Samsung Ativ Tab £549.99

16th Jan 2013 | 18:18

Samsung Ativ Tab

Trying to make Windows RT into a top tablet platform.

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

Jessie J may not care about the money, money, money, but we do - and whenever we look at the Ativ Tab we have to admit that we care about the price tag. You're paying a premium but this isn't a premium product: it's lacking the X factor.

Like:

Great battery life; Loads of storage; Full featured office software; Good for media;

Dislike:

Clunky interface; Limited app selection; Expensive; Disappointing screen;

Introduction

Samsung has got on the Windows 8 boat earlier than many, releasing one of the first tablets to sport the new Windows RT operating system. Aside from being one of the first out the gate, the Samsung Ativ Tab looks to be a strong contender in its own right, with a slim build and solid specs.

Shorn of the keyboard of its Samsung Ativ Smart PC brethren, the Samsung Ativ Tab hasn't been released in a vacuum - the Microsoft Surface RT is already out in the wild. Microsoft's flagship iPad 4 rival is also cheaper than the stomach-turningly expensive Samsung Ativ Tab, which starts at £549.99/US$649.99 (around AU$836).

For that kind of money you'd expect a whole lot of tablet, and with a premium build quality, a thickness of just 8.9mm (0.35 inches) and coming in at a surprisingly light 570g (20.1oz) - compared to the 680.4g (24oz) Microsoft Surface - the Samsung Ativ Tab certainly makes a promising first impression.

The specs are fairly impressive too. Under that slender shell there's a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and either 32GB or 64GB of internal storage, with room for expansion via a microSD card.

The Samsung Ativ Tab's 10.1-inch 1366 x 768 display may only have a 155ppi, but in use it's not too bad - jaggies are noticeable but not distracting. It also pips the Microsoft Surface, which has the same resolution but a slightly bigger 10.6-inch screen, leading to a 148ppi.

Rounding out the package there's a 5 megapixel main camera capable of shooting 720p video, along with a 1.9 megapixel front-facing one.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

It's a decent list of specs, but it's still hard to get past that price tag, particularly for a tablet running a new and largely untested operating system.

Samsung has set its sights squarely on the top end of the market, but with competition from other Windows 8 tablets, the iPad 4, Google Nexus 10 and other Android tablets, it's going to take a lot to convince us that it's worth taking the plunge on a Samsung Ativ Tab.

Features

On paper the Samsung Ativ Tab sounds pretty decent, but certainly not like the god among tablets that the price tag might lead you to expect. Its dual-core processor is clocked at a respectable 1.5 GHz, but with many tablets - including close rivals such as the Microsoft Surface - now rocking quad-core processors, it doesn't seem that impressive.

On the flip side, each core in the Microsoft Surface is clocked at a slightly lower 1.3GHz, while on the Android front the Google Nexus 10 also only has a dual-core processor (albeit clocked at 1.7GHz). But both of these tablets cost less than the Samsung Ativ Tab.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

The Samsung Ativ Tab has 2GB of RAM to call upon, which is exactly what we'd expect from a top-end tablet right now, since it's become pretty standard. The 10.1-inch PLS TFT capacitive touchscreen has a Microsoft Surface-matching resolution of 1366 x 768, which for the size isn't terribly impressive, giving it just 155 pixels per inch.

In layman's terms this means it's not all that sharp. Pixels are often visible, giving things a slightly ugly jagged edge. It could be a whole lot worse, and you quickly get used to it, but we'd expect better from a premium tablet.

Viewing angles are reasonable, unsurprisingly the screen is at its best when viewed square on, but viewing it from a distance or other angles is still perfectly possible - the image is just slightly darker.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

There's a generous 32GB or 64GB of built-in storage, and in both cases that can be supplemented by microSD cards of up to 64GB, so storage is one thing that shouldn't be a problem here at all.

The Samsung Ativ Tab is Wi-Fi only, so it's not as useful as some tablets when out and about. But free Wi-Fi is available all over the place these days, so unless you're out in the sticks it's not such an issue.

Finally there's a 5 megapixel camera on the back capable of shooting 720p video at 30fps and a 1.9 megapixel snapper on the front. Neither is particularly impressive, but they should be more than adequate for a tablet, because, after all, who even uses a tablet to take photos?

Samsung Ativ Tab review

The main camera is also substantially better than the 1.2 megapixel offering on the Microsoft Surface.

All of that is kept going by an 8200 mAh battery, which on paper at any rate is a pretty decent size, though it's dwarfed by the iPad 4's 11,560 mAh battery.

Looks-wise it's not too shabby either, it's a tiny 8.9mm (0.35 inches) thick, and though the shell is plastic through and through, the rear is painted to look like brushed aluminium. It pulls it off, looking metallic and expensive. Unfortunately the illusion is shattered as soon as you touch the Samsung Ativ Tab, since it feels unmistakably like plastic in the hand. Still, it does at least feel like sturdy, expensive plastic.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

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Beyond the faux-metallic finish the back of the tablet is pretty plain. Samsung's logo is written in fairly small lettering across the middle, while at the top you'll find the main 5 megapixel camera and flash. The back is ever so slightly curved too, which makes it comfortable to hold.

The front is plainer still, with the 10.1-inch screen taking up most of the space, while around that there's a black border.

At the top you'll find the 1.9 megapixel front-facing camera, along with an indicator light, which turns on when the tablet is charging, and a light sensor to automatically dim the screen.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

Just below that there's another Samsung logo, while at the bottom there's a start button, which will turn the screen on or return you to the start menu if you're on any other screen.

To the left and right of the screen there is a pair of narrow speakers, running down the top half of the tablet.

The edges of the tablet share the brushed aluminium sheen of the back. On the top edge of the tablet you'll find a 3.5mm headphone port at the far left, a power button just to the right and a volume rocker to the right of that.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

It strikes us as a slightly unusual position for a volume rocker - we'd be more comfortable with it being on the left or right edge, but perhaps that's just from the familiarity of having it there on many other devices.

Near the centre of the top edge there's a pin prick-sized microphone, while to the right of that there's an HDMI port, a full-sized USB port (which supports USB 2.0) and a microSD card slot, all of which are hidden behind little fold-away covers when not in use, keeping the edge uncluttered and elegant.

On the bottom edge there's a keyboard dock port and a pair of keyboard dock pin connectors, the keyboard itself being an optional extra. You'll also find the DC jack down here.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

The left and right edges of the tablet are free of any buttons or ports, which make them comfortable to hold, though you need to make sure not to grip too high on the tablet or you'll obstruct the speakers.

Its light weight means the Samsung Ativ Tab is very comfortable to hold for long periods, without feeling off-puttingly light. The curved edges also aid in the comfort stakes, and there's enough grip to it that there's no fear of it slipping out of your hands.

Thanks to Expansys for sending us a Samsung Ativ Tab to review.

Interface and performance

The Samsung Ativ Tab runs Microsoft's brand new Windows RT operating system, and it's safe to say that it's rather different from any other tablet OS you'll have likely come across, though users of Windows (and especially Windows 8) will find it familiar.

When you turn the tablet on you'll first get a lock screen with the time, date, battery level and Wi-Fi signal in white writing, and a picture of your choice filling up the background.

Swipe that out of the way and you'll be taken to a list of user areas, laid out in the same sort of way that desktop PCs have been doing it for years. Each is password protected and has its own desktop, which is a great if obvious solution to the multiple-users problem that tablets face.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

It's good to see Microsoft bringing out a solution in the first version of its tablet OS, unlike Android, which is only now just starting to crack it, or Apple, which hasn't even tried.

There are also ease of access controls and a shutdown button in the corners of this screen. Having ease of access so front and centre rather than buried in a settings menu is great for people who actually need it. A narrator option gives voice explanations for anything you tap on, and there are magnifier, high contrast and more options.

Once you pick a user and enter their password, you're taken to the Start screen. This is the main screen of the tablet, and it takes its cues from Windows Phone 8.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

There are lots of different tiles representing apps, all of them very colourful, and many with live updates being pushed to them. For example, the email tile will scroll through a list of recent emails, and the People tile will show pictures of your friends and family, pulled from Facebook, Twitter, Outlook and LinkedIn.

Live tiles are a great idea, and it works just as well here as it does on Windows Phone 8. They're generally both more useful and more attractive than a static tile. You swipe to the right to scroll through them, but rather than being distinct screens, it's just one long display of tiles that you can stop on at any point.

Long-pressing an app enables you to drag it around, make the tile bigger or smaller, turn live updates on or off or remove it from the start screen.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

At the top-right of the Samsung Ativ Tab's start screen you'll see a name and picture for the user area you're in. Tapping on this enables you to change the picture, sign out, lock the user area or switch to a different user - very much like a PC.

Most other options are a little more hidden away. Swiping down from the top or up from the bottom will bring up an icon to view all of your apps and tools, laid out by category and in alphabetical order. Tapping on one will open it, while long-pressing will give you the option to add it to the start screen.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

Back on the start screen, if you swipe inwards from the left edge you'll see a display of any currently open apps and be able to switch between them with a tap. Though the easiest way to get back to the last thing you were using is simply to tap the physical 'Start' button at the bottom of the tablet.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

Pinching outwards on the start screen will make the whole display zoom out and give you an overview of every app that you've got on the start screen. Finally, swiping inwards from the right edge gives you the bulk of your options.

It brings up a box that tells you the time, date, battery level and Wi-Fi signal, but it also brings up a narrow bar across the right edge of the screen with a handful of icons.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

The top icon brings up a search screen, and enables you to search for apps, files, settings, emails, websites and more. It even brings up suggestions as you type, making for a pretty useful shortcut to anything you might be looking for.

Next up there's the Share button, which will give you the ability to share certain things via email. So for example if you tap on it while viewing a contact's details it will share those.

Then there's the Start button, which does exactly the same thing as the physical start button - namely it cycles between the start screen and the mostly recently used app. We don't really see the need for it when there's already a physical button on the tablet that does the same job, but it's not a problem.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

The Samsung Ativ Tab's Devices button is similar to the Share button, but enables you to send things to other devices.

Finally there's the Settings button. This initially brings up a fairly small list of options, enabling you to change the brightness, change the volume, set up a Wi-Fi network and a couple of other things. In other words, some of the most commonly used settings are found here, which makes sense, rather than burying them in sub-menus.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

To find many of the other settings options you simply tap 'Change PC Settings' at the bottom of the screen. This brings up a more comprehensive set of options, split into categories such as privacy, users, personalise, and so on.

It's a fairly standard selection of settings on the whole, though there are a few nice options, such as the ability to customise which apps can show notifications on the lock screen.

But, seemingly just to make things confusing, there are some settings that you can't change even from here - instead you have to go to the desktop.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

Along with the start screen, the desktop is the other screen you'll probably spend a lot of time on. You can access it from an icon on the start screen, and by and large it is a standard Windows desktop, complete with a taskbar, Windows Explorer, a recycle bin and all sorts of tiny icons and lists that aren't particularly touchscreen-friendly.

Certain apps, such as Microsoft Office, run from the desktop for no apparent reason, but for the most part it's basically just a fairly comprehensive file manager and settings screen. Windows Explorer enables you to dig around in the depths of your tablet, moving, opening and copying files.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

You can also plug a USB stick in and open, move or copy things from that, plus there's the more in-depth options you expect from Windows, such as the ability to defragment a drive and even edit the registry.

So it's quite versatile in that sense, though again it hasn't really been designed with touchscreens in mind. It's basically just Windows, complete with its endless lists, options and sub-menus, and of course pop-up confirmation boxes any time you try to do anything.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

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You can also access the Samsung Ativ Tab's control panel from the desktop, and if there's a setting that you couldn't work out how to change, chances are it's done in here.

An example we stumbled across in testing the tablet was changing the delay before the screen dimmed or timed out. It's buried in the control panel - a settings screen that new users may not even realise exists, since it's not the most prominent one. And when we say buried, we really mean buried. Even once in the control panel we had to delve through four sub-menus before we got to the options we wanted.

It's undoubtedly a powerful tool, with more options than most tablet settings screens, but it's also a pain to navigate, and the whole thing is extra confusing because the settings are split between two different menus.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

In its defence, certain control panel menus can be pinned to the start screen for easier access, and most potentially harmful actions require an administrator's password to carry out, so some thought has certainly gone into it, but it still feels unnecessarily convoluted and confusing.

At least when sticking to the start screen things work well, scrolling across it is fast and smooth and it's easy to use. It's also a very slick multitasker, keeping numerous apps open at once with no slowdown and making it very easy to switch between them.

At times like this it feels like a truly premium tablet, easily keeping pace with the competition not just from other Windows tablets but even with the likes of the iPad 4.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

The keyboard is pretty good. It's accurate and responsive, will auto-correct words and even a couple of different layout options. Specifically these are a standard QWERTY layout, a layout that shrinks the keys down and puts them closer to either edge, making it quicker to type on when in landscape, and even an option to use your finger or a stylus to write words.

This latter option worked surprisingly well even with our terrible handwriting. There's no haptic feedback, but you do at least get a popping sound whenever you tap a key.

The slide-out menus for settings, multitasking and the like are also accessible from any screen, making it easy to access things without having a cluttered UI, while different context-sensitive options will also appear on the menus.

So for example if you're reading an email then sliding up from the bottom edge will bring up options to mark it as read, move it, or pin it to the start screen. It's very well thought out and makes the clunkiness of the desktop all the more jarring.

The Samsung Ativ Tab's PC architecture rears its ugly head again when it comes to powering it on and off, since it will regularly decide to download or install updates with no warning. Having to wait five minutes for it to finish doing something when you just wanted to quickly switch it on to check your email is no fun.

At least when it's not installing updates the start up time is reasonably fast.

All in all it's an interface of two halves - one half is intuitive, slick and attractive, the other is ugly, clunky and poorly laid out, but with a wealth of options and depth once you get to grips with it.

Inevitably you have to use both, which makes for a jarring experience and for an operating system not really suited to the less technically inclined. But for those who want versatility - and can live with the fact that they're basically using a clunky, cut down version of Windows - there's a lot to like here.

Browser

As with so many things on the Samsung Ativ Tab, the browser is one of two halves. It's Internet Explorer, which is no surprise, since the tablet is running Windows RT, but depending on whether you launch it from the start screen or the desktop, it's two different versions of Internet Explorer.

The start screen version is a slick but limited mobile-friendly browser. Web pages take up the whole screen, while text reflow ensures they're resized to fit the dimensions of the tablet.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

Scrolling around them is fast and smooth, you can zoom in with a pinch or a double-tap and it all just works. The resolution means that text isn't as crisp as it might be, and desktop pages can take a good 10-15 seconds to load, but on the whole it makes for a fairly pleasant browsing experience.

Unfortunately, from this version of Internet Explorer you don't get many bells and whistles. Sliding your finger down from the top or up from the bottom will bring up a bar at the top with pictures of any open tabs, enabling you to switch between them or close them with a tap, while to the right of them there's a plus button for opening new tabs.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

You'll also see a black strip at the bottom of the screen that houses the address bar (which doubles as Bing search). Next to that you'll find options to refresh the page, pin it to the start bar, find things on the page, get an app for the site (where available) or view the page on your desktop.

That's all just fine; it's an intuitive layout that gives you quick access to your bookmarks and certain common actions without clogging up the screen.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

But to change any actual settings you have to go to the desktop site, which as with the desktop in general is both clunkier and more powerful than the start menu version. From there you'll find that the browser looks a little different.

The address bar and any open tabs are permanently displayed at the top of the screen, and you also don't have to view sites in full screen - instead you can window or minimise them, much like on a PC.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

At the top-right of the Samsung Ativ Tab's browser there is a star icon to view your favourites or add the current page to them, as well as showing you your history.

To the right of that there's an icon that enables you to save or print pages or go to the main internet settings screen. The settings screen is as comprehensive as it is on a PC, with everything from security settings, to fonts, privacy and connections.

It's great having this much power and control on a tablet, but it's a shame that a more stripped down version of the menu couldn't be made for the start menu version of Internet Explorer. Or better yet, that the desktop couldn't have been redesigned to be more touch-friendly. Right now all the options and buttons are tiny, making it easy to hit the wrong one.

In what's becoming something of a rarity on mobile devices, there's even Flash support - though only for certain sites white-listed by Microsoft.

Internet Explorer on the Samsung Ativ Tab is a powerful browser when you're in desktop mode and a slick, if limited, one when you're not. For the time being it's also more or less your only browser option on the tablet, since the store doesn't have any other major browsers available for download.

It's a little bit slower than we'd like over Wi-Fi, and Wi-Fi is all you get, since there's no 3G option. But once the pages load and you get to grips with it, it's definitely one of the most comprehensive tablet browsers we've seen.

Movies, music and books

We'd wager that media is an important aspect of the tablet experience for almost all users, so this is a key area. Thankfully the Samsung Ativ Tab does a reasonable job of this - and it's largely got Windows RT to thank.

At first glance it looks like it might be a bit of a letdown for media - the screen isn't great and there aren't many bundled media apps, but what's there isn't bad at all.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

The music app enables you to sort your collection into various categories such as by artist or album. You can also create playlists, shuffle and repeat tracks and view a visualiser while the music is playing. There's also a Smart DJ, which will find music similar to an artist of your choice and create a playlist of it.

You can also buy music or take out a streaming subscription to Xbox music and use that directly from the player. On top of that, the speakers are quite loud. All it's really lacking is lock screen/home screen controls and the ability to tweak equaliser settings.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

Fortunately if it is missing any features that you particularly want - or stubbornly refusing to play your favourite song - there are other players available to download from the store that may do the job.

Next up there's the Samsung Ativ Tab's Video app, which is laid out similarly, though is rather more limited.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

At one side you have a library of any videos stored on the device, which you can tap on to play. The rest of the app is taken up by the video store, enabling you to buy and rent films and TV shows.

Unfortunately neither the prices nor the selection are particularly great. Thankfully you can download Netflix, 4od and others to bulk out the video capabilities.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

On the books front there's not much included out of the box, just a very basic Reader app that enables you to view PDF and XPS files. But there are apps available to download for popular e-readers such as Kindle and Kobo, so you won't be left high and dry.

So far so good, but where the Samsung Ativ Tab really comes into its own is with the amount of storage and the ease of importing media.

Out of the box you get either 32GB or 64GB of storage, which is more than many tablets. On top of that it can be bulked up with a microSD card of up to 64GB.

Better yet, thanks to the full-sized USB port you can easily plug a USB flash drive in to get access to even more files that way. Once plugged in, you can either access the files straight from the stick or move them across to the tablet. This ease and versatility really gives it the potential to be a media powerhouse.

Couple that with a subscription to Netflix and Xbox music and you've got your streaming options covered too. Even better, thanks to its HDMI port you can hook it up to a TV or monitor and view things on a big screen.

A few things are holding the Samsung Ativ Tab back from total media supremacy, though. The screen is a bit low resolution, Microsoft's video store is slightly lacking and the selection of downloadable media apps and players is currently a bit small, so these are all factors worth bearing in mind.

To solve the latter two you'd have to move away from Windows RT and look at an iPad or Android tablet instead. But for storage space and versatility, it's still a force to be reckoned with.

Apps and games

The Samsung Ativ Tab comes with a fairly standard selection of apps for a Windows RT tablet.

Other than the media apps we covered on the previous page, the bulk of it is made up by the likes of a calendar, a maps app - which could be described as functional but not particularly feature rich or attractive - and Bing Finance - which is home to various finance updates and related news stories.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

There's also a sports app that's similar to the finance one, just displaying sports results and news stories pulled from Bing. Plus there's a travel app that enables you to search for flights, locations and hotels, and a weather app with detailed forecasts.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

Of course there's also an email app, which seemed to have some trouble syncing with our email for some reason, but once it did it worked well, fitting emails to the screen and making it very easy to flip between them, read them and respond.

More interestingly, the Samsung Ativ Tab comes with not just SkyDrive but also Box (another cloud storage site), making it easy to upload and download to or from either of them.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

The best inclusion, though, is undoubtedly Microsoft Office, since this is something that neither Apple nor Android can claim to have, and it's an impressively full-featured version of it for a tablet.

You get Word, PowerPoint, Excel and One Note, and they have pretty much all the features you'd hope for. Word, for example, has dozens of fonts to choose from. You can also add headers and footers, change the margins and a whole lot more - just like on the desktop version.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

While it's unlikely many people will do much serious work on a tablet, it's still nice to have in a pinch. And of course you can always buy a physical keyboard add-on, and at that point it really starts to become useful to business users, though at that point you also have to wonder if you wouldn't just be better off with a laptop.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

Beyond the built-in apps you also have access to the Store, which is home to many more.

Compared to Android or iOS it's actually a very limited selection, but it's easy to navigate and there are at least a handful of apps to fill most needs. Somewhat surprisingly, Skype isn't included out of the box, but it can be downloaded from the Store.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

On the games front you don't get any included with the Samsung Ativ Tab, and as with apps the selection from the store is rather smaller than the two biggest tablet operating systems.

That said, thanks to Xbox support there are some pretty great games that you can't get on any other tablet, such as Hydro Thunder Hurricane and ilomilo plus. Gaming performance is generally smooth - in our limited time with the tablet we had only a couple of minor performance hiccups.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

Xbox integration also means that if you have an Xbox 360 you can view your friends list, read messages and check recent activity from the tablet.

Ultimately it's not as good for games as an iPad 4 - not even close - but it's not terrible, and if you've got an Xbox you might find the integration appealing.

Camera and video

Camera

The Samsung Ativ Tab comes with a 5 megapixel main camera and a 1.9 megapixel front-facing one. Both of those specs are pretty standard in tablet land, where cameras tend to be something of an afterthought, though notably it's a lot better than the pair of 1.2 megapixel snappers offered by its biggest rival - the Microsoft Surface.

A camera is a questionable proposition for a tablet at the best of times, but the one on the Samsung Ativ Tab doesn't do much to convince us of its value. With 5 megapixels to play with and an autofocus, pictures come out in reasonable quality.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

There's also a handful of settings to tweak, such as exposure value, white balance, whether flash is on or off and switching between normal and macro focus. Oddly, none of these options were initially available. Instead you first have to open a separate Camera Extra Settings app, which appears to upgrade the main camera app and add the extra options in.

The pictures it takes are OK, and with this handful of settings it'll get the job done if it's your only option, but we can't see anyone using this as their camera of choice.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

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Samsung Ativ Tab review

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Samsung Ativ Tab review

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Samsung Ativ Tab review

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Samsung Ativ Tab review

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Video

Video capture on the Samsung Ativ Tab is just as limited as taking stills photos. Videos are captured in HD 720p resolution, not Full HD.

There's the same small selection of visual options, such as white balance and exposure, and the quality of the videos it produces is simply OK.

Battery life

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The Samsung Ativ Tab comes with an 8200mAh battery, which on paper is a reasonable size - coming in at just below the 9000mAh Google Nexus 10 and a fair bit higher than the 6000mAh Sony Xperia Tablet S, but well below the 11,560mAh iPad 4.

In actual performance terms we were very impressed with it. After around nine hours of fairly heavy mixed usage - doing everything from playing games, to watching videos, web browsing and listening to music - the battery was still at 35%, and that was with the screen at full brightness much of the time.

In our standard test - setting emails and social networks to send push notifications, turning on Wi-Fi, putting the screen to full brightness and then running a 90 minute video from a fully charged battery, the Samsung Ativ Tab still had an impressive 88% battery left at the end.

Samsung Ativ Tab review

There are a few battery saving options available, such as changing the screen brightness (or setting it to auto) and changing the amount of time before the screen dims or turns off, but in general you probably won't even need them.

Samsung's Ativ Tab definitely has one of the more impressive battery lives we've seen on a tablet, and it should be more than enough for most users.

If this and the similarly impressive performance of the Microsoft Surface are anything to go by then Windows RT could be the platform of choice for anyone who values a long battery life.

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Verdict

The Samsung Ativ Tab is undeniably a high-end tablet, and not just because of the price tag. With solid specs and a sleek, lightweight build, it ticks a lot of boxes before you even start using it.

The large amount of internal storage, complete with a microSD card slot, is also a huge boon, since so many tablets risk being crippled out of the gate by lack of storage. Add to that the powerful and versatile Windows RT operating system and the Samsung Ativ Tab really has a lot going for it.

On the other hand, the screen is a little lower resolution than we'd like, and that £549.99/US$649.99 (around AU$836) price tag is more than a little steep, making even the £399/US$499/AU$559 Microsoft Surface look cheap in comparison.

We liked

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The Samsung Ativ Tab has superb battery life - even with heavy use it will just keep on going for hour after hour. This should be essential for a portable device, but so many tablets fail to pull it off. The large amount of storage space is very useful too, while being able to easily get content on and off the tablet with a USB stick is convenient, negating the need to ever plug it in to a PC.

That all makes it great for media too, since you can load it up with movies and songs and rarely need to worry about running out of storage - or running out of battery while watching/listening to them.

The build quality is solid and the comprehensive MS Office suite could be useful for business users. We'd still always plump for a laptop for any serious work, but the Samsung Ativ Tab is better for working on than many other tablets.

We disliked

The price is the biggest problem, at £549.99/US$649.99 (around AU$836) for the smaller 32GB model, it's £70/US$50 more expensive than even a 32GB iPad 4 and £150/US$150 more expensive than a Microsoft Surface.

There are other issues too - Windows RT is a powerful, versatile operating system by tablet standards, but it's also clunky, awkwardly laid out and not always as touch-friendly as you'd expect.

On top of that, the app selection is positively dwarfed by iOS and Android, which is a significant problem, since apps are an important part of any tablet eco system.

The screen is mediocre, with pixels often being visible on both text and images. You get used to it, but it makes it nowhere near as nice to use as it could be - particularly when web browsing or watching something.

Final verdict

Buying Guide
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Best cheap tablets

Honestly, we're really struggling to get past the price tag. With both its nearest competitor (the Microsoft Surface) and pretty much everything in the Apple and Android camps coming in at less money, we'd expect something really special from the Samsung Ativ Tab.

Sadly we just didn't get it. The Samsung Ativ Tab is a solid, even premium device, with generally good specs, a good build quality and a great battery life, but then so is the Microsoft Surface, and that runs the same operating system and is a whole lot cheaper.

Unless you really can't live without a semi-decent camera on your tablet, it's impossible for us to recommend this over the Surface. Equally, if you're not sold on Windows RT then both the iPad 4 and premium Android tablets such as the Google Nexus 10 are cheaper but arguably better alternatives.

There's not a whole lot wrong with the Samsung Ativ Tab, and in fact it does quite a few things right, but not really enough to justify the price. Right now there aren't many Windows RT tablets to choose from, but that's sure to change.

So if you're set on Windows RT then we'd recommend getting the Microsoft Surface, or waiting to see what else is around the corner, and you never know, this might get a price cut in the mean time.

Thanks to Expansys for sending us a Samsung Ativ Tab to review.

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