Samsung ATIV S User Review

*This device is a review unit from Samsung Malaysia*

After my first full use and review of Nokia Lumia 920, I got familiar with the navigation, user interface, apps etc for Windows Phone 8. I was then offered to review another Windows Phone and this time, thanks to Samsung Malaysia, I have been using one from their Windows Phone 8 called ATIV series – Samsung ATIV S.

See Also : Nokia Lumia 920 User Review

Looking very much like their line of “Galaxy” series Android phones, the “ATIV” series is the brand for their Windows Phone 8 smartphones. HD Super AMOLED screen, removable backplate with removable battery, microSD slots – this Windows Phone 8 smartphone is definitely one to consider if you like Samsung’s devices but wants Windows Phone 8 OS.

So, let’s go through my review after using the phone for over 2 weeks.

 

Hardware Overview

Samsung ATIV S
Samsung ATIV S aka Samsung I8750

The Samsung ATIV S is their latest Windows Phone 8 smartphone. Here’s a quick hardware and specification overview of the phone:-

  • 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED display (1280 x 720)
  • 1.5 GHz dual core Dual Krait processor
  • 16/32 GB internal storage (expandable microSD slot) + 1 GB RAM
  • Powered by Windows Phone 8
  • 8 megapixel rear camera (1080p video), 1.2 megapixel front facing camera
  • 8.7 mm thin, weighing 135 grams <– 50 grams lighter than the Lumia 920
  • 2,300 mAH removable battery (almost 15 hours 3G talktime)
  • Connectivity : HSPA+, WiFi, Bluetooth 3.1, NFC
  • Available in Metallic Silver colour

For more information, do check out the Samsung ATIV S Product Page HERE.

Unboxing Samsung ATIV S
Unboxing the Samsung ATIV S

Inside the box, you’ll find your standard affair – the ATIV S device, battery, 2-piece charger adapter, sync/charge USB to microUSB cable, in-ear headphones with extra earbuds and user manuals and warranties.

Samsung Ativ S - Hardware 1
Front and back of the Samsung ATIV S

The device is made out of lightweight plastic in a metallic silver finish at the back. It does look rather good with this metal like finish. The front is a HD Super AMOLED display with Gorrilla Glass 2.

Samsung Ativ S - Hardware 3
Front of the Samsung ATIV S

At the front of the device, you see the beautiful 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED display. At the top if the Samsung logo and earpiece and at the bottom, you see a single hardware button for Home (with the Windows logo) and capacitive “Back” and “Search” soft button.

As mentioned, the phone does look very much like the Android line of Galaxy series devices from Samsung. It’s disappointing that there’s no further innovation here from the Korean manufacturer in terms of design.

Samsung Ativ S - Hardware 2
Looking around ports and buttons at the sides

At the top, you see the 3.5mm headphone jack. Right is the Power On/Off button at the top and the dedicated camera button at the bottom (yeah!). Left if the volume rocker towards the top. Bottom, you’ll see the microUSB charge/sync port with a tiny pinhole microphone.

I  am super happy that most Windows Phone 8 these days comes with a dedicated camera button. I never used to understand what the big fuss is with tech reviewers who’s so vocal about the lack of this in most Android superphones. But now, after using it in the last 2 Windows Phone, I get it. It’s so handy and useful, especially when you’re taking a selfie with the rear camera.

The phone is slim. At 8.7 mm thin and 135 grams light, it’s 50 grams lighter than the hefty Nokia Lumia 920 that I just finished reviewing here. It’s not necessarily the best thing that the phone is so very light. Comparatively, it feels too light and toy-like at times. It doesn’t give me the premium or high end feel, even with the nice metallic finish.

Nokia Lumia 920 vs Samsung ATIV S
Samsung ATIV S has HD Super AMOLED screen

The Samsung ATIV S comes with a 4.8″ HD Super AMOLED screen with Gorilla Glass 2. As with previous Samsung devices, the display is beautiful on the Super AMOLED screen. Images are clear and crisp, colours are bright and vibrant. Watching movies, viewing pictures of just web browsing, the display is a big plus point.

 

Software Overview

Windows Phone 8 – Menu, Navigation, Keyboard, Browser

Samsung ATIV S - Menu, Navigation
Menu and navigation

As with my last Nokia Lumia 920 review, I’ve slowly grown to love Windows OS again. The animation between swipes and gestures is nice but not over powering. The user interface plays around with fonts more than visual displays. I like that.

Oh – and Samsung has the all too familiar Samsung lock screen wallpaper and notification sounds, with this Samsung ATIV S.

One pet peeve I have is with the notifications. Windows Phone 8 sells that notifications for messages, emails and apps are non-intrusive. It doesn’t pop up with icons to bother you all the time. There are still notification sounds, top “banner image” notifications for some apps, and message / alert counts are indicated as numbers in the box of the tile based Home screen.

Unless you scroll through your pinned tile in the Homescreen all the time, you might miss an update or two.

Samsung ATIV S - Phone, People, Email, Calendar
Phone, People, Calendar and Email

Another pet peeve I have to point out – Windows Phoen 8 UI is not the best use of space. With both headers and bottom shortcut menu icons, they can take up to over 1/4 of the screen space, leaving only 3/4 of the screen for your content. Not Samsung’s fault here, but Microsoft should do something here to make this more efficient.

Samsung ATIV S - Settings
Windows Phone 8 Settings menu

Another dislike is the “Settings” menu. With Android, you find a shortcut “gears” icon to access “Settings” from the Notification Centre. Here with Windows Phone 8 UI, you have to dig through the list in the App Drawer to find and launch “Settings”. You can, of course, pin this in your Home screen for easy access.

But then, once you get into the Settings menu, they’re divided by “System” and “Application” settings. Under Systems settings, there’s no real order to these as well. From Ringtones to Email accounts to Bluetooth setting… Microsoft should really group them in sub categories or something.

Samsung ATIV S - Keyboard
On screen keyboard is good

The on screen default keyboard on the Samsung ATIV S is good. Good auto correct and word prediction.

Samsung ATIV S - Browser
Internet Explorer 10 is the default browser

IE 10 is the default browser. It uses Bing search, of course, and supports tab browsing, bookmarks manager and more.

Samsung ATIV S - Store
Windows Phone Store has Samsung recommended apps as well

There’s a good selection of apps on Windows Store which includes apps and games. Music is not present here, though. Samsung Zone is an additional section of recommended apps from the manufacturer as well, which includes Photo Editor, Mini Diary, RSS readers and more.

 

Camera

Samsung ATIV S Review 004
8 megapixel rear camera

Samsung ATIV S comes with an 8 megapixel rear camera. Not spectacular megapixel count, but it’s a good camera, complete with autofocus and LED flash. It shoots full HD 1080 video and images are good and clear.

Samsung ATIV S - Camera
Camera app is a standard affair, with minimal settings and toggles

Unfortunately though, in low light condition, it’s quite disappointing. Unlike the Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC One with boosted camera and lens function for awesome low light photography.

Front facing 1.2 megapixel camera is good though. Also, with the dedicated camera button, taking pictures on the front or rear camera is easy.

Check out these sample images taken from the Samsung ATIV S. Pictures are not resized or edited, so click to see enlarged picture in original resolution:-

 

As with the Lumia 920, you can take videos and activate the rear LED Flash as a permanent “lamp”.

Samsung ATIV S - Photo
Photos app sorts images by album, date and people
Samsung ATIV S - Photo editor
Photo Editor app for edits, colours, effects and frames

Samsung’s Photo Editor app, pre-installed, allows you to do basic edits (resize, crop, rotate), colour enhancements (saturation, contrasts, etc), effects (filters for B&W, Sepia, etc) and decorations (frames, stickers, grid collages, etc). If that’s not enough for you, you can always download more Photo Editor apps on Windows Store.

 

Battery Life

Samsung ATIV S Review 002
Removable backplate to access battery, microSIM and microSD slots

Good thing the device comes with a removable backplate to access your battery, microSIM and microSD slots.

The device comes with a 2,300 mAH battery. This is 300 mAH higher than the Lumia 920 and I was expecting better battery life, considering I was super disappointed with the Lumia 920 lasting me less than 10 hours.

Samsung ATIV S - Battery Life
Heavy, moderate to light usage on Samsung ATIV S

I was not disappointed. I used the ATIV S as my primary phone with different usage patterns. Heavy to moderate to light usage. On moderate to light usage, of several emails, a handful of short phone calls, social media browsing and updates, light browsing, I managed over 17 hours of use before I need to juice up the phone. Definitely better battery management on Samsung’s part.

The device can certainly last you a full day of work on light to moderate usage.

 

Pricing and Availability

The Samsung ATIV S has been on sale since early April 2013, for the Recommended Retail Price (RRP) of RM 1,699, at an authorised Samsung retailers. Unfortunately though, none of the mobile telcos are offering any plans for this phone for you to buy it at a discounted price with a mobile plan.

The ATIV S is selling at exactly the same RRP as the Nokia Lumia 920, although the latter has options for telco plans.

 

Conclusion

Samsung ATIV S Review 005
Samsung ATIV S in my hands

Here’s the list of top 3 Pros and Cons of the Samsung ATIV S:-

Things I Like

  • Hardware buttons for “Windows” Home and dedicated camera button
  • Gorgeous (as expected) HD Super AMOLED display
  • Removable backplate, battery and microSD support

Things I Dislike

  • Weak low light rear camera
  • Plasticky build feels like a toy
  • Uninspiring design that looks like any Samsung devices

Compared to the Nokia Lumia 920 that I just reviewed, which also happen to be one of the more popular Windows Phone 8 devices, both phones have their respective strength and weaknesses. While the Lumia 920 wins with the awesome camera capability, the ATIV S wins with battery life and lighter phone. It’s again down to your personal preference when it comes to Windows Phone 8 selection.

If you’re looking at whether to jump into the Windows Phone 8 OS versus an iPhone or Android or BlackBerry though, you have the same consideration with app selection and user interface. Windows Phone 8 OS is more of a business friendly phone, especially with full Microsoft Office capability. WhatsApp is available, but Instagram is not.

Samsung ATIV S is worth considering if you like Samsung devices but wants to be on Windows Phone 8 OS. It’s lightweight, good battery, hardware buttons and most importantly, micro SD expansion slot!

Are you a Windows Phone 8 user? Are you considering getting into the OS? Weighing between the Samsung ATIV series or the Nokia Lumia series? Let me know.

See Also : Nokia Lumia 920 User Review

Final note – as usual, if you enjoy this review, please *LIKE*, comment and share it with your friends and family, ya.

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