Samsung ATIV Q review: first look

20 Jun 2013

Some companies are into their second generation of Windows 8 hybrid laptops, but the Samsung Ativ Q is the first we've seen from the Korean consumer electronics giant. It's quite the debut, however, introducing the first better-than-Retina 3,200 x 1,800 resolution display we've seen on any mobile device, and dual-Windows 8/Android compatibility.

Physically, the Ativ Q cuts a familiar dash: its touchscreen display measures 13.3in across, so it's quite a large device, and it has a mid-mounted screen hinge that allows the Ativ to be used in a number of different configurations.

You can fold the screen flat against the chassis for use as a tablet, you can prop up the screen above the keyboard for typing, float it above the keyboard, or flip it over to face away from you, then spin it around. This "stand mode" is intended for watching movies or displaying photos.

It's reminiscent of the Sony VAIO Duo 11 and Acer Aspire R7 in this respect. And, just like the Duo 11, the Ativ Q has no touchpad - instead, there's a trackpoint set into the centre of the keyboard.

One unusual feature is that the CPU is embedded in the hinge strut at the back instead of under the keyboard. This lends the Ativ Q a stiffness we wouldn't otherwise have expected from such a lightweight laptop. The strut also hosts a USB 3 port and Micro-HDMI output on the left-hand side and a microSD slot on the right.

Despite its large screen and that chunky hinge, the Ativ Q is no bloater. It weighs 1.29kg, and stands a mere 13.9mm above the desk when the screen is folded flat against its body, which puts it firmly in Ultrabook territory.

Under the hood, there's plenty of oomph. The Ativ Q is powered by an Intel Haswell Core i5 processor coupled with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. It also comes equipped with an S Pen stylus with 1,024 levels of sensitivity.

Where it differs from most Ultrabooks we've seen is that 3,200 x 1,800 resolution display. Stretched across 13.3in it gives a pixel density of 275ppi - finally, a year after Apple first introduce the Retina display to its MacBook Pro range, we have a Windows 8 rival.

In fact, in terms of raw resolution, this outdoes even Apple's pro portables, although we'll have to wait to see what Windows 8 is like to use at such a high resolution. Although the Start Screen looked in proportion and was usable on the unit we were shown, the desktop hadn't been optimised, so the taskbar and window toolbars were absolutely tiny.

The other unusual feature is the Ativ Q's ability to run Android. Tap the Dual OS tile on the Windows 8 Start Screen, and up pops Android Jelly Bean 4.2.2, complete with Google Play and all the Google apps that usually come with Google tablets. This appeared to be running as an app within Windows 8, as we were able to Alt-Tab between Android and other running Windows apps.

It's also possible to both pin your favourite Android apps to the Windows 8 start screen, and to share files and photos between the two OSes. Snap a photo with the rear-facing X-megapixel camera, and it'll pop up automatically in both the Windows 8 Photos app and the Android Gallery, without the need to drag and drop between the two installations.

In all, the Ativ Q looks highly promising. As we've pointed out above, we've yet to experience the fully optimised Windows desktop - we worry about eyestrain when viewing toolbars and the like on such a high resolution display. We're also concerned about the cost of producing such a high-spec machine (prices hadn't been announced at the time of writing), and we're not entirely sure what the benefit of being able to run Android on a full-blown Windows tablet.

However, if the hardware performs well and battery life is strong, we can imagine the Ativ Q being very popular.

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