There are countless trends competing for attention in the gaming notebook and laptop space but not all of them are either useful or benefit the core gaming experience.
Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro 700T (XE700T1C-A02AU)
Samsung's Core i5-based Windows tablet performs well and is enjoyable to use
- Full HD screen
- Good performance
- Wacom digitiser pen
- Reflections can be a problem
- Need an adapter to make use of the Micro HDMI port
- Ambient light sensor a little erratic
Samsung's 11.6in Ativ PC Pro 700T tablet is a good one to choose if you want to run Windows 8. It has a Full HD screen and a Core i5 CPU and it performs a lot like a mid-range Ultrabook. Its keyboard dock allows it to be used for long typing sessions and its 'S Pen' allows it to be used for handwriting recognition and drawing. Well worth considering.
Price$ 1,399.00 (AUD)
Samsung's Ativ Smart PC Pro 700T (XE700T1C-A02AU) is a Windows 8-based tablet that ships with a keyboard dock. It can be used either as a stand-alone tablet, or as a notebook if you need to do lots of typing. It's a relatively fast unit, well-built and with a reasonable assortment of features that make it quite a useful little computer for productivity tasks as well as media consumption.
At 11.6 inches, the screen on the Ativ Smart PC Pro provides a good compromise between mobility and a usable size for productivity; it also includes a Full HD resolution so that text and images look sharp, and so that you can have plenty of real estate to manoeuvre windows and manage files. It's a 10-point capacitive touchscreen that sits behind Gorilla Glass. Reflections can be a slight problem in a brightly-lit environment, but we didn't find it too bad while testing in an office environment. Fingerprints were very visible though, especially when using the Ativ as a laptop, so the screen will require plenty of regular cleaning — a micro fibre cloth is supplied for this reason. As for its viewing angles, they are wide and allow you to view content clearly whether holding it in landscape or portrait orientation. Samsung claims it uses PLS technology (plane-to-line switching) to achieve these wide angles.
Because the screen has a Full HD resolution in a relatively small size, it can sometimes be hard to tap on small targets with your finger. Things like Web links, the buttons for opening new tabs in Web browsers, and close window or minimise buttons can require a few attempts before they are successfully hit. In a worst-case scenario, you could end up accidentally hitting an unintended target — as we did a few times. However, Samsung supplies a Wacom digitiser pen (what it calls the S-Pen), which can be used for navigating the high resolution screen if you do have problems with your finger, in addition to using it for handwriting recognition and drawing.
Apart from the small resolution not being ideal for thick fingers, we found the touch response of the screen overall to be excellent. It was enjoyable to scroll documents and traverse the Start screen, the Windows 8 swipe-in gestures worked perfectly, and it was quite enjoyable to use the stylus for handwriting recognition and drawing. Using the stylus, there was barely any delay between brush strokes and their appearance on the screen when we used Fresh Paint, and the handwriting recognition was swift and accurate when we switched from keyboard input to handwriting input. The stylus fits into the side of the right side of the screen and is barely noticeable unless you're looking for it.
We found the Ativ Smart PC Pro to be a comfortable tablet to hold, with no awkwardly-placed buttons. Around the edges of the screen you get not only a power button and volume controls (which are located in the top-left corner at the top and on the side, respectively), but also a screen-rotation lock, a covered USB 3.0 port, a covered Micro HDMI port, an audio jack and a covered microSD slot. We only have slight reservations about the location of the lock screen button, which is right next to the power button, but we never made the mistake of pressing the wrong button during our trial. We're not fans of the port covers, which can be annoying when they are regularly used.
There is also a built-in microphone and stereo speakers. On the front of the screen is a physical Windows key, rather than a touch-sensitive one like we've seen on other recent Windows tablets such as the ASUS Taichi 21, for example, and you also get two cameras — one with a two-megapixel sensor on the front and one with a five-megapixel sensor on the rear. You don't get a built-in flash.
The keyboard dock
The tablet can be clipped in to the supplied keyboard dock when you want to use it as a laptop. It's a dock that is slim, sturdy and light. Before the tablet can be docked, there are dummy covers on the underside of the tablet either side of the electrical contacts that will need to be removed. Once these are removed, it's easy to put the tablet into its dock, and there is a button on the dock that allows it to be released just as easily when you want to remove it again.
The dock doesn't have any computing power built in, nor does it have its own battery. It's simply there to facilitate typing and touchpad navigation, and it's very good at these tasks. It also allows you to plug in USB devices through the two USB 2.0 ports that are located on each side, but there is no video out port. In one scenario, the dock can be used to add some USB functionality to the tablet. We had no problems using the two USB ports on the dock to plug in a USB stick and an SD card reader while at the same time plugging a powered USB drive into the tablet's USB 3.0 port.
The keyboard's keys are well spaced and feel comfortable to type on despite being a little spongy, but the small form factor of the board can take some time to get used to. There is an ELAN touchpad that is 86x49mm and we found it to be a good quality part. It was responsive, accurate and basically perfect for navigating the screen when we didn't want to use touch. It supports multi-finger gestures as well as Windows 8 gestures. You will have to change the scrolling setting though, as it's set to reverse scrolling by default — unless you like reverse scrolling, of course.
Like other tablets with docks that we've seen, such as the HP Envy X2 hybrid PC, the Ativ is top-heavy, which means that it can easily fall backwards when you use it in your lap. The tablet itself is 900g, while the base is only 700g. You're looking at an overall weight of 1.6kg when transporting the whole package, and a couple hundred more grams when you add in the small power adapter, too — it's not a wall-wart but a brick-style adapter with a thick power cable on the outlet end.
Specifications and performance
All of the processing power is located within the confines of the tablet, and it's a tablet that supplies very good speed. It's only 12mm thick at its thickest point (the edges taper in slightly to make it look slimmer than it is), yet it houses an Intel Core i5-3317U processor (17 Watt), which has a standard speed of 1.7GHz, two cores and Hyper-Threading, as well as integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics. It's joined by 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM and a 128GB solid state drive (SSD), which has a formatted capacity of 108GB.
It's a configuration that put up mostly expected numbers in our performance tests (it got 48sec in our Blender 3D rendering test and 1min 1sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding test), except that it was a little slow in 3DMark06. It returned a figure of 3665 in 3DMark06, which is slow compared some Ultrabooks we've seen with the same CPU, such as the HP Envy TouchSmart 4, which returned 4495.
The Ativ's 128GB SSD returned a read rate of 453 megabytes per second (MBps) in the CrystalDiskMark storage test, along with a write rate of 315MBps. Both rates are excellent for this benchmark and are on par with what we've seen from recent SSD-equipped Ultrabooks. In our own file duplication tests, the rate was a more modest 55.7MBps, which is significantly slower than we expected. That said, we didn't notice any sluggishness when loading applications and transferring data between libraries.
The cold boot time for this device was barely seven seconds, which is the point at which we were able to enter our Windows password. The system resumed from sleep mode in just under three seconds.
You can use this tablet just as you would a typical Ultrabook, going as far as encoding music and video files and even performing some basic editing of photos and videos. It'll have no problems with most typical office software and it's a convenient little device on which to browse the Web (for the most part). Furthermore, games that we downloaded and played through the Windows Store ran without any problems. We particularly enjoyed Riptide GP, Jetpack Joyride, Agent P Strikes Again and Blocked In.
However, as has been the case with other Windows 8-based tablets we've seen, this one also gave us some problems when viewing sites with Flash elements in Firefox. Sites sometimes loaded very slowly and also became unresponsive for a short period of time. We didn't experience the same sort of problems when running Chrome or Internet Explorer. That said, the browsing experience through all the browsers for most of the sites that we visited was very good. Video streaming, even from Flash-based services such as NBA LeaguePass, worked smoothly within the browser environment. For locally-stored video content and content from our local area network, playback was flawless. Samsung also supplies PowerDVD software so that you can play DVD files.
The tablet got slightly warm when its CPU had to do a lot of work, such as when processing streaming video. The warmth was concentrated in the area near the top of the unit where the fan is located. If you hold the tablet in regular landscape mode, or rotated 90 degrees to the left, it's likely that you won't feel this hear. The fan kicked in to extract warm air when the workload for the CPU was heavy, but it was not annoyingly loud.
A battery with a rating of 47 Watt-hours is present in the Ativ Smart PC Pro tablet. In our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the battery lasted 4hr 22min. This is a good result for such a slim and light unit that uses an Intel Core i5-3317U CPU and it will last even longer if you employ a balanced profile and switch off the screen when you are not actively using it. It's unfortunate that the base doesn't have an extra battery, like the HP Envy X2, for example, but it also means the weight of the overall unit is kept to a minimum.
Fully charging the tablet can take close to three hours, and its charger does get noticeably hot during this time.
Sensors in the Samsung tablet include an accelerometer, an ambient light sensor, a compass sensor and a gyro sensor. The auto-rotation was not as sensitive as we've seen on some recent Windows 8 products, which is a good thing, but its changes were still quick once it detected enough of an angle to change the screen's orientation. The ambient light sensor worked a little erratically though, with the brightness fluctuating even when the lighting conditions changed only slightly. We preferred to disable it and adjust the brightness manually.
For network connectivity, you have to rely on the built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi, which is a highly capable Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 adapter. It supports 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. We had no problems with this wireless adapter on any of our networks. We've experienced some wireless connectivity issues under Windows 8 with previous products such as the Dell XPS 12, but the Samsung was solid throughout our test period. You also get Bluetooth. You don't get an Ethernet port, but a USB-to-Ethernet adapter is meant to be included in the package (it wasn't in our test kit though). If you want to make use of the Micro HDMI port, you'll have to buy an adapter or a cable that does micro on one end and full sized-HDMI on the other.
The Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro 700T is one of the better Windows 8 tablets we've seen so far. It's performs well, it has a Full HD resolution (and a good screen overall), and its supplied dock allows it to become a useful productivity machine. You get an ability to add your own storage via USB and microSD, as well as output video via HDMI, and it's a good unit to use for handwriting recognition. At $1399, it's priced similarly to an Ultrabook, and it provides an equal level of performance for the most part. Give it a go if you're after an enjoyable tablet on which to run Windows applications.
If you need help using the new Windows 8 interface on a tablet such as this one, be sure to check out our Beginner's Guide to Windows 8. We show you how to use the Start screen and all of the other features that the new operating system offers.
Related Windows 8 laptop reviews:
• HP Envy X2 hybrid PC
• HP Envy Touchsmart 4 Ultrabook
• Toshiba Satellite L850 Windows 8 laptop
• ASUS Taichi 21 Windows 8 hybrid Ultrabook
• Medion Akoya S4216 (MD 99081) Windows 8 Ultrabook
• Toshiba Satellite U920T hybrid Ultrabook
• Dell XPS 12 convertible Ultrabook
• ASUS Vivo Book F202 touchscreen notebook
• Acer Aspire S7 touchscreen Ultrabook
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