I’m not really impressed with Windows RT tablets. There, I’ve said it. Oh, don’t get me wrong; it’s great that Microsoft is pursuing a two-pronged strategy, with ARM on one side and Intel on the other. Spurring some competition is always good. The thing is, Windows RT tablets just don’t seem to measure up to their Apple and Android rivals.
They’re slower to load applications, for starters. They also tend to have lower-resolution screens (1366×768 ahoy), and they have a comparatively limited library of native applications. Then there’s the matter of the desktop interface, which looks and feels like the real thing but won’t run any of your old apps (since x86 software isn’t compiled to execute on ARM hardware). That leads to a lot of frustration and confusion, and the semi-useless portion of the operating system has a hefty storage footprint.
Yuck. I’ll take a Nexus 10 or an iPad over a Surface RT any day.
Windows RT isn’t the only way to go if you want a Windows tablet, though. If you’re prepared to pay a little extra—okay, a lot extra—you can spring for a Windows 8 convertible. Some of those are effectively shrunken ultrabooks, with 17W Ivy Bridge processors, high-PPI displays, speedy SSDs, USB 3.0, and all that good stuff. They look a bit like jumbo iPads from the outside, and they run all the same Modern UI apps as their WinRT peers, but they’re full-featured x86 PCs under the hood. Strap on a keyboard dock, and you’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart from an ultrabook.
It’s certainly a lovely concept on paper. Yes, these machines are a little spendy, with prices floating around the $1,000 mark right now. But keep in mind that actual laptops with the same kind of hardware don’t sell for much less, and they lack the flexibility of convertibles. There’s no popping off the keyboard to surf the web on the couch more comfortably.
As luck would have it, we have a member of this Windows 8 convertible breed in our labs: Samsung’s ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T, which is also known as the 700T1C. It has a Core i5-3317U processor, an 11.6″ 1080p display…
…and the all-important keyboard dock accessory.
The 700T1C model we’re looking at today sells for $1,189.99 shipped at Newegg with the keyboard dock in the box. Expensive? Absolutely. Better than a Windows RT tablet? Well, just take a look at all the hardware Samsung packs inside this thing.
|Processor||Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7-2.6GHz|
|Memory||4GB DDR3-1600 (single channel)|
|Chipset||Intel HM76 Express|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Display||11.6″ panel with 1920×1080 resolution|
|Storage||128GB Lite-On M3M solid-state drive|
|Audio||HD audio via Realtek codec|
|Ports||1 USB 3.0
2 USB 2.0 (on keyboard dock)
1 Micro HDMI
1 analog headphone/analog microphone
|Expansion slots||1 Micro SD card reader
1 dock connector
|Communications||802.11n Wi-Fi via Intel Advanced-N 6235
|Input devices||Capacitive touch screen
Ambient light sensor
5.0-megapixel rear (w/ flash)
|Dimensions||11.6″ x 7.2″ x 0.5″ (295 x 183 x 12.7 mm)|
|Weight||Tablet: 1.97 lbs (895 g)
Keyboard dock: 1.57 lbs (714 g)
AC adapter: 0.56 lbs (256 g)
|Battery||49 Wh lithium-polymer battery|
Samsung has thought of everything. There’s the requisite ultrabook entrails, a high-PPI touch screen, a decent-sized SSD, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 3.0, micro HDMI, a couple of cameras, a stylus, and a host of sensors. Even Intel WiDi is included, so you can drive displays or TVs wirelessly (so long as they’re connected to their own WiDi adapter).
The only obvious thing missing is a game-worthy GPU, but hey, this is a two-pound, half-inch-thick system. There’s hardly any room for that sort of thing. Besides, adding another power-hungry chip would compromise battery life.
What is the 700T1C’s battery life, you ask? We’ll test that ourselves in just a little bit, but Samsung touts an eight-hour run time, or five hours for video playback. That’s a little on the low side compared to ARM-based tablets, but it’s decent by ultrabook standards—and, of course, this is essentially an ultrabook from a hardware standpoint. Samsung might have pulled off a longer run time had it crammed extra battery cells inside the keyboard dock, like Asus does with its VivoTab RT. Sadly, the 700T1C’s only battery resides in its tablet portion.
There is one other omission we should point out: the fact that the 700T1C leaves one of the Core i5 processor’s dual memory channels vacant. As a result, the processor only gets about half of its theoretical peak bandwidth. That might seem like an odd corner to cut on a $1,200 system, but Samsung is likely making concessions to power draw and space constraints. Tapping into the extra channel would have meant more memory chips, more circuit board traces, higher power use, and somewhat shorter battery life. If Samsung can avoid all that by cutting performance slightly, then perhaps it’s found a worthwhile compromise. We’ll measure the extent of the performance degradation in our benchmarks a few pages ahead.
Even without dual-channel memory or discrete graphics, the 700T1C is relatively bulky for a tablet. At 0.5″, it’s about 35% thicker than the current-generation iPad. And at 1.97 lbs, it’s roughly 37% heavier than the Apple slate. This definitely feels like a different class of device.
That feeling is reinforced by the 700T1C’s use of active cooling. Run anything remotely processor-intensive, and you’ll hear the little fan inside spin up. You’ll also feel hot air blowing through the vents at the back and along the top. That can be a little disconcerting if you’re holding the 700T1C in portrait mode with the Windows button under your left thumb. You’ll feel a stream of warm air gently licking your left palm. It’s not entirely unpleasant in cold weather, though.
Of course, those tradeoffs come with the territory. You can’t cram a 17W ultrabook CPU into a tablet and expect something with the portability and battery life of an iPad. If the 700T1C proves itself a worthy productivity and recreation machine, that point may be moot.
We’ll just have to see.
That is, we’ll just have to take a painstakingly close look at this machine, examining everything from the display’s color reproduction to the feel of the keyboard dock to the quality of the bundled software—and everything else in between. Sound good?
All right, let’s begin.
My God… it’s full of pixels
The 700T1C’s display looks gorgeous. This is an 11.6″ panel with a 400 cd/m² luminance rating and a 1920×1080 resolution, which gives it a pixel-per-inch count of about 190.
The pixel density is high enough that, out of the box, Samsung enables the “Make everything on your screen bigger” setting in Windows 8’s Modern UI environment. We’ve complained about how that setting makes things look too big on a 13.3″ 1080p screen (and that disabling it makes everything looks too small). On the 700T1C’s smaller 11.6″ display, however, the scaling looks perfect. Modern UI widgets are just the right size, and text is neither too big nor too small. The extra pixel density adds a nice degree of crispness and smoothness to fonts, as well, which enhances readability.
Fonts are a bit more jagged than on the iPad, but that’s no wonder, since the iPad has a higher 264 PPI pixel density. Nevertheless, text on the 700T1C’s display is still far crisper than pedestrian 1366×768 screens like that of the VivoTab RT.
The desktop environment also benefits from the crisper fonts, and most of the UI widgets scale reasonably well. There are a few exceptions, though. You’ll occasionally encounter apps that ignore the default 125% scaling setting and insist on looking really tiny. Hopefully, the number of those applications will shrink over time, as more and more high-PPI Windows machines crop up on store shelves.
Samsung hasn’t confirmed what LCD panel technology the 700T1C uses. However, the screen can display consistent colors when viewed off-center, which is a tell-tale sign of IPS and PLS panels. The shots above show the screen leaning back at 110°, rotated 30° to the side, facing the camera at 90°, and leaning forward at 70°. Colors and contrast are largely consistent throughout. There is some darkening when the screen is viewed from the side, but the colors still look correct. TN panels don’t fare nearly as well in this test.
Oddly enough, though, the 700T1C has a narrower color gamut than both of the IPS contenders we tested—the iPad 3 and Asus UX31A. According to the plot above, which was generated by HCFR Colormeter using our X-Rite EyeOne colorimeter, the 700T1C shows more blues but fewer magentas and reds.
The default color temperature is closer to 7000K than 6500K, and that makes colors a little cooler than on the iPad 3. The difference is small, though. You may be hard-pressed to notice unless you look at the two screens side by side.
We test backlight uniformity by maxing out the display brightness and taking readings at nine points across the screen. The 700T1C’s panel exhibits an 11% difference between its brightest and darkest points, which is actually not so bad. We’ve seen differences as large as 20% on some panels. We should point out, of course, that these are luminance figures, and an 11% difference in luminance doesn’t necessarily translate into an 11% difference in perceived brightness. Subjectively, the 700T1C’s display doesn’t really look inconsistent when showing a plain white color.
Display a plain black color, on the other hand, and you can see the effects of moderate backlight leakage with the naked eye. As the photo above shows, the symptoms are most obvious at the top of the screen and in the bottom left corner. If you’re watching a letterboxed movie in a dark room, you’ll likely notice the bright smudges in those areas.
Despite these minor imperfections, this is a fine display. It has vibrant colors, great viewing angles, and a pixel density high enough to make text look almost like a printed page. The only real downside is the 16:9 aspect ratio, which makes portrait use a little awkward. 16:9 screens aren’t exactly uncommon among non-Apple tablets, however, so it’s not like the 700T1C is bucking the trend.
Just as important as how the touch screen looks is how it feels, and the 700T1C responds to input quickly and smoothly. That’s perhaps unremarkable, since even $500 WinRT slates don’t feel sluggish or unresponsive, but it still bears mentioning. The level of UI smoothness and responsiveness should please even folks spoiled by Apple devices and Android offerings infused with Project Butter goodness.
Initiate docking sequence, captain
Windows 8 has a perfectly good on-screen keyboard, which works in both the Modern UI and desktop environments. You can even split up the alpha keys so that they’re all accessible under your thumbs. That’s all well and good for firing off a quick e-mail or entering a URL in Internet Explorer, but it’s not ideal if you have a 20-page report to write. For that, you’ll want to plug in the 700T1C’s keyboard dock.
The dock adds about a pound and a half to the 700T1C’s weight. It includes a full-sized QWERTY chiclet keyboard, a touchpad, and a pair of USB 2.0 ports—handy if you ever need to plug in a mouse.
The 700T1C anchors itself to the dock using two mounting holes. Out of the box, those holes are hidden behind removable plastic covers, which you’ll have to pry off with your fingernails. That seems like an unnecessary step, but I suppose the covers do help prevent lint and dust from getting into the docking holes. The covers might be helpful if you make seldom use of the dock.
The next step is simply to lower the tablet portion onto the dock’s hinge. The mating process is entirely seamless—almost too seamless, in fact. I would have preferred a satisfying click to indicate a successful attachment. As it is, you may want to try lifting the tablet off the dock to make sure it’s fastened securely.
Releasing the dock is a simple matter of pushing the big button in the middle of the hinge. Easy as pie.
Since the dock is lighter than the tablet, the whole arrangement feels a lot more top-heavy than your typical laptop. The hinge doesn’t allow the tablet to bend back more than 120° or so, though, so there’s little chance of it toppling over. Just be careful if you’re using the system on your lap.
Our 700T1C came from Samsung’s Canadian headquarters. As a result, it had a bilingual Canadian keyboard. Folks ordering the U.S. version of the system can expect a standard U.S. layout with a flat enter key, proper backslash, and none of those funny accent labels. (I hear the bottom of each keycap is also engraved with a bald eagle weeping with pride over the Stars and Stripes.)
|Total keyboard area||Alpha keys|
|Size||280 mm||100 mm||28,000 mm²||168 mm||52 mm||8,736 mm²|
|Versus full size||98%||91%||89%||98%||91%||89%|
The keys are a decent size, and the keyboard feels reasonably crisp. There’s a little bit of flex in the middle, but that’s standard fare in the world of chiclet keyboards. All in all, typing on the 700T1C’s keyboard dock is surprisingly comfortable.
The touchpad is mediocre, though. It feels too tiny, and it doesn’t always respond promptly to input, especially when you’re using multi-touch gestures or trying to drag and drop something. Sometimes, the touchpad proved frustrating enough that I found myself giving up and using the touch screen. Too bad some UI widgets in Windows 8’s desktop environment are too small to control comfortably with the touch screen alone.
Connectivity, expansion, and the stylus
The 700T1C has a nice helping of wireless connectivity, from 802.11n Wi-Fi to Bluetooth 4.0 to Intel WiDi. Samsung hasn’t neglected physical ports and expansion slots, however.
The top of the system plays host to a microSD slot, a USB 3.0 port, and a 1/8″ headphone/microphone port. The left side (on the right side of the photo above) also includes a micro HDMI port. All the ports are covered by little flaps mounted on rubber hinges. That keeps the sides of the tablet nice and slick, but it makes connecting devices a little more awkward than it could be.
What are those three silver strips in between the ports? The one closest to the headphone/mic port is the power button. The one immediately next to that is the screen rotation lock button. Finally, the one on the side of the system next to the mini HDMI port is a volume control rocker.
The bottom edge of the tablet is home to the DC power connector, the mounting holes for the dock, and the dock connector, which is just a handful of gilded contacts recessed into the chassis. As for the right side of the tablet, that’s where Samsung tucks the 700T1C’s stylus.
The stylus is about 4″ long and has roughly the same girth as a No. 2 pencil. A little eraser toggle sits on the side, and the tip is rubber-coated, so it doesn’t glide across the screen like a knob of butter. In fact, there’s just enough friction that writing and drawing on the tablet feels natural and precise. The sensation isn’t unlike that of a ball-point pen on a paper notepad. Unfortunately, output lags noticeably behind input, so the stylus may not be perfect for serious sketching and image editing work.
You’re free to use the stylus to doodle in MS Paint, of course, but you can also take advantage of Windows 8’s rather excellent handwriting recognition. That can be convenient if you need to take notes while standing. Windows 8 lets you input handwritten text pretty much anywhere, and Samsung provides its own app (in both Modern UI and desktop flavors) with additional note-taking capabilities. More on the bundled software on the next page.
Before we move on, we should take a moment to document the keyboard dock’s connectivity features in greater detail.
As we noted earlier, the dock adds a couple of USB ports. Both of them lie behind the same kind of rubber-hinged doors as other ports on the machine. The dock also includes a DC connector on the left—a necessity, since the hinge obscures the tablet’s own power connector.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, here’s how the 700T1C’s AC adapter looks—shockingly ordinary. The adapter is pleasantly compact, though, and it only adds about nine ounces of weight to the total payload. The cable that connects the power brick to the system measures about 5′ 8.5″, or 174 cm, and it has one of those little velcro ties to keep everything tidy.
The 700T1C doesn’t ship pre-loaded with software per se. Rather, it comes out of the box with a clean Windows 8 installation and a single Samsung icon on the desktop: SW Update. That’s the company’s automated software downloader and updater, which, when run for the first time, can automatically install all the latest drivers and bundled applications with one click. The SW Update tool also lets you pick and choose what to install—and what not to install.
Once you’re done, SW Update will keep your drivers and bundled software up to date. It will also nag you to install anything you left out in that initial installation. Sadly, there seems to be no way to exclude permanently certain bundled apps from the one-click update feature.
This is what Windows 8’s Uninstall control panel looks like on the 700T1C with the full software suite. It’s really not so bad—although the Norton offerings will undoubtedly aggravate some people. In a particularly annoying display of overly attached software-ness, Norton Internet Security asks you to install a browser toolbar during its own uninstallation process. Ugh.
Thankfully, Samsung includes some unobtrusive home-brewed apps to make up for it. There’s the Recovery application, for instance, which lets you restore the system to a previously saved state at any point in time…
…and the S Note application, which lets you doodle, write, and input math formulas with the stylus. The SW Update tool installs a cut-down, desktop version of that app, but you can grab a more full-featured, Modern UI-infused variant from the Windows Store. (See above.) I don’t know if I’d use S Note instead of the default Windows 8 handwriting recognition for real work, but it’s nice to have the option. Samsung also deserves credit for giving S Note a toggle to disable touch input while the stylus is in use. That way, resting your palm on the screen doesn’t trigger additional input while you scribble.
I only encountered one problem with the Samsung software, and that was the Support Center app randomly crashing in the background. I asked Samsung about this problem, and they told me the issue was actually caused by a recent Windows 8 update (KB2795944). Samsung plans to roll out a fix through SW Update within the next week or so.
Our testing methods
We compared the ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T to a couple of notebook PCs: the Asus Zenbook UX31A, which is a similarly priced ultrabook, and the Asus VivoBook X202E, which is a more affordable consumer laptop with ultrabook tendencies. (You might call it ultrabook-curious.)
When possible, we also included numbers from some other mobile systems we’ve reviewed in the past: the VivoTab RT, iPad 3, Transformer Pad Infinity, Google Nexus 7, and Samsung Chromebook. These aren’t direct competitors to the 700T1C by any means, but they should provide a helpful frame of reference.
We ran every test at least three times and reported the median of the scores produced. Our Windows 8 systems were configured like so:
|System||Asus UX31A||Asus X202E||Samsung 700T1C|
|Processor||Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz||Intel Core i3-3217U 1.8GHz||Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7GHz|
|Platform hub||Intel HM76 Express||Intel HM76 Express||Intel HM76 Express|
|Memory size||4GB (2 DIMMs)||4GB (1 DIMM)||4GB (1 DIMM)|
|Memory type||DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz||DDR3 SDRAM at 1333MHz||DDR3 SDRAM at 1600MHz|
|Audio||Realtek codec with 126.96.36.19910 drivers||Via codec with 188.8.131.520 drivers||Realtek codec with 184.108.40.20688 drivers|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 4000
with 220.127.116.1128 drivers
|Intel HD Graphics 4000
with 18.104.22.16875 drivers
|Intel HD Graphics 4000
with 22.214.171.12475 drivers
|Hard drive||Adata XM11 128GB SSD||Hitachi Z5K500 500GB HDD||Lite-On M3M 128GB SSD|
|Operating system||Windows 8 Enterprise x64||Windows 8 x64||Windows 8 x64|
Thanks to Asus and Samsung for volunteering these machines.
We used the following applications to conduct our testing:
- Stream 5.8 64-bit
- 7-Zip 9.20 64-bit
- TrueCrypt 7.1a
- Chromium 20.0.1096.0
- SunSpider 0.9.1
- The Panorama Factory 5.3 x64 Edition
- x264 HD benchmark 4.0
- Excel 2013
- Battlefield 3
- DiRT Showdown demo
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- FRAPS 3.5.9
The tests and methods we employ are usually publicly available and reproducible. If you have questions about our methods, hit our forums to discuss them with us.
Let’s kick things off with our Stream memory bandwidth test, which will show us the impact of the 700T1C’s single-channel memory configuration.
Well, that’s what leaving a channel unused will do. There’s no way to upgrade, sadly, but at least Samsung went with DDR3-1600 RAM—the fastest kind the processor supports. Asus’ X202E laptop, by comparison, is limited to a single channel and saddled with slower DDR3-1333 memory.
We tested the latest SunSpider release, version 0.9.1, in a special build of Chromium (the open-source version of Chrome) that we keep around for such purposes.
TrueCrypt disk encryption
TrueCrypt supports acceleration via Intel’s AES-NI instructions, so the encoding of the AES algorithm, in particular, should be very fast on the CPUs that support those instructions. We’ve also included results for another algorithm, Twofish, that isn’t accelerated via dedicated instructions.
The hobbled memory causes no ill effects in TrueCrypt. Here, the 700T1C performs identically to the Asus UX31A, which uses the same processor with both memory channels fed.
7-Zip file compression and decompression
The figures below were extracted from 7-Zip’s built-in benchmark.
The Panorama Factory photo stitching
The Panorama Factory handles an increasingly popular image processing task: joining together multiple images to create a wide-aspect panorama. This task can require lots of memory and can be computationally intensive, so The Panorama Factory comes in a 64-bit version that’s widely multithreaded. We asked it to join four pictures, each eight megapixels, into a glorious panorama of the interior of Damage Labs.
x264 HD benchmark
This benchmark tests one of the most popular H.264 video encoders, the open-source x264. The results come in two parts, one for each of the two passes the encoder makes through the video file. I’ve chosen to report them separately, since that’s typically how the results are reported in the public database of results for this benchmark.
The 700T1C trails the UX31A by a little bit in most of these other tests, but the differences are tiny. Clearly, the 700T1C is holding its own so far, single-channel RAM or not.
This next batch of tests probes the storage performance of our test systems.
Windows 8 boot
Our boot test timed how long it took each system to return from a standard Windows 8 shutdown, which is really more of a hibernation mode.
Ah, solid-state storage. Isn’t it grand?
The Panorama Factory
Here, we tallied the read and write portions or our Panorama Factory test. This should give us a closer look at the gap in storage subsystem performance between the two systems.
Our next load-time test involves opening a 124MB Excel spreadsheet. The file comes from one of our “Inside the second” graphics reviews and is loaded with frame time data, which explains the large file size.
We’ll close out our timing tests by loading the first race in the DiRT Showdown demo. The game was configured to run at 1366×768 resolution with low detail levels.
The 700T1C may have a different SSD than our premium ultrabook, but it performs just as well in these real-world storage tests. It’s really frickin’ fast.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Our Skyrim test involved running around the town of Whiterun, starting from the city gates, all the way up to Dragonsreach, and then back down again.
We tested at 1366×768 using the “medium” detail preset.
We should preface the results below with a little primer on our testing methodology. Along with measuring average frames per second, we delve inside the second to look at frame rendering times. Studying the time taken to render each frame gives us a better sense of playability, because it highlights issues like stuttering that can occur—and be felt by the player—within the span of one second. Charting frame times shows these issues clear as day, while charting average frames per second obscures them.
For example, imagine one hypothetical second of gameplay. Almost all frames in that second are rendered in 16.7 ms, but the game briefly hangs, taking a disproportionate 100 ms to produce one frame and then catching up by cranking out the next frame in 5 ms—not an uncommon scenario. You’re going to feel the game hitch, but the FPS counter will only report a dip from 60 to 56 FPS, which would suggest a negligible, imperceptible change. Looking inside the second helps us detect such skips, as well as other issues that conventional frame rate data measured in FPS tends to obscure.
We’re going to start by charting frame times over the totality of a representative run for each system—though we conducted five runs per system to sure our results are solid. These plots should give us an at-a-glance impression of overall playability, warts and all. (Note that, since we’re looking at frame latencies, plots sitting lower on the Y axis indicate quicker solutions.)
We can slice and dice our raw frame-time data in other ways to show different facets of the performance picture. Let’s start with something we’re all familiar with: average frames per second. Though this metric doesn’t account for irregularities in frame latencies, it does give us some sense of typical performance.
Next, we can demarcate the threshold below which 99% of frames are rendered. The lower the threshold, the more fluid the game. This metric offers a sense of overall frame latency, but it filters out fringe cases.
Of course, the 99th percentile result only shows a single point along the latency curve. We can show you that whole curve, as well. With integrated graphics or single-GPU configs, the right hand-side of the graph—and especially the last 10% or so—is where you’ll want to look. That section tends to be where the best and worst solutions diverge.
Finally, we can rank solutions based on how long they spent working on frames that took longer than 50 ms to render. The results should ideally be “0” across the board, because the illusion of motion becomes hard to maintain once frame latencies rise above 50-ms or so. (50 ms frame times are equivalent to a 20 FPS average.) Simply put, this metric is a measure of “badness.” It tells us about the scope of delays in frame delivery during the test scenario.
The 700T1C is sandwiched between the UX31A and the X202E, much like in most of our CPU performance tests. The gap between the 700T1C and the UX31A is greater here, however, probably because the Core i5-3317U’s HD 4000 integrated graphics need all the memory bandwidth they can get—and the UX31A’s dual-channel memory config delivers more of it.
None of this matters very much, though, because not even the UX31A is fast enough to make Skyrim playable at these settings. The 99th percentile frame times are sky-high, the average frame rates are below 20 FPS, and the game just feels choppy and laggy.
We tested Battlefield 3 by playing through the start of the Kaffarov mission, right after the player lands. Our 90-second runs involved walking through the woods and getting into a firefight with a group of hostiles, who fired and lobbed grenades at us.
We ran BF3 at 1366×768 using the “low” detail preset.
The 700T1C doesn’t fare any better here. Battlefield 3 renders properly on the Intel IGP, but it’s far too sluggish to be playable, even with the resolution turned down and the game detail dialed all the way back. Oh, and speaking of resolution, the 700T1C inexplicably refused to scale the 1366×768 image to the full dimensions of the screen. I had to test BF3 inside a tiny frame surrounded by black borders. Weird.
The 700T1C may not have the gaming chops for Skyrim and BF3, but it’s capable of handling less demanding titles. The slower X202E had no trouble with indie titles like Mark of the Ninja and Edge. Since the 700T1C is quicker, you can count on playing those same games without issue.
In addition, there’s a growing library of casual games in the Windows Store—titles that make use of the touch screen, accelerometer, and/or gyroscope, like Angry Birds and Jetpack Joyride. Simple 2D games like those don’t require much horsepower, and they’ll perform well on the Samsung convertible’s Intel integrated graphics.
We tested battery life twice: once running TR Browserbench 1.0, a web browsing simulator of our own design, and again looping a 720p Game of Thrones episode in Windows Media Player. (In case you’re curious, TR Browserbench is a static version of TR’s old home page rigged to refresh every 45 seconds. It cycles through various permutations of text content, images, and Flash ads, with some cache-busting code to keep things realistic.)
Before testing, we conditioned the batteries by fully discharging and then recharging each system twice in a row. We also used our colorimeter to equalize the display luminosity at around 100 cd/m².
Battery life for movie playback is right where we expected it to be. The run time in our web browsing test, on the other hand, falls more than an hour and a half short of Samsung’s claimed eight hours. That means the 700T1C doesn’t have enough battery capacity to take you through a whole work day without plugging in.
That, folks, is one of the pitfalls of cramming ultrabook-class hardware inside a tablet. Yes, Windows RT has many downsides, but the mobility advantages of ARM-based platforms are unquestionable. Perhaps we’ll see the competitive field even out some more once Intel’s next-gen Haswell processors come out later this year. Or maybe those lower-wattage Ivy chips will do the trick. For now, though, it’s clear the 700T1C is no road warrior.
Worse, adding the dock actually reduces battery life rather than enhancing it. Compare the 700T1C’s run times to those of the VivoTab RT, which can go unplugged for a whopping 21 hours thanks to the extra battery cells inside its keyboard dock. The 700T1C’s dock lacks extra battery capacity, so it only drains power. That’s a shame. An Asus-like dock design would have helped to compensate for the 700T1C’s power-hungrier internals to some degree.
For this test, we probed video performance using two versions of the second trailer for Rian Johnson’s Looper: one in 1080p H.264 format from the Apple website and the other, also in 1080p format, on YouTube. We played back the former in Windows Media Player and the latter in Chrome 21 with the built-in Flash 11.3 plug-in, and we used Windows’ Performance Monitor utility to record CPU utilization.
|CPU % (low)||CPU % (high)||Result|
|Looper H.264 1080p||0.0||27.7||Perfect|
|Looper YouTube 1080p (Flash 11.3)||10.6||23.3||Perfect|
It’s pretty clear that Ivy Bridge processors like the one in the 700T1C don’t break a sweat when decoding 1080p video, be it Flash or otherwise.
We measured temperatures using an infrared thermometer at a distance of 1″ from the system after it had been running TR Browserbench 1.0 for about an hour.
Another issue with ultrabook hardware in a tablet body: heat.
The 700T1C only got slightly warm in our web-browsing test, but in some apps, we found it to be downright toasty. (The bottom portion of the screen climbed to nearly 40°C after a quick doodling session in S Note.) Of course, the more temperatures rise, the more the little fan inside the chassis spins and spews hot air out of the cooling vents. No question about it, ARM-powered tablets are cooler to the touch.
The ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T is certainly a commendable feat of engineering. It does a surprisingly good job of distilling the power of an ultrabook and the convenience of a tablet into a single concoction. It’s expensive, yes, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a standalone ultrabook with equivalent specs and a similarly high-quality display for a much lower price. Heck, Asus’ 13.3″ Zenbook UX31A currently sells for $1,039.99, and it’s barely any faster. It also lacks any kind of touch-screen input.
Of course, this Samsung convertible doesn’t offer the absolute best of both worlds. The touchpad on the dock isn’t very good, and the tablet portion is a little bulkier, heavier, and hotter than it ought to be. Battery life is on the short side, too, even if it’s still largely okay by ultrabook standards.
In short, this isn’t a perfect Windows tablet, and it’s not a perfect ultrabook, either. But if you want both in a single package, compromise is called for—and the ATIV is a pretty darn good compromise, all things considered.
On a more general note, I’m not sure I’m totally sold on the idea of Windows 8 convertibles. There seems to be little overlap between what people do on tablets, which is mainly content consumption, and what people need full-featured notebook PCs for, which is productivity. Complicating matters further, those activities are walled off into separate environments regardless of the platform. OS X is separate from iOS, Windows is separate from Android, and Modern UI is largely separate from the Windows desktop.
So, why must we have both on one machine? What’s so compelling about having Facebook and Kindle apps on the same physical system as Office and Photoshop? Since the combination is fraught with compromise, why not get a great tablet and a great ultrabook rather than a less-than-great combination of the two?
Well, I suppose the convertible route does save room in your backpack. I suppose it saves you a few hundred bucks, too, and it lets you switch from leisure to work without having to get off the couch. And of course, there are advantages to having all your local data on one device.
Yes, I suppose you could make a decent case for it, if you came up with the right hypothetical user. I just don’t know who that hypothetical user might be, and whether he represents the public at large—or even most PC enthusiasts.