Samsung Ativ S Review

box 2 device opening

By the sheer number of handsets sold Samsung are the world leader in mobile devices.  The Galaxy range of devices have become a massive hit and from the excellent Note II to the Galaxy SIII, their range of Android devices have taken the world by storm.

It comes as no surprise then that Samsung should launch a device for the fledgling Windows Phone 8.  Announced with a fanfare back in August 2012, delayed and then eventually released late in December, and thanks to Clove.co.uk, I finally have my hands on one in order to bring you a full review.

In my initial impressions I said that the Ativ S appears to have the wow factor.  After a week or so with it, is this still the case?  Read on to find out more.

Hardware

As ever, we’ll start with the device specifications.

  • 4.8″ 1280×720 Super AMOLED screen
  • Corning Gorrilla Glass 2
  • 137.2 x 70.5 x 8.7mm
  • Weight 135g
  • 16gb onboard storage
  • MicroSD card Slot
  • 3.5mm Jack
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8MP Rear camera with LED flash
  • 1.9MP front facing camera
  • Chipset – Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon
  • Dual-core Krait 1.5 GHz CPU
  • Adreno 225 GPU
  • Wi-Fi
  • GPS
  • Bluetooth
  • 2300mAh battery
  • Windows Phone 8

As I said in my initial impressions, the Samsung Ativ S is a beautifully designed piece of hardware.  Whilst it is not unlike the Galaxy SIII in looks, it also appears to have just a little more “class.” It is the biggest of the current crop of Windows phone devices and the 4.8” Super AMOLED screen is bright and vivid, colours are reproduced faithfully with excellent viewing angles.  The trailer for The Dark Knight Rises is a favourite test video and as you can see from the screenshot below the picture quality is superb.

FilmSS

Above the screen is the Samsung Logo, the speaker, sensors and the front facing camera.  Below the screen are the backlit back and search buttons as well as the Windows button, as with all Windows handsets, the search button opens up a Bing search whilst the back button takes you back to the last screen that you were on.  The top of the device houses the 3.5mm headphone jack and another microphone whilst the bottom holds yet another microphone and the micro usb charging port.  The right has the power button and the dedicated camera button and the left has the volume controls.  The button placement is standard fare and the only concern that I personally have is the location of the headphone socket.  In my opinion it should always be on the bottom of the device but this is purely personal preference.

devicepower logo camera 2 Volume speaker grille rear camera Headphone Jack camera button back search and windows

The back of the Ativ S has the Samsung Logo, the Windows Phone Logo, a speaker grille, the LED flash and of course the main camera.  Made very much to look like brushed aluminium, the rear of the device tops of what is a very very nice look indeed.

Size and weight wise, the device is very much on a par with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Galaxy SIII, it feels light in the hand but nicely balanced and one handed use is fine for all but those with the smallest hands.

The fact that there is a memory card slot is a real bonus, slip in a 64GB microSD card and you have a fully functioning multimedia device with oodles and oodles of storage.

Overall, the Ativ S has a great look and feel, my only real concern is how fragile the plastic battery cover may be over a period of time but provided it is not removed too often this should not develop into an issue.

Software

The Samsung Ativ S runs on Windows Phone 8.  Much has been said and written about the operating system and I’m not going to review it here.  Suffice to say that the handset runs smoothly and quickly with no discernible lag or slowdowns.

Included with the standard Windows Phone 8 installation are several native Samsung Apps.  ChatON, Family Story, Mini Diary, Music Hub and Now.  The pick of these for me is Now, this gives a summary of the weather, news, stocks and shares of your choice, currency exchange rates and top tweets.  This information can also be displayed on a live tile on the main home screen.

Live tiles

The apps situation has been made much of and whilst some of the offerings are not as good or prevalent as their iOS or Android counterparts, all of the main apps are available and work just as well.  Twitter may well be one exception, Rowi is the best that I can find but even this is not the greatest.

Apps 2 Apps 3 Apps

The one area that Windows Phone excels is within the combined people hub.  The ability to see some ones latest Twitter and Facebook update on their own contact screen is well thought out and presented.

The search for a decent maps app looks like it is at an end with the recent release of Nokia Drive beta and it is safe to say that the more that I use Windows Phone the more pleasant an experience it becomes.

Camera

The  Ativ S comes equipped with the same 8mp camera currently found on the Galaxy SIII.  Shots are clear and well focussed, response time is good and whilst there are not a great deal of bundled options the images produced are well beyond the acceptable.

WP_20130126_003 WP_20130126_007 WP_20130126_017

Low light performance will never beat the Lumia 920 (but what current handset could?) however pictures in normal to dim lighting conditions are good and the shutter response time is good.  Press the dedicated camera button and within a couple of seconds you are able to capture an image.

The inbuilt settings give you the option of changing the ISO, activating the Anti-Shake feature, adjusting the white balance or  adding a filter (negative, sepia, mono, washed, vintage warm, vintage cold, solarise or posterize).

WP_20130125_001 WP_20130126_022 WP_20130126_026

Conclusion

The Samsung Ativ S is a highly capable handset.  Windows Phone 8 is growing in stature and the whilst far from complete or even competing with iOS or Android, the range of apps is growing daily.  There are still some improvements needed but for day to day use there really is no problem.

From a design standpoint, in my opinion the Ativ S is the best of the Windows Phone handsets yet released.  Some like the pretty colours that the Lumia’s and the HTC’s are graced with but personally they are not my cup of tea.  The more subtle refined look of the Ativ S makes it far more suitable to a business environment and is far more “professional.”

Having been in the fortunate position where I have been able to use Windows Phone 8 handsets from Nokia, HTC and now Samsung I can safely say that the Ativ S is the one that I would choose above all others.  The sleekness of its design coupled with its smoothness in handling the OS and apps that are thrown at it makes it a pleasure to use and hard to put down, if you are in the market for a Windows Phone handset then the Ativ S is the one to pick.

The Samsung Ativ S is available from Clove.co.uk and is currently priced at £442.80

 

  • Dmitry

    Hi Simon, thank you for your review. I’ve bought this phone last week in US (the 899 model with LTE support for T-Mobile frequencies) and it’s just an incredible device! Have been eyeing both Nokia 920 and HTX 8x, but Samsung Ativ S beats them both in features/formfactor plus storage/battery expandability — so I totally agree with your assessment: this is the best Windows 8 phone currently available.