From IFA: Samsung ATIV Smart PC impressions

The ATIV Smart PC (called Series 5 Slate in the US) is the Intel Atom-based entry in Samsung’s Windows 8 tablet lineup. Its specs are more like what you’d expect to find on a netbook than on an ultrabook, with a slower processor and only 2GB of RAM. However, apart from being less powerful, that also means that it’s thinner and lighter than the Pro variant, while still retaining full x86-compatibility should you need to run desktop apps.

Design and build quality are pretty much the same as on the Smart PC Pro, which means that it’s very plasticky and cheap, made worse by the glossy coating on the tablet part. The keyboard dock is, as far as we can tell, identical to the one on the Pro, and feels slightly better than the tablet itself as it has a light texture. For more on the dock refer to our earlier ATIV Smart PC Pro hands-on.

For some reason Samsung seems to have decided to further differentiate its tablet offerings by color, so while the Smart PC Pro featured a silver, brushed aluminum look, the Smart PC comes in either glossy white or a light blue color.

Another big difference is the screen, which has a resolution of only 1366×768. After looking at the high-resolution screens of the Smart PC Pro and Sony VAIO Duo 11, we’d really have wished for a similar screen on the Smart PC, especially since it’s not only a cheaper version of the Pro but has its own advantages: it’s thinner, measuring only 9.9mm thick, lighter, and has a longer battery life. There’s nothing inherently more premium about the Pro, as they’re mostly targeting different needs, so it’s sad to see that if you opt for a more portable but less powerful device, you can’t get a high-resolution screen, at least from Samsung.

Ports on the Smart PC are identical to the Pro, with the only difference being that single USB port on the tablet is not USB 3.0 but only 2.0. You still get an HDMI port at the side, headphone jack, SD card reader and micro-SIM slot at the top, and two additional USB 2.0 at each side of the keyboard dock.

If you didn’t like the Smart PC Pro due to its plastic build, there’s not much to like about the Smart PC either, although we have to say that the plastic is slightly more acceptable than on the much heavier and thicker Pro. Also, if desktop apps are important to you, the Atom processor might be under-powered, though it’s still better than no x86-compatibility at all. It’s very much a compromise, but a potentially compelling one considering its higher portability compared to full ultrabook hybrids.

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