports (#)||1|
|Batteries||1 Lithium Metal batteries required. (included)|
*Thanks to Amazon’s store page for these tables. Corrected the megapixels for the rear camera, though. Someone should e-mail Amazon about that. It’s 8mp, not 5.
If you sit and look at the Smart PC the first thing that should come to mind is how wide this thing is. The Smart PC is equipped with an 11.6 inch screen and when held next to a Microsoft Surface, this looks giant.
Indeed the form factor is quite different from most tablets but it isn’t uncomfortable. In fact, thanks to the thinness of the device it actually feels quite nice to hold. There is no overbearing of the weight if you try and hold it with one hand and it isn’t too thin where it feels, what I like to call, “snappable”.
Looking at the tablet’s feature around the exterior you’ll find:
- Windows-branded home button
- Two speaker grills
- 2mp front-facing camera
- Volume rocker
- Mini-HDMI port
- Charging port
- Accessory port
- Power button
- Screen orientation button
- Full sized USB 3.0 port
- 3.5mm headphone port
- Built-in microphone
- MicroSD slot
- SIM card slot (review unit came with AT&T)
- 8mp rear camera
- LED flash
There is nothing on the right side, keeping that edge smooth.
As you can see there’s a lot to this tablet hardware-wise. Thankfully all the ports, slots, and protrusions don’t take anything away from the overall look and design. The blue-ish metal coloring of the back shell helps to blend the features in keeping your eyes looking at the giant and lovely screen more than what’s surrounding it.
Also, the front speaker grill placement is pure genius. The sound that comes out of this tablet goes straight for your face and ears which gives you the best quality sound it can produce, unlike the Surface RT’s small side speakers.
The screen orientation button on the top is another great design choice. Switching orientation lock on Windows RT/8 is a bit of a pain as you swipe from the right, tap on Settings, tap on Screen, and then mess with the brightness slider or tap on the lock icon. On the Smart PC you just click in a button on the top and it locks or unlocks orientation. Genius.
Talking more about that lovely screen, I have to admit that when I first turned the Smart PC on I was wow’ed by the clarity of it. Everything looks crisp, clean, and vivid on this 11.6 inch screen. With a resolution of 1366×768 you’d expect most reviews to knock some points off for not going higher in the HD front. However, the clarity of the screen and its colors was enough for me to not have a care in the world. This is the best screen that I’ve ever seen on a tablet.
It almost looks like you’re touching the actual screen and not the protective glass. I’ll tell you, after playing around with the Smart PC for a while and then heading back to your PC monitor or another gadget, there just is no comparison.
The Smart PC runs off of a Intel Atom Z2760 dual-core processor which is clocked at 1.8GHz, 2gigs of RAM, and a IntelSGX545 on-board GPU.
Comparatively, the Smart PC Pro runs off a Core i5 processor clocked at 1.7GHz, 4gigs of RAM, and an Intel HD Graphics 4000 GPU. However, the Pro is also sitting around ~$1200 USD. For the price of the Smart PC you’re looking at pretty good performance in a portable fashion.
The operating system itself runs extremely fast and there is no slow down zipping from desktop mode to metro and switching through apps. Metro apps open and close instantly and I haven’t had any slowdown yet with this tablet.
However, this is all after I uninstalled the tablet’s pre-installed virus busting software. With the program installed the tablet’s performance was abysmal. Opening, closing, loading, and just plain working in apps took forever. Desktop mode was staggeringly slow. Surfing on the internet felt like I was on a dial-up modem.
Long story short, if you buy this tablet and it comes pre-installed with a name brand anti-virus software, I implore you to uninstall it. Not only will the Smart PC’s performance almost triple in speed but Microsoft’s own Windows Defender has become very usable in Windows 8. If you don’t care for Defender there are plenty of options out there that won’t devastate your experience with this tablet.
As for certain app performance or Legacy PC program performance, I did try a few things out with varying results (mainly because I couldn’t get certain things to work):
- Snes8x (Super Nintendo emulator app): Runs great. I was able to play many of my favorite games without a hitch. The sound is a bit messed up but I believe that to be an actual app issue. Either way, the SNES games played without issue and that makes me excited to see what else can run on this machine. Emulation takes a lot more resources then many think and this is a good sign, even if it is just SNES.
- Diablo 2: Unfortunately, I was unable to get this to work because the VidTest.exe program wouldn’t start and I couldn’t get Windows 8 to make Direct 3D work. However, no errors came up during installation about performance or hardware.
- Minecraft: After a long bout of having this not load a world, I finally was able to get in. If you turn most settings down or switch them to “highest performance” or whatnot, the game plays very well. I had no issue digging, building, and killing after I used a USB hub to attach a mouse and keyboard. I was also able to download Technic and install a custom modpack on here which is nice to have portable.
- Game Dev Tycoon (Windows 8 app): Plays like a charm, no issues at all.
- Plants vs. Zombies: No issues, great performance.
Using some of that data you can think of other games or legacy programs that will work well on the Smart PC.
The cameras on the Smart PC come in two flavor: front-facing at 2mp and a rear shooter with 8. Let’s look at the rear camera since that is usually the most important to people.
Rear Camera (8MP)
This camera takes some fidgeting around with to get the best quality out of.
The first thing you’re going to notice is that the picture looks extremely grainy. That’s because the default resolution of the pictures is set at 0.9mp. Head into the camera options and switch it to see a huge difference right away.
After that, you also need to understand how the camera app actually works. You tap the screen to initiate the shooting sequence. I say initiate because the actual process is long. The screen will flash and your tablet will make a noise but that doesn’t mean the picture is taken. After the app actually does its business, the camera hardware will then come into play. The flash will turn on and the picture will take. Make sure you do not move the tablet after your screen flashes and the noise goes off. The picture will not take until after the camera flash goes off and the actual picture shows up and slides to the left on your screen.
Once you get that down, the pictures actually come out very nice. Still, the issue about a lack of auto-focus comes into play when some of your closer-up and low-light photos look a bit blurry. It isn’t enough blur to ruin a shot but purists and people who just look for the best quality picture will be bugged out by this. I have to say that for a tablet, the Smart PC’s rear shooter does some great work.
Face-facing Camera (2MP)
There shouldn’t much to expect from a front-facing camera, even for a device that came out near the tail end of 2012.
These are mainly used for video recording or streaming and you won’t find better performance with a built-in laptop or monitor camera, either. Use this for Skype or any other app/program that utilizes it and you’ll find comparable results.
The face-facer works and it works just as well as any other one out there. There isn’t much else to say until these mini lens get better in quality and technology.
The Smart PC comes with a Li-Ion battery rated at 4080mAh.
The tablet by default will turn off after a period of inactivity. Thankfully the restart process is insanely quick. However, this does really help prolong your battery’s lifetime. The Smart PC’s run time took me to well over 5 days of charge time with minimal usage and keeping the shut off timer on.
With more casual usage and the shut off timer still on, I was able to get about 2 and a half days of usage on it. When I used the Smart PC for a bunch of comic reading and watched one movie on Netflix while turning off the shut down timer I got just about a full day’s use. Hardcore usage with games, comics, Netflix, and web surfing clocked me out at just over 10 hours.
Over all, I was very happy with the battery life here. For a tablet with this huge of a screen and some good specs, I wasn’t expecting much but I got more than I was hoping for. This isn’t the biggest battery size or the best kind of battery but for what I do on this tablet, I can’t complain. I suspect that will be more or less the same experience most buyers will have with it.
As a branded product (AT&T/Samsung) you’ll get some bloatware and pre-installed apps on your Smart PC. Here is what was pre-installed on my review unit:
- AT&T AllAccess (actually helpful when it works)
- Jamie’s Recipes
- S Camera
- S Player
- Shark Dash (horrid app that won’t update correctly)
- Slacker Radio
- Plants vs. Zombies
- Samsung Desktop Apps
- Help Desk
- Support Center
- SW Update
- Touch Supporter
- Photo Editor
Don’t be deceived, either. The games you see on this list are mostly demos. However, you do get some good pre-installed stuff on here like Kindle, Slacker Radio, and even Jamie’s Recipes can be helpful to some people.
Also, Samsung’s S Camera and S Player aren’t bad apps. They do their jobs and are either just as good as Microsoft’s default apps or better.
As for the rest of the apps, you’ll get standard fare here. If you install a fresh Windows 8 on a computer or laptop you’ll get everything you see here minus the stuff I listed above. I’ll remind you here to uninstall the branded anti-virus, as well.
The operating system, as I said above, runs like a well oiled machine. Some legacy programs work very well while others, mostly dated ones like Diablo 2, have some slight issues. Once Windows RT/8 begins to become a norm around the dev circles, I’m sure a lot of the kinks we see with legacy programs on tablets like this will be worked out. I would so love to play some Diablo 2 on the road with my Microsoft Arc mouse.
Unfortunately, I am way overdue in writing this review. However, that also means I was able to use the Smart PC as my dedicated tablet for a prolonged period of time. A lot of times you don’t get a long time with review units like this and while it wasn’t meant to be like that with this, I am glad that I had time to become familiar with the Smart PC. It gave me the time to recognize the strengths of this device over, say, the Surface RT (which is the Windows tablet I actually own).
Needless to say, I have a lot of updating and charging to do for my Surface since it hasn’t been touched since receiving this review unit. I am actually glad that I went over my usage date for this device because I was able to be more thorough with this review. I can tell you, because of the time I had with the Smart PC, that I wouldn’t mind at all having this as my permanent tablet. Its performance, screen, and battery life are more than I expected. The connectivity options with HDMI, SDMicro, and AT&T are more than welcome. I was also happy with the rear camera and its high quality.
There’s a lot to like here with the Smart PC tablet from Samsung. You can find them are great prices without the keyboard dock and that makes it an amazing option instead of the Surface RT. While Microsoft’s product comes with a kickstand, Microsoft Office RT, zero bloatware, and a cheaper keyboard dock the Smart PC gains a much better camera, better battery life, better screen, access to full Windows 8, a less annoying charging port, and SIM card access for mobile data.
For $599 I find that to be a great deal.
I can’t recommend the Smart PC by Samsung enough if you’re willing to shell out the money for a Windows 8 tablet. It is greatly priced for a non-RT tablet with one hell of a screen and good feature set. This is an option I think you need to have in your bucket list if you’re shopping around. If not, you’re missing out on a great deal unless you’re gearing up for a Smart PC Pro, which all I can say is, good for you and I wish I was, too.