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Samsung Ativ S Review

Windows Home button on Samsung Ativ S
  • On November 26, 2013

Review Overview



Pros: large display, slim and lightweight Cons: lack of Samsung apps

Samsung Ativ S was the first effort of the Korean manufacturer to deliver a high-end Windows Phone 8 device. It was announced ahead of HTC and Nokia’s offerings, but Samsung somehow missed the originally planned release date and the smartphone become available just before the end of 2012. This model features a large 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED display and a dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor at 1.5 GHz backed by 1 GB of RAM. It has two cameras (8 MP + 2 MP) and 16 GB internal storage.


Even though the Ativ S has embraced most of the features typical for Samsung’s Android models, this Windows-powered smartphone is easily recognizable. Similar to the other Samsung models, the Ativ S has a thin piece of plastic covering the battery, but here the cover is adorned with a nice brushed aluminum effect. At the front, a dark grey plastic wraps around the 4.8-inch display. Up the top, there’s a 1.9 MP front-facing camera, while the traditional Windows Phone buttons are positioned at the bottom. Unlike the Lumia models, Samsung has decided to make the Home button physical rather than capacitive.

Front, side and back of Samsung Ativ S

On the right side, you can find the two stage camera button and the power button, while the volume rocker is positioned on the left side. The 3.5 mm audio jack is at the top and the micro USB port is at the bottom. The 8 MP camera is placed at the rear top of the Samsung Ativ S, while the speaker is at the bottom. Unlike its rivals, the back is removable so you can easily change the battery. The Ativ S comes with 16 GB of internal storage, which is less than the Lumia 920. However, Samsung has added a micro SD slot, so you can add up to 32 GB more.

Even though the Ativ S is a huge device, it is significantly thinner and lighter than the bulky Lumia 920. Samsung Ativ S is just 8.7 mm thick and has a weight of 135 grams, compared with 10.7 mm and 185 grams for the Lumia 920.


Samsung Ativ S has an excellent and big display, the best Samsung could offer back in 2012. The screen has a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels resulting in a pixel density of 305 ppi. Unfortunately, Samsung were not able to deliver an AMOLED Plus display which excels the AMOLED PenTile available in the Ativ S.

The display of Samsung Ativ S

Overall, both Lumia 920 and HTC 8X offer slightly better viewing angles and are more dense (both devices have smaller displays but the same pixel resolution as the Samsung). However, the gap is not a huge problem since the reproduction of colors and the level of details displayed on the screen of the Samsung Ativ S are also great.


Both cameras available in the Ativ S are actually the same as those found on the Samsung Galaxy S3 (8MP + 1.9MP). We found that the main cameras of the Samsung Ativ S and the Nokia Lumia 920 delivers pretty similar daytime images, however, the Lumia 920 shines when the sun goes down due to its optical image stabilization which helps a lot in low light conditions. On the picture below you see a comparison (100% crops) made by AllAboutSymbian. As you can see, both cameras show similar results except in the low light shots in which the Lumia 920 is superior. Both Windows Phones deliver sharp and crisp pictures with good color reproduction.

a camera comparison between Lumia 920 and Ativ S

With Samsung Ativ S, you can also capture videos at 1080p. Samsung’s 1.9 MP front facing camera delivers very adequate images, much better than those coming from the 1.2 MP shooter available in the Lumia 920.

Performance and software

Samsung Ativ S looks like any other Windows Phone 8 model, but when you start browsing through the apps you will notice the gap between this model and any Nokia Lumia device. It seems that Samsung has almost ignored the additional features and applications. Well, there are some apps, but they are not even close to Nokia’s Smart Camera, Nokia Music and the other Nokia additions. Samsung has included several own apps like ChatOn (a messaging app similar to WhatsApp), Family Story (for sharing notes and photos), Live Wallpaper (for creating a slideshow on the lock screen), Photo Editor (for photos), Mini Diary (for notes and drawings) and Now (for news and information in a live tile).

Samsung Windows Phone apps

We had no complaints and issues with the call quality and the signal during our day-to-day usage. The Samsung Ativ S shows an identical to its rivals (HTC 8X and Lumia 920) performance. We should mention that all three devices share the same processor and RAM – the dual-core Snapdragon S4 clocked at 1.5 GHz with 1 GB of RAM. The processor and the RAM are more than enough for day-to-day usage, built-in or processor intensive third party apps. The phone has a larger battery than Lumia 920, 2300 mAh, which compensates the bigger display.


Samsung Ativ S definitely leaves positive impressions. The phone has a nice aluminum-like finish at the back. It fits comfortably in the hand and its weight is just perfect for the size. The Ativ S shows a similar to Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8X performance in day-to-day usage. The camera performance is almost identical to Lumia 920 in the daily shoots, but the Samsung has been found weaker in low-light conditions. There’s some drawbacks regarding the additional software features and apps where Samsung has been found inferior to Nokia’s offerings.