Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla
When Samsung was tasked to build its first Windows 8 Phone, it simply went with the winning formula used in its most popular handset, the Galaxy S III. We take a look at how Samsung differentiates itself from the rest of the Windows Phone 8 models in the market today.
Available through Rogers, TELUS and Bell, in Canada, the ATIV S is the flagship Samsung smartphone for Windows 8 and right now it is the Korean celfone giant's one and only Canadian WP8 offering (which could change in a matter of days as we near the Mobile World Congress).
The core features of a slim, powerful and large-screened smartphone with a removable back plate (giving users access to the battery, an expandable MicroSD expansion slot and the microSIM card) are all derived from the highly successful Galaxy S III.
The G SIII is oval and more curvaceous while the ATIV S retains the more rectangular look and feel of previous Galaxy SII models. The ATIV S also sports the middle home button but this time with the Windows logo and it is similarly flanked by capacitive Back and Search keys that disappear when they're not needed.
In terms of specs, the ATIV S shares the same 1.5GHz dual core Snapdragon S4 processor that's found on the Lumia 920 and the HTC 8X (this popular proccy is also present in the Galaxy SIII and the BlackBerry Z10). Similarly, the ATIV S matches the 1GB of RAM that the Lumia and HTC carry.
Performance is fast and smooth and pretty much on par with the rest of the Windows Phone 8 models. Samsung adds some pluses by including its ChatOn messaging service, a Music Hub for buying tracks, apps like MiniDiary and FamilyStory which acts as a hub for family messaging (provided you all have similar devices).
The ATIV S is an attractive smartphone. While the Galaxy SIII celebrates the light weight of plastic and extends the treatment of metallic and holographic-finishes, the ATIV S goes for a more brushed metallic finish.
The result is that the ATIV S looks and even feels like it has a metal finish, but it doesn't. This is lightweight polycarbonate with some metallic accents.
Compared to the monococque and sealed-in design of the Nokia Lumia 920 and the HTC One 8X, the ATIV S feels slighter and more delicate. It is slightly heavier and larger than the Galaxy SIII and feels a bit more robust and better put together.
Compared to other Windows Phone 8 handsets, the ATIV S does have the advantage of a removable battery and expandable microSD memory, which the other two smartphones don't have. Another unique advantage of the ATIV S is that it has the largest display even by a small margin.
The 4.8-inch AMOLED display is identical to what one will find on the Galaxy SIII and sports a 1280x720 resolution with 306 pixels per inch density. A larger display necessitates a larger battery so this ATIV S carries a whopping 2,300 mAh battery.
I think this is one of the best mobile screens out there for watching movies and videos. it is the reason I chose the GSIII as my main Android device over the more powerful LG Optimus G.
The Samsung ATIV S also features a dedicated camera button. Something I think all devices should have (although newer smartphones are allowing the volume rocker to serve that purpose as well).
The advantage that the ATIV S has over the competing Windows Phone 8 handsets is the larger screen, longer battery life, removable backplate for multiple batteries and microSD card expansion. It also brings the a more businesslike look and feel with its metallic accents that may attract it to corporate users over the more colourful Windows Phone 8 devices out there.
I have yet to fully test the ATIV S's cameras for still and video but if the hardware is anything like the Galaxy S III then it should be able to make crisp photos and videos in most conditions although Windows Phone's camera options and controls aren't as expansive as what Android or iOS offer.
Users loyal to the Samsung brand but who want to make a shift to Windows Phone now have a very good handset to consider.
The ATIV S is unquestionably a derivative of Samsung's Galaxy SIII, but in many ways, it is also an improvement (and possibly a teaser of what's to come in the GSIV). It feels better made, has a more premium look and feel and the larger battery as well as faux-metallic treatment make it feel a little more grown up.
The ATIV S certainly differentiates itself from the look and feel of the Lumia 920 and the HTC 8X which have a similar look to them even if the Lumia 920 is a far beefier profile.
With the slimmest profile and largest screen of the Windows Phone 8 bunch, the ATIV S kickstarts Samsung's involvement in yet another premium handset line.
Rating: 4 out of 5