From IFA: Samsung ATIV Tab and Windows RT impressions

We’ve already looked at Samsung’s full Windows 8 tablets, the ATIV Smart PC Pro and ATIV Smart PC. Completing that lineup is the ATIV Tab with Windows RT, the ARM version of Windows 8 that drops compatibility with traditional x86 desktop apps. The Tab is powered by a Snapdragon S4 dual-core processor running at 1.5GHz, includes 2 GB of RAM and either 32 or 64 GB of storage (expandable via microSD slot). It’s thinner and lighter than the Smart PC models, measuring only 8.9mm thick, but its display resolution is only 1366×768 pixels, which is rather disappointing after seeing the high-res 1920×1080 screen on the Smart PC Pro.

However, to get one thing out of the way – the build of the ATIV Tab is largely identical to Samsung’s other tablets, which means that you should probably look elsewhere if you happen to dislike cheap, glossy plastic that’s painted to look like brushed aluminum.

At least one thing that the Tab has in its favor, though, is the Start button, which is slightly raised and looks metallic, an interesting and welcome touch compared to the slightly awkward looking button on the Smart PC models.

The port placement on the ATIV Tab also differs from the bigger models, as all ports and buttons are located on the top, where you’ll find a microSD reader, HDMI and USB 2.0 ports, volume and power buttons and a headphone jack (not pictured, at the far left). Curiously absent is a rotation-lock button, which should be required for all Windows 8/RT tablets – we presume that this is due the non-final hardware that was on display.

On the bottom side there’s the same dock connector as on the Smart PC and Smart PC Pro, which should mean that the keyboard dock will be interchangeable between the three models. Surprisingly, the ATIV Tab only supports 5 touch points – Microsoft’s minimum requirement – instead of the usual 10. This could be a problem when typing on the onscreen keyboard with all 10 fingers, though we couldn’t find any issues in our limited hands-on testing (but then we’re not very skilled tablet typists).

We also got somewhat of a closer look at Windows RT. While the Metro side is identical to Windows 8, you won’t be able to run any x86 apps on the desktop besides from what’s included out-of-the-box. Office 2013 is preloaded in Windows RT, though we didn’t find its interface to be particularly well suited to touch, even in the dedicated “Touch Mode” which enlarges some tap targets on the ribbon. In some respects, even native applications such as the file explorer and Internet Explorer felt more polished, as touch scrolling in Office felt unnatural and laggy whereas desktop IE10 surprisingly uses the exact same inertial scrolling implementation as the Metro interface.

Generally, you’ll want to find a keyboard and mouse whenever you happen to need the desktop. Apart from system-wide touch scrolling – much improved from the unresponsive implementation in Windows 7 – not much has been done to make the desktop in Windows 8 more usable with touch. Windows RT isn’t any different in that regard either.

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