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Friday, 2 November 2012

Samsung ATIV S Review: Our Rating 9/10


Samsung ATIV S Review


Introduction:

Samsung ATIV S is quiet similar to Samsung's current Droid flagship, the undisputed champion Samsung galaxy SIII in terms of hardware specs, but with different operating system. So is Ativ S going to retain Samsung's top position in Windows OS market?? Find Out in this review..


Samsung's ATIV S is a strange kind of Windows Phone device. Not because it does anything wrong, but because it really stands out from the first batch of Windows Phone 8 devices. While Nokia and HTC are trying to come up with most lively and cheerful colors, Samsung has decided to go with the strict, business kind of look with the ATIV S, resembling some of the company's old Windows Mobile devices. But can “strict” and “business” go hand-in-hand with “Windows Phone 8” – a platform which Microsoft is desperately trying to market to consumers?

The ATIV S differs from the rest in the WP8 universe with one more thing – in a typical Samsung fashion, it offers a very large display, measuring 4.8 inches. Although there are other options with pretty sizable screens, none is really that big. But the typical Windows Phone customer may turn to be different from the Android one. The ATIV S is a WP8 smartphone that can tell us if Samsung will be able to repeat the tremendous success it has seen on the market for Android devices. Let us examine!

Design:

Omnia reborn? Well, yes and no. The ATIV S reminds us of a cross between an Omnia and a Galaxy S III. While the back side has that metallic and heavy look (it's still plastic), the front is a glossy greyish plastic that doesn't necessarily match the style of the back. Still, the combination isn't that bad, and the back is downright pretty.


The Samsung ATIV S is somewhat uncomfortable to hold and operate if you want to use just one hand for that - Samsung ATIV S Review
The Samsung ATIV S is somewhat uncomfortable to hold and operate if you want to use just one hand for that - Samsung ATIV S Review
The Samsung ATIV S is somewhat uncomfortable to hold and operate if you want to use just one hand for that - Samsung ATIV S Review
The Samsung ATIV S is somewhat uncomfortable to hold and operate if you want to use just one hand for that

Samsung ATIV S Review

You can compare the Samsung ATIV S with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

This is one big phone. It's as big as a Galaxy S III, even a tad higher, which makes it somewhat uncomfortable to hold and operate, especially if you want to use just one hand for that. The Home key below the screen is very well made, and the same can easily be said about the other physical keys on the device. The camera key is a bit more protruding that we'd like, though, and it's second step doesn't have that reassuring click feeling.

Samsung ATIV S Review
Home key - Samsung ATIV S Review
Samsung ATIV S Review
 
Home key
 
Of course, the handset comes with a standard microUSB port and a 3.5mm headset jack. The ATIV S uses the now-standard MicroSIM slot and also features a microSD card slot for easy storage expansion.

The sides of the Samsung ATIV S - Samsung ATIV S Review
The sides of the Samsung ATIV S - Samsung ATIV S Review
The sides of the Samsung ATIV S - Samsung ATIV S Review
The sides of the Samsung ATIV S - Samsung ATIV S Review
The sides of the Samsung ATIV S

All in all, the ATIV S has an interesting design with a hint of business style to it, which isn't something that we see too often nowadays.

Back - Samsung ATIV S Review
Rear camera - Samsung ATIV S Review
Loudspeaker - Samsung ATIV S Review
MicroSIM and microSD card slots - Samsung ATIV S Review
Back
Rear camera
Loudspeaker
MicroSIM and microSD card slots

Display:

As you can expect from a Samsung handset, there's a Super AMOLED display somewhere in the equation. The resolution is pretty high – 720 x 1280 pixels, which, when combined with the 4.8” size makes for a smooth 306 pixels per inch. The colors are a bit on the colder side, but just a bit. Due to the not so strong brightness levels, the screen of the ATIV S isn't very easy to see outdoors, but if you have it on maximum (or simply automatic), you shouldn't have that much of a problem to read a short message or a status update.

One of the positive sides of the AMOLED screen technology is that it has very good viewing angles, and the same is absolutely evident on the ATIV S. Basically, everything remains perfectly visible as you are widening the angle, though there's a noticeable color degradation.

Interface:

Not that much has changed with the UI of Windows Phone since version 7, no matter what some may try to convince you. If you've used a Windows Phone 7 handset, you'll feel right at home with Windows Phone 8. In fact, you may not notice that you're using a different device at first. Not that there's anything wrong with that – we really like this UI, because it's very different from anything else on the market, and it's also very good. Still, we think that Microsoft should think of some slight form of personalization for its hardware partners to use, because having exactly same UI across all WP devices is bound to become boring at some point. Plus, device manufacturers will surely like to have a more substantial way of differentiating their products.

At first, we thought that the metallic, down-to-business exterior of the ATIV S doesn't really fit the cheerful, multicolored nature of the Modern UI, but then we remembered that we can try to change the color theme and find something more appropriate. Thankfully, we found such a color combination, and just like that, there was peace between the look of the phone and the look of the UI. This comes to show that while there aren't any profound personalization options in Windows Phone 8 — at least not such that can be compared to those in Android — the platform still allows you to drastically alter its appearance in order to make it fit your exact color tastes.

As we said, we quite like Windows Phone 8's approach to UI and think that is holds great potential as a consumer platform. It's good-looking and fun to use, full of cute effects that make the whole experience especially lively. The Live Tiles are a great idea, which Microsoft has managed to implement almost flawlessly. Why almost? Well, why should the user need to repeatedly tap on a small Resize button each time when they want to change the size of a tile? Why not just let us hold the bottom right corner of the tile and resize it to the desired size with a single motion? But aside such small issues, the whole Windows Phone 8 concept seems to work really well.

Modern UI on the Samsung ATIV S - Samsung ATIV S Review
Modern UI on the Samsung ATIV S - Samsung ATIV S Review
Modern UI on the Samsung ATIV S - Samsung ATIV S Review
Multitasking - Modern UI on the Samsung ATIV S - Samsung ATIV S Review
   
Multitasking
Modern UI on the Samsung ATIV S
One particular thing that we don't like in Windows Phone 8 is how multitasking is implemented. If you've seen what multitasking looks on a Sense-powered HTC Android smartphone – it's pretty much the same here. You get a horizontally-scrolling list of your opened applications, in which you only see one app at a time. That's quite inconvenient, as you might guess.


Messaging:

At first we thought that the generous 4.8” screen will allows us to type very conveniently on the virtual QWERTY keyboard, but that wasn't exactly the case. While the portrait keyboard is quite good indeed, the landscape one's layout is somewhat weird. Strangely, they landscape QWERTY doesn't take advantage of the whole screen, but instead sits in the center, with some empty space to its left, and the context menu options to its right. Actually, we believe this is the reason why Microsoft wanted to keep it that way – since it couldn't remove the options which are present on the right hand side of the landscape QWERTY, they've decided to keep some free space to its left in order to have it centered on the screen. It's rather unfortunate, if you ask us, so we hope that Microsoft will find a solution in the future versions of the OS. Overall, this layout will take some getting used to, but after that initial period you should be able to type comfortably on the keyboard.

Virtual QWERTY keyboard - Samsung ATIV S Review
Virtual QWERTY keyboard - Samsung ATIV S Review
Virtual QWERTY keyboard


Processor and Memory:

Windows Phone is not really a dream come true for specs lovers, as Microsoft has strict requirements about the hardware that can be used. In the case of the ATIV S, that includes a Snapdragon S4 Plus chip with two Krait cores clocked at 1.5 GHz. The GPU in use is the Adreno 225. We would say that this configuration is quite potent, although we know that it's not anything unseen. But why should it be? After all, the ATIV S's performance is top-notch, as pretty much everything that we tried to do with the phone was executed in a buttery-smooth manner.

The ATIV S is equipped with a healthy 1 GB of RAM, and 16 GB of internal memory, which should be enough for most users out there. Still, if you crave more space, you can always have it thanks to the presence of a microSD card slot for high-capacity cards.


Internet:

The version of Internet Explorer 10 that Microsoft ships with Windows Phone 8 is a wonderful browser. It loads pages quickly and performs admirably, with no visible slowdowns or glitches. Users will surely get the same smooth experience that's present throughout the whole OS, but that's not all. In addition to pinch-zooming, double-tap-to-zoom has also been implemented spectacularly, allowing you to zoom in precisely on the object that you're targeting.

Of course, one thing that users will not be able to enjoy with any Windows Phone 8 device is Flash Player. In fact, Microsoft has never had an intention to bring Flash to Windows Phone, so if you had any secret hopes left, better put them to rest. However, you will get to enjoy a pretty cool implementation of tabs. We really liked it, at least. The Tabs window is actually hidden under the context options of IE, and so at first we thought that opening it will be a bit too slow to be convenient for regular use, but it turned out we were wrong. Getting to the tabs screen is both fast and fun.

Surfing the web with Internet Explorer 10 - Samsung ATIV S Review
Surfing the web with Internet Explorer 10 - Samsung ATIV S Review
Surfing the web with Internet Explorer 10 - Samsung ATIV S Review
Surfing the web with Internet Explorer 10 - Samsung ATIV S Review
Surfing the web with Internet Explorer 10

Finally, we'd like to mention another awesome feature, which makes the browser automatically increase the size of certain fonts on a web page. For example, this can make the text of an article bigger, allowing you to read it more easily and without much need of zooming. The iPhone's Safari browser has this feature, and Windows Phone has implemented it too, making the browsing experience on many pages even cooler. It doesn't always work completely the way it should, but in most cases it does it right.

The ATIV S features a very fast HSPA+ radio which allows it to achieve up to 42.2 Mbit/s down, but only 5.76 Mbit/s up (which isn't such a pain, in case you aren't uploading large files via cellular).

Camera:

The camera interface on the ATIV S is a pretty straightforward one. It offers a bunch of cool options like focus modes, anti-shake, white balance, ISO, contrast, effects and resolution. Working with this camera app and tinkering with its settings is a breeze.

The camera interface - Samsung ATIV S Review
The camera interface - Samsung ATIV S Review
The camera interface - Samsung ATIV S Review
The camera interface

The ATIV S comes with an 8 MP camera with an LED flash. Truth be told, the ATIV S didn't blow us away. Photos from the ATIV S come out with natural colors, but brightly-lit areas tend to be overexposed. We noticed that the pictures produced by the handset aren't particularly sharp. Such kind of softness means that there won't be much noise in the photo, but also that fine details may end up being a bit blurry. All in all, it will depend entirely on the user if they like the photos produced by the ATIV S or not. We can imagine that some will not like the soft looks of the images, while other will be perfectly fine with them.

The 1080p video recording, however, is quite detailed. The handset manages to pack quite a bit of imaging information with its video capturing, and we can say that it's definitely in the upper echelon in that respect. The video is mostly smooth at 29 fps, but there is some slight choppiness visible here or there.

Call quality:

Samsung ATIV S Review
Call quality on the Samsung ATIV S is a mixed bag. Incoming voice quality is so-so, with very good loudness and mediocre clarity. On the opposite end, things are a bit worse, as the mic of the ATIV S doesn't really do anything to improve the experience. Thankfully, there's a second mic for noise-cancellation which does a good job of eliminating the ambient sounds around you.


Battery:

The Samsung ATIV S is equipped with a 2300 mAh battery, but unfortunately, the manufacturer hasn't disclosed information about the stand-by and talk times that should be expected out of the phone. During our testing, we noticed that that phone wasn't so quick to drain the battery, in spite of the large screen (though we were using it at medium brightness). Our guess is that users will be able to get about two days out of the ATIV S, with moderate usage. As always, super-heavy users will have to charge the phone each day. Still, this is a pretty decent achievement for such a large-screened smartphone.


Conclusion:

There's a lot to love in the ATIV S. It's not the perfect smartphone, but it has a large and eye-catching Super AMOLED screen, as well as decent exterior and stable performance. It may not be particularly pretty, but it sure does stand out from the rest of the WP8 offerings.

Where it falls a bit short is the camera and call quality departments, but if this isn't such a big issue for you, we believe you won't regret investing in the ATIV S.

Overall, it's clear that there's still a lot of work to be done on Windows Phone 8, but the platform is beginning to assume a quite competitive stance. Using it is definitely a joy, and the ATIV S is only contributing to this compelling experience. It's a feature-packed smartphone for heavy users, which can easily go toe-to-toe with other top-shelf smartphones in almost all areas, except for the app catalog.

Pros

  • Very large screen
  • microSDXC card slot

Cons

  • A bit too big for some users
  • Camera and camcorder could be better

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