Samsung ATIV Q Review
Samsung blew the roof when it unveiled the ATIV Q, and not only with the record screen resolution of this convertible tablet/ultrabook device, but other novel ideas that beg to be approached with open mind, as there's barely a reference point for something like it.
Running hot-swap Windows 8 and Android on a 13.3” touch display with the eye-popping 3200x1800 pixels of resolution, powered by the latest Haswell chip endurance athlete by Intel, all stuffed into a thin and light body with a crazy hinge that slides the device into a tablet, notebook or hybrid “terrace” form – all of that is not for the faint of heart manufacturers, and has a recipe for disaster sign written all over it.
Has Samsung managed to give us a glimpse at the future of portable devices for work and play, or will the ATIV Q feel like it is way ahead of its time due to “details” like hinge construction, software scalability for such resolution, or simply overpricing? Read on to find out...
The first time you grab the ash black ATIV Q, it exudes the impression of a well-made, albeit mostly plastic 13” ultrabook. It is pretty thin at 14mm, and the 2.8 pounds (1.3 kg) of weight are more than reasonable for the true laptop power it holds.
When closed in a tablet mode, however, it has the obvious shortcoming of being a pretty big and heavy one, weighing twice what your average 10-incher does. It's not that your hands will get extremely tired when you hold it with both, but most of the time you need to rest it against your body for support. The form factor is somewhat more useful when reading or watching movies in bed, as you can lean it against the head-board or your knees and it takes much less space this way.
Perhaps the most interesting design part, and the one with the biggest question mark in terms of durability is the hinge mechanism that allows the screen half to slide from the default tablet form into a full-fledged notebook by snapping it into place behind the chiclet keyboard. Alternatively, you can flip it around and use the keyboard part as a stand, or simply float it parallel to the keyboard, forming a Z letter of sorts, for a total of four poses that should cover most situations you need.
To allay your concerns, the mechanism feels very sturdy and with an oily motion at the same time. These things get opened and closed many thousands of times and endure pressure tests before they leave the factory, so we wouldn't worry about its durability, yet only time and prolonged usage will tell how it will hold in the hands of the average careless user.
As if to prove that the hinge will last, Samsung placed the whole processor part in the stand behind the display part. This undoubtedly helps with cooling when in notebook mode, and also saves space for other stuff in the keyboard part, so if Samsung didn't make sure the hinge mechanism is sturdy enough, it wouldn't have built the heart of your ATIV Q right into it, given the whole flippity-flap concept of this convertible device.
The chiclet-style keyboard doesn't feature a trackpad, though Samsung does provide a responsive optical track pointer in the middle of the keyboard, with three mouse keys just on the edge.
The keyboard is well-spaced, with dedicated desktop mode and volume buttons column on the left, which, however, gets in the way of typing, especially if you are a touch typist. The keys are as big as they can be on a 13-incher, so typing is fairly comfortable when you get used to the keyboard, though the travel feels a bit shallow and mushy, which is a common issue with most thin ultrabooks. Another down point is that the keys aren't backlit, which can be a nuisance at night.
around the sides, we find an a USB 2.0 port on the right, covered with a protective flap, a Power key underneath it, and a headphone/mic combo jack in-between. The left is reserved for a volume rocker and autorotate switch, while above them an RJ45 jack with a dedicated dongle and a power jack are situated. The side keys are easy to feel and press without looking, with enough feedback.
The rest of the connectivity options – an USB 3.0 and miniHDMI ports - are a bit oddly placed, on the left side of the stand/hinge mechanism behind the screen part, so you can't use them while the ATIV Q is closed in tablet mode. The microSD card slot is there, too, but on the right side of the stand. There is an HD 720p-capable front camera for video chat above the display.
Last but not least, the ATIV Q sports a built-in S Pen stylus, tucked conveniently on the right, so you can quickly jot down things with the S Note app, doodle with Paint, or annotate to your heart's desire, though the Q is a heavy setup to be used as a clipboard like you would with a straight-up tablet.
The 13.3” 3200x1800 pixels screen is with the record high 275ppi density for its size. For comparison, even the 13” MacBook Pro with Retina Display sports 220ppi, so Samsung takes the cake here, and will likely keep it for a while, considering the other virtues of the groundbreaking touchscreen panel on the ATIV Q.
Besides being the most resolute screen you can find on any ultrabook or convertible device, it is also very bright and with high contrast. Viewing angles are great, too, with barely a horizontal or vertical shift in brightness or contrast at the extremes.
Samsung says the panel can reach peak brightness up to 600 nits outside under direct sunlight, which would help tremendously with outdoor visibility, given that the screen reflections are kept in check here. Our measurements showed about 320 nits maximum brightness inside at the center of the display, which is in line with Samsung's advertised 300 nits average maximum when not in SuperBright mode.