With Windows 8 due to be officially launched in October, Samsung has pulled back the curtain on their ATIV suite of devices based on Microsoft's OS, including two hybrid tablets, at the IFA trade show in Berlin. The Smart PC and Smart PC Pro hybrid tablet/laptops, the Tab tablet, and the S smartphone were all shown off, with the fifth, a Windows 8-flavored refresh of the Notebook Series 9, also getting some air time.
The name ATIV apparently was derived from a reversal of vita (life in Latin). Doing things backwards is not usually a good thing if you're a technology company, but this new series of devices certainly shows Samsung is trying to diversify and break new ground.
The most intriguing of these devices for many will no doubt be the hybrids. The Smart PCs are designed to tackle the issue of being productive on a tablet without a keyboard, while still maintaining the elegance and portability of the tablet form factor. With Microsoft so focused on making Windows 8 equally at home on a desktop or tablet, these devices will be Samsung’s opportunity to show us if that will actually work.
The devices both come with a magnetically attachable keyboard, so you can swap it in or out when needed. The devices also come with the new S Pen, for jobs that finger nor key can deal with adequately.
The main differences between the two flavors are in raw processing power —vanilla is driven by a low-power Atom processor, while the Pro sports an i5 CPU for that extra grunt.
They come with 2 or 4 GB of RAM respectively, which will prove more than adequate for everyday use, while the Pro sports a full 1080p display, compared to the regular unit’s more modest 1366x768 resolution. Both come equipped with Wi-Fi and 3G/4G transceivers.
Aside from the keyboard, perhaps the most intriguing addition is one that geeks have been clamoring for on tablets since day 1: USB ports. The Pro will sport USB 3.0 input, over and above the vanilla iteration’s 2.0 slots, with Samsung UK GM David Cusick saying the ports were there because “we think they’re important.” No doubt an ever-so-subtle dig at a certain well known hardware manufacturer.
Perhaps even more importantly, the USB ports will come on the keyboard-free ATIV Tab, a more direct, Windows 8-themed competitor to the iPad. Given the recent patent troubles, most notably with the Galaxy Tab, the arrival of the ATIV Tab is probably well timed for Samsung, at least from a business perspective.
The 10.1 inch, 570-g (20-oz) device eschews Intel’s x86 CPU architecture, instead running a 1.5-GHz dual-core ARM processor, running the RT version of Windows 8. This will likely mean battery life will be enhanced, though by how much is not yeat clear. No one has tested the device on that front yet, and Samsung ain’t talking.
The 1366x768 screen resolution (that’s 155 ppi) is the same as on the Smart PC, and isn’t a patch on the iPad’s retina display. For comparison, the smaller 7 inch Nexus 7 tablet from Asus has a 1200x800 (216 ppi) screen that looks very crisp without being amazingly sharp. The Tab’s display won’t be as defined as that.
It’s also worth noting that the device doesn’t have an inbuilt GPS, but then again, if you also have a smartphone, it's probably not going to be a problem.
Speaking of smartphones, the last of the four new devices unveiled at IFA was the ATIV S, that will run Windows Phone 8. The phone variant of the OS has a lot in common with the full scale OS, but isn’t the same thing.
Thankfully, it will play nice with other Windows based system, and perhaps more importantly for mobile workers, will also integrate with the MS Office suite. In terms of the hardware, its 4.8-inch Super AMOLED screen, dual-core Qualcomm CPU, 2,300-mAH battery, front and rear facing cameras and micro SD slot should stand it in good stead, particularly against Nokia’s own Windows 8 devices, expected to be announced next month.
Two hybrids, a tablet and a smartphone, plus a rejuvenated notebook—not a bad haul for a single manufacturer on a single OS. The question is, which one of these devices has piqued your interest most?
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