Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 8
Editor rating : 7.5
Hybrid laptops seems to be the mantra for all laptop manufacturers these days. It’s inevitable to not come out with one to counter competition. That’s the reason why we’re now witnessing a sudden flow of these convertible devices. Samsung’s offering in this segment is the ATIV series, which currently comprises two models for the Indian market—ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T and Smart PC 500T1C. We got our hands on the former, which competes with premium offerings by other brands such as the Sony Vaio Duo 11 and Dell XPS 12. Let’s find out how much punch it packs.
Thanks to the detachable design, you don't need to tote around extra bulk
Design and features
Samsung has gone in with a detachable design for both the models in the ATIV series, just like the HP Envy X2. But there’s a difference; the keyboard dock that the ATIV bundles – a physical keyboard and a touchpad, plus you get two USB ports (one on each side). On the other hand, the dock of the Envy X2 is more utilitarian with HDMI output, card reader and a battery back that adds a couple of hours of battery life. That said, the detachable design makes the Samsung ATIV Smart PC primarily a tablet with an option to transform it into a laptop should the need arise—you want to use the tablet in “laptop mode” when you’re at your desk or if you need physical input devices to work efficiently. The Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro weighs 888 grams and the dock adds around 700 grams, which makes for a combined weight of 1.6 Kg—a tad heavy for an Ultrabook. Majority of the dock’s weight comes from the metal housing at the rear that supports the tablet. Samsung had no choice, as a plastic housing wouldn’t be sturdy enough to bear the weight and keep the screen steady.
A tablet that can transform into a laptop
The Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro uses the Ultrabook platform, similar to Dell XPS 12 and Sony Vaio Duo 11. In fact, it’s spec’ed very close to both. The core comprises a 1.7GHz Core i5-3317U processor, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD. The most striking feature is the crisp 11.6-inch full HD display—thankfully, Samsung didn’t compromise by using a conventional 1366 x 768 pixel panel. As for connectivity, you have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Most of the buttons and ports are placed on the top side. The top panel of the laptop houses a headphone/mic combo jack, power button, screen orientation button and a USB 3.0 port covered by a plastic flap. Further, towards the right lies a microSD card slot. The left side has a micro HDMI port and volume rocker. All this is tightly packed in a slim 11.89 mm thick shell.
Headphone/mic combo jack, USB 3.0 port and screen rotation lock button
The digitiser is a bonus feature and you get a pen (called S Pen) that resides in the housing on the back. The bundled apps include apps is S Note with which you can draw or take notes using the S Pen. In addition to this, the S Pen comes in handy for editing photos and selecting text/objects. Samsung has bundled five additional tips and a tool to extract the tip.
The S Pen and its housing on the rear
The biggest weakness of the Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro is the average build quality. The shell is made of plastic and the rear has a brushed metal-like finish. The device looks good, but it feels plasticky—it doesn’t have the feel of a premium product. The build of the keyboard dock is even worse. Except for the metal housing that holds the tablet firmly in place, the rest is made of plastic. Although the housing feels solid, its hinge didn’t feel strong enough to bear the weight of the tablet. The tablet tends to wobble when using the touchscreen and you have to be careful when you’re folding it down on the dock. After bringing the tablet half way down, it tends to drop automatically with slight force due to the bulk.
We found something strange while using the review unit that was sent to us by Samsung. When using the tablet while it was docked to the keyboard, we could repeatedly hear notification sound of a USB device being unplugged and plugged. We found that it was because of a loose connection between the dock and the tablet. And this was despite the connector of the dock locking tightly, making a “click” sound. We tried reinserting several times and even cleaning the contact points, but the problem persisted. It was disappointing to face such a serious issue related to build quality, and that too with a premium product.
The keyboard is island-style with good amount of spacing between the keys, which is the only good thing. The keys don’t travel much, and the tactile feel is just about average; very similar to what you find in some entry-level notebooks. We found the placement of the touchpad a bit odd. It’s placed at the centre of the width and not centred to the home row (the second row of alphabet keys) or the space bar. So, if you use the touchpad with your thumb while your fingers are positioned on the home row, you reach the top corner of the touchpad. This isn’t the case with most laptops that have the touchpad aligned with the spacebar, wherein the thumb reaches the centre of the touchpad.
Well-spaced keys and a moderately large touchpad
We also found the placement of the USB port on top of the tablet very odd—imagine a USB flash drive or a USB cable sticking out from the top. It would have been better had Samsung placed the port on the side instead.
The performance of the Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro was close to that of the more-expensive hybrids with a similar configuration. It couldn’t log similar scores probably because of the slower read and write speeds of the 128GB SSD. If you compare the scores of the real world tests, you’ll find the ATIV Smart PC Pro at par with the others. The sequential read and write speeds of 439MB/s and 247MB/s are commendable but slightly slower than competition. The same goes for 4117 and 10017 points in PCMark 7 and 3DMark Vantage respectively. With a powerful configuration, you can rest assured that tasks such as full HD video playback, video transcoding and basic everyday applications will run butter smooth. The full HD display is a visual treat. The colours are vibrant and the viewing angle is very good. The only qualm we faced was the back of the tablet getting hot after prolonged used due to heat build-up. There are vents on the top that give way to the hot air spewed by the CPU cooler, but the tablet still heats up due to very little space inside the chassis for heat dissipation and air circulation.
Comparison of scores
The battery life is one area where the ATIV Smart PC Pro takes the lead. A full charge lasted for 2.5 hours with Battery Eater Pro running in Classic mode and Wi-Fi disabled. An average laptop doesn't survive for more than 1.5 hours in this test.
Verdict and price in India
At an MRP of Rs 75,490, the Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro is cheaper than Dell XPS 12 and Sony Vaio Duo 11 by more than Rs 10,000. Being better value for money is arguable because of the average build quality and ergonomics, but you get almost the same configuration for much less. Despite that, it’s still very expensive. The price would have been justified if it was priced only a few thousand rupees higher than an Ultrabook for the detachable design, SSD and full HD display. You can buy an Ultrabook with a similar configuration for around Rs 55,000. So, a price tag of around Rs 60,000 would have been sweet. But even then, just an iPad would be more practical if you don’t need the Windows OS. And if you do, a basic ultra-portable laptop should suffice. The combined price of an iPad and a laptop would be less than the price of this fancy machine.
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