We first had a hands-on with the Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro (let’s just call it the ATIV Pro) prototype Ultrabook tablet way back in August 2012, and even then it was already showing its potential. With an Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz processing platform that's hiding underneath its 11.6-inch full HD screen, this is why we consider it an Ultrabook even though its keyboard is detachable. Its concept is very similar to what we’ve seen on ASUS’s Transformer Android tablets, which come with keyboard docks that enhance the machine’s functionality.
Unfortunately, unlike the other tablets with such docks, the keyboard dock of the ATIV Pro does not contain an additional battery, which is quite disappointing. It actually reminds us of the Microsoft Surface Pro, except in this case the keyboard is a substantial additional 720 grams, unlike the thin and light optional keyboards for the Microsoft Surface tablets that weight just 250 grams.
The good thing about this form factor however, is that it allows users to just pick up the tablet and leave the additional heft (that is the keyboard dock) behind when they don’t need it. It also converts between its tablet and notebook forms quickly and painlessly. All you have to do, is to align the tablet’s slot onto the keyboard dock's magnetic connector, and it goes right in. While Samsung says that the magnets within the keyboard dock's connector subtly guide the tablet into place, in actual usage, we noticed no hint of magnets offering any assistance. Rather, the tablet's own weight and the docking slots pretty much assists this process as it locks into place with the keyboard dock.
Once in, the notebook's tablet and keyboard portions feel secure, and we could not detect any hint of looseness no matter how hard we shook the device. Credit to Samsung for paying attention to such a small but important detail to convince users of its sturdy and dependable design. The single aluminum hinge that is formed from putting the tablet and keyboard dock together is also quite rigid, keeping the 888g tablet in place between 0 (when closed) and 100 degrees (when open). Take note that the hinge design doesn't allow you to tilt the screen (or tablet) and further and that may be a limitation for some users.
The release button is also smooth as butter. There’s no click that informs you if the tablet is released, but we prefer it this way. Removing the tablet was also a fairly smooth process and feels very natural.
With a satisfactory docking experience, we immediately expected the rest of the machine to be as sturdy and well built as the connection between tablet and dock. We weren’t disappointed -- too much. The display is protected by Gorilla Glass, which means using the ATIV Pro without a screen protector will not be a problem (though you might still want to consider one to reduce the finger print smudges).
Unfortunately, the back of the tablet isn't as tough. The machine is put together fairly well, which means there are no creaky or loose parts. However, the ATIV Pro is mostly made of plastic. Plastic helps keep the machine light, but it also introduces flex at its thin points, which is the case on the plastic back of the tablet. We would have preferred a metal alloy for the rear of the ATIV Pro, but that would also likely add on to its already expensive price tag of S$2199.
Besides the flex on the back of the display, there’s also a slight flex on the keyboard. However the buttons on the keyboard dock were an absolute dream to type on. The keys had plenty of travel (for something so thin), and were very rigid, perfect for typists who need plenty of feedback while typing.
The clickpad though, isn’t as well made. Not only is it small, it’s also made of plastic so it feels flimsy compared to the glass trackpads on some of the proper Ultrabooks. Even the distribution of stiffness was also quite bad. The bottom area of the clickpad was deep and easy to click on, whereas the top area had more resistance. Folks who find the trackpad unreliable can always turn to Bluetooth mice which they can plug into one of the keyboard dock's two USB 2.0 ports. Even so, you would expect a perfectly well built product when you're paying over two grand.
Fortunately there's one more input option and it's one of the plus points of the Samsung ATIV Smart PC. Thanks to the S-Pen stylus input using Wacom Technology, it has the expected 1024 pressure levels of sensitivity for accurate note taking, drawing or just doodling. It doesn’t require battery power as it relies on electro-magnetic resonance technology from the screen that powers the pen upon contact, and as well as detect the movement of the stylus.
The S-Pen is smooth and responsive when we tried it with the native Windows Journal app. Samsung also included a proprietary S-Note app, but it uses more resources than it really should. Drawing or writing on S-Note makes the stylus feel unresponsive and slow, which really shouldn’t be the case. Thankfully there are quite a few drawing apps to take advantage of the S-Pen, like Autodesk Sketchbook Express and Fresh Paint, available in Microsoft’s Windows App Store that users can download.
The canvas upon which artists can draw on with the S-Pen, is a luxurious 400nits full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels resolution) IPS panel. We found that a full HD resolution makes icons and text appear very small in desktop mode, but images and Full HD videos look amazing. At 400nits, it's also bright enough to be used comfortably in brightly lit areas, while its IPS panel allows wide angles of viewing which is suitable when you've company.
For viewing those full HD videos, the ATIV Pro has two 0.8W speakers found on the left and right edges of the tablet (not the dock). While 0.8W seems slightly underwhelming compared to normal Ultrabooks from other manufacturers, we found the speakers on the ATIV Pro are capable of fairly loud, clear quality audio that is more than adequate for most personal usage scenarios.
Ports and Connectivity Options