11 Dec 2013
BARCELONA: HP unveiled a series of new devices on Tuesday at its annual Discover conference and the most notable of these new units was the EliteBook Folio 1040 G1.
It was unveiled on stage by senior vice president of HP Business Personal Systems, Enrique Lores, who touted its military-grade build quality to withstand dust, extreme temperatures and drops, at which point he let it fall from his hand to the floor with a resounding clang. It seemed to be ok.
Enterprise buyers were also targeted with the inclusion of a fingerprint scanner and a smart card reader for extra security, and a docking connector to link to printers and other peripherals.
The firm also touted several other aspects of the device that have been upgraded from its earlier EliteBook Folio 9470M, saying it is lighter, thinner and faster thanks to the inclusion of Intel's Haswell processor. It will ship with Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.
We went to see the laptop in the giant Discover hall and had a quick play around on the new device and, as HP claimed, it certainly is a swish looking unit with rounded edges, a grey metallic design and an overall feel of quality that is not too dissimilar to a MacBook.
One other notable feature of the new device that HP touted is the use of a new type of control pad called ForcePad (pictured below). Rather than the traditional style control pads on a laptop that require two fingers to select and drag items, this can be done with one as it recognises different pressure sensitivities.
It also has the ability to recognise five-touch inputs so touch-style controls such as pinch-to-zoom can be used on applications or web services that support this functionality. This would be useful if you choose to have Windows 7 shipped with the unit.
However, those wanting a touchscreen can get a Windows 8.1 model, which will now support touch, a major let down of the older model. However, the unit we saw was running Windows 7, so we didn't get a chance to test out the new touchscreen mode.
Another improvement is in size and weight, with the device weighing 1.49kg, down from 1.63kg, and the thickness is down from 18.9mm to 15.9mm on the previous model. We certainly found the device light and comfortable to hold, and it could easily slip into a shoulder bag or suitcase without adding much weight.
Overall, after a quick first glance and play, the EliteBook Folio 1040 seems a nice device with a focus on enterprises users that should appeal to many firms and staffers buying their own laptops. The option of Windows 7 or 8.1 means both tastes are catered for and the ForcePad shows that HP is trying to innovate on the otherwise fairly standard laptop model.
The HP EliteBook Folio 1040 will be available in the UK from the middle of December with a starting price of £1,380. Check back on V3 in the future for our full review of the device.
18 Oct 2013
Microsoft's Windows 8.1 update is finally available to install for those already running Windows 8 on their tablet or PC, and judging by the length of time it takes to download, there is quite a high demand for the new version.
The first thing to note about the Windows 8.1 release is that there are no real surprises, as Microsoft has been talking about the changes to the user interface and the new features coming for some time now.
We looked over the Windows 8.1 Preview release back in June, and as far as we can tell, not much appears to have changed since then. This does not mean that users of Windows 8 won't notice anything different, as there are a slew of user interface tweaks and other enhancements that Microsoft has added since the original release last year.
As we wrote back in June, the main changes users will notice are that you can now customise the Start screen, that you can resize tiles, and you can opt to boot straight to the old-school Desktop environment.
The Bing app has now disappeared, with its search function subsumed into the search Charm accessible from the Charm bar you bring up with a swipe form the right side of the screen.
Meanwhile, Windows 8.1 makes greater use of Microsoft's SkyDrive service to ensure that user data and settings are consistent whichever device you log into, while all files can now be saved directly to a user's SkyDrive account, a feature that was introduced in Office 2013.
Some things that are new in the Windows 8.1 release include a new Help + Tips app to introduce users to what's new in this version of Windows, plus large animated on-screen hints that appear when you first use Windows to inform users about things like the Charms and that you need to swipe in from the edges of the screen to access options in the new-style user interface.
The Mail application has also been given a makeover that makes it look much slicker and adds some capabilities more in line with Microsoft's Outlook app than the rather austere app that users of Windows 8 will be familiar with.
Meanwhile, Skype is now supplied as part of Windows 8.1, but it does not seem to appear on the main Start screen by default. Instead, users must access it from the Apps screen, which is now found by swiping up from Start, and pin it to the Start screen afterwards.
One word of caution for those upgrading: Microsoft warns users to back up their data before downloading and installing Windows 8.1, and with good reason. We found that the installation lost key configuration settings on our test tablet such as the localisation, and time and date, and we also had to reconfigure devices such as the Bluetooth keyboard afterwards.
More seriously, Windows 8.1 lost all the apps we had installed on the tablet, many of which had been there through several upgrade cycles since before the first release of Windows 8 itself. However, this could be because we were running the Windows 8.1 Preview build, rather than a release version of Windows.
For most users, upgrading should be as simple as opening the Windows Store app and being presented with Windows 8.1 as an available update to download.
Our initial impression of Windows 8.1 is that it is a slicker, more user-friendly version of the platform that Microsoft launched last year. However, as we noted in our earlier look at the Preview build, it does not really fix the sad fact that it is the Metro user interface itself that puts off many buyers.
Check back on V3 later for a full review of Windows 8.1.
Dell launched a new line of tablets this week, and V3 was on the spot to get a hands on with the latest offerings which boast both consumer appeal and business punch: the Dell Venue 8 Pro and its bigger 11 Pro brother, both based on the upcoming Windows 8.1 release from Microsoft.
The Dell Venue 8 Pro is the first 8in Windows tablet produced by Dell, as it looks to reaffirm itself in the tablet market after earlier efforts that failed to gain traction. The 10.8in Venue 11 Pro, meanwhile, is a device that has as much potential as it has optional extras, which makes it a firm contender to beat the Surface Pro 2.
The devices announced yesterday certainly have plenty of business acumen with device management tools and Intel vPro featuring heavily, but the Venue 8 Pro will also be a pretty attractive offering to consumers too, with a sub-$300 price tag in the US. There's no UK price for the Venue 8 Pro yet, but the Venue 11 Pro starts from £349 (+VAT).
Design and build
The Venue 8 Pro can be held comfortably both horizontally or vertically. Its plastic back features a circular pattern, as seen with older Dell devices, which certainly doesn't feel cheap. It's just 9mm thick and weighs 394g, which is definitely light enough to chuck into your bag without much thought.
The Venue 11 Pro is a solid device, at over 10mm thick, but it isn't particularly heavy either, coming in at 712g.
It's interesting to note that the Windows button – seemingly mandatory for all devices running Windows 8 – is found on the side of the 8 Pro rather than on the front. Initially it might be a bit of a surprise for seasoned tablet users, but it should be a benefit in the long term as we found that our fingers tend to rest on the edges of the device rather than near a front-facing home button.
The Venue 8 Pro's in-plane switching (IPS) touchscreen comes in at 1280x800 pixels, which is a little disappointing for a tablet of this size, although it does at least beat the iPad Mini's 1024x768 display. Viewing angles are good and it's certainly bright enough; the vibrant Windows 8.1 Start screen looked good. But web pages were not at all as crisp as we would have liked, with some images displaying strangely off colours and low resolution in Internet Explorer 11.
Furthermore, we don't particularly fancy playing around in desktop mode on this machine; fiddly is the only word we can use to describe the experience. It's nice to know it's there if you need it, however.
The Venue 11 Pro touts a full HD 1920x1080 IPS screen, which is a good – if not groundbreaking – specification for a tablet of this size. Dell boasts near-180 degree viewing angles, and we can't really find ourselves disagreeing: it looks good from most reasonable vantage points.
Operating system and software
As previously mentioned, both tablets come with Windows 8.1 pre-installed, with Dell abandoning the ARM-based Windows RT in favour of the full-blooded Pro version of the OS. Furthermore, they also come with Dell's own device management software in addition to the optional inclusion of trusted platform module (TPM) security chips. This will be a boon for IT managers looking for secure devices to roll out to workers.
For consumers buying the tablets from retailers, they come with Office Home & Student free, but this offer does not apply to business buyers.
Other than that, there's little to report in terms of bloatware, at least in the pre-production devices we got our hands on.
The Venue 8 Pro comes with Intel's latest quad-core Bay Trail Atom processors, and in our short time with the device it was genuinely a joy to use. We couldn't go beyond loading a few image-heavy webpages and floating around a few of the pre-installed Windows apps so we can hardly call our tests conclusive, but we're optimistic that the Venue 8 Pro will tackle most everyday tasks with ease.
The 11 Pro meanwhile comes with a range of processors, meaning it's ultra-customisable for a variety of users. Pentium, Bay Trail Atom and Haswell i3 and i5 chips all make an appearance and, coupled with a maximum of 8GB RAM, 256GB of solid-state storage and a USB 3.0 port, at maximum specifications this device should be a real powerhouse. We look forward to putting it through its paces when it comes to market in early November.
Both devices come with high-speed packet access (HSPA+) connectivity when on the move, but 4G LTE is a notable absence.
We should also mention the cameras here: the pair of 5MP snappers wouldn't seem to be much to write home about. Front-facing lenses also make an appearance for family chats or video conferencing.
Dell claims both devices will last around 10 hours, which is certainly good enough. The Venue 11 Pro has another ace up its sleeve, with its removable plastic back revealing the power-user's holy grail: an interchangeable battery. This is a great feature which has made an appearance in previous Dell tablets, but its presence is still one that could prove to be a tremendous selling point.
Both devices feature an optional stylus, although neither has anywhere to stow them as far as we can see. The Venue 8 Pro will eventually be compatible with some form of attachable keyboard, although there's currently no sign of it.
In contrast, the 11 Pro comes with a raft of add-ons, including two keyboards and a dock. We were able to have a look at all three of these during our time with the slate, and for the most part they seem like essential buys if you're looking to be remotely productive on the move and in the workplace.
There's the simple keyboard cover, which is a very thin case that doubles up as a typing device. The keys feature very slight movement, which means you do get some tactile feedback while typing. The other keyboard cover features a battery that Dell claims can boost the battery life of the device by up to 80 percent.
Both keypads clip to the 11 Pro using magnets like the Microsoft Surface, and while we wouldn't risk dangling them above a wooden floor, they felt secure enough.
The aforementioned dock features a couple of USB 3.0 ports and support for two external monitors. This means, when attached, you can have a triple-monitor setup with your 11 Pro, which should be very welcome for power users who like to work on the move but also value a proper desk setup when in the office. This again rivals the Surface Pro 2, which also now comes with its own docking station.
It could have been the fact we were using a pre-production model, but the dock did not feel like quite the perfect fit for the tablet. We hope this will be fixed come launch day.
There's no UK price for any of the add-ons yet, unfortunately, but the docking station will retail in the US for $99 (£61).
These new devices have a lot of potential. If Dell can market them to consumers as well as they have tailored them to business users, this could be the start of Dell's revival in the client device market.
24 Sep 2013
Microsoft has unveiled its second generation Surface tablets that are due to go on sale on October 22 just days after the updated Windows 8.1 operating system is released to general availability.
Most buyer interest in Microsoft's devices has centred on the Surface Pro, which is able to run existing Windows applications as well as the newer Metro-style Windows Store apps, and so we've drawn up a quick list of the key features of the Surface Pro 2, and some of the differences between it the original model.
Tempted customers can pre-order the Surface Pro 2 from Microsoft's Surface website, with prices starting from £719.
The original Surface is powered by a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 chip, and this has been upgraded in the Surface Pro 2 with a 4th generation Core i5 processor, which Intel launched earlier this summer.
This latest family of Intel chips, previously codenamed Haswell, offers increased performance, especially in the area of its integrated graphics, but its chief advantage is greater power efficiency when compares with the previous generation. This should translate into longer battery life, and Microsoft in fact claims that the Surface Pro 2 lasts up to 75 percent longer than its predecessor.
Meanwhile, Intel's 4th generation chips have several different levels of graphics capabilities. The new high-end Iris graphics, for example, is claimed to offer performance comparable to some discrete adapters from Nvidia.
The exact chip in the Surface Pro 2 is a 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-4200U, which can run at up to 2.6GHz with Intel's Turbo Boost technology, and which includes Intel HD Graphics 4400. This is a step up from the basic HD graphics in the previous generation, but not as impressive as Microsoft's claims about the new device might lead you to believe.
The display on the Surface Pro 2 is the same in terms of specifications as that of the original Surface, offering a full HD resolution of 1920x1080 pixels in a 10.6in, 16:9 ratio (widescreen) format.
As with the original Surface Pro, the display of the new model supports 10-point multitouch input, and it comes with a digitiser pen included for handwriting and other input using the screen.
Memory and storage
While the original Surface shipped with 4GB of memory and a choice of 64GB or 128GB flash solid state drive (SSD) in the UK, the options are more diverse with the Surface Pro 2.
You can still opt for a Surface Pro 2 with 4GB of memory, combined with either 64GB or 128GB SSDs, but there is a beefier tier now available, combining 8GB of memory with either 256GB or 512GB of storage instead.
This is not the first time that Microsoft has offered more than the standard storage; when the Surface went on sale in Japan earlier this year, it was available in 128GB and 256GB versions, as well as including Microsoft's Office suite in the price.
A notable feature of Microsoft's Surface tablet devices is the kick stand, which flips out at the rear to hold the system at a convenient angle for viewing when standing on a desk or other available surface.
This also works if you are sitting using the device on your lap, but the angle of the kick stand on the original Surface Pro was not quite right for this configuration. In the Surface Pro 2 this has been fixed with a dual-stage kickstand that can be set at two different angles, one for use on a desk and another when resting on your lap.
One of the things lacking in the original Surface was an easy way to connect up to desktop peripherals, which is a key requirement if you are a business professional using the device as your chief computing client.
Microsoft has addressed this with a Docking Station that lets you slot in and connect your Surface Pro 2. As well as charging the tablet, it offers an Ethernet connection to a LAN, three USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort video out and audio in and out.
Even better, the Docking Station can be used with the old Surface Pro as well as the Surface Pro 2.
New keyboard Covers
The Touch Cover and Type Cover where essential accessories for anyone wanting to use the first generation Surface devices for heavy text entry, and Microsoft has now introduced thinner and lighter Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2 versions. Like the originals, these snap into place for use, and can be folded over the screen to protect it in transit.
Meanwhile, a new Power Cover offers the same typing experience of the Type Cover, but also includes batteries to extend the usable life of your Surface 2, Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 by up to 50 percent.
Finally, the Surface Pro 2 will ship just after the availability of Microsoft's updated Windows 8.1 operating system and will ship with the improved platform installed.
Windows 8.1 delivers a broad range of enhancements and improvements, the most significant of which are changes to the user interface based on user feedback that make it more customisable and intuitive, plus an updated IE11 browser.
The new release also comes with updates to all of the platform's built-in apps, makes greater use of Microsoft's SkyDrive to make data available across multiple devices, plus a slew of enterprise mobility and security improvements aimed at helping organisations meet the challenges of bring your own device (BYOD) features and improved enterprise support.
While consumers may be turning to tablets, corporate buyers still have a requirement for Windows laptops, according to Fujitsu, which has just begun shipping a new family of laptops designed for the enterprise market.
The Lifebook E-Line comprises three models offering a range of screen sizes: 15.6in, 14in and 13.3in, all based on the same motherboard and firmware. This commonality is designed to make it easier for IT departments, as the E-Line all use the same operating system images and accept the same peripherals.
One of the most interesting peripherals is the Fujitsu Bay Projector. As its name suggests, this is a projector which is designed to slot into the modular bay on any of the E-Line laptops, making it an all-in-one solution for delivering presentations.
The Bay Projector is thus the same size and shape as a slot-in optical drive or second battery module, which are also available for the E-Line models, and adds about 150g to the weight of the system, making it much more convenient to carry around than a separate projector.
It fits flush inside the laptop case until needed, but at the flick of a lever, the business end of the projector slides out of the modular bay ready for use. This exposes a small panel of control buttons, while a hinged portion of the projector allows the user to adjust the position of the image up or down.
The £280+VAT Bay Projector uses LEDs for its light source, so it is never going to compete against professional projector models designed for conference rooms, but in the brief demo we saw, it seemed more than good enough for presenting PowerPoint slides or video to a handful of viewers.
In terms of specs, the projector has a brightness of just 40 lumens, and can display an image up to 30in in size at a distance of two metres. It is also restricted to a resolution of 800x480 pixels.
Meanwhile, the Lifebook E-Line laptops offer a choice of 2.7GHz Core i5-3340M or 3GHz Core i7-3540M processors with Intel vPro for the corporate buyers, with up to 16GB memory and storage options up to a 500GB hard drive or 512GB SSD.
Because the laptops share a common motherboard, they all have the same I/O capabilities, including three USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet, VGA and DisplayPort, plus an SD Card memory slot. Fujitsu's notion of using a common motherboard and firmware is that customers can equip a range of workers with whichever model best suits their role, while having the support and maintenance advantages you would gain from deploying a single model across the board.
While WiFi is standard as you would expect, mobile broadband is optional on all the models, with either 3G or 4G modules available.
The Lifebook E753 with its 15.6in display (above) is intended as a desktop replacement for office workers, and sports a numeric keypad alongside its standard Qwerty block. This can be configured with a choice of displays, offering 1920x1080 or 1366x768 resolutions.
The Lifebook E743 (above) has a 14in display, supporting a resolution of 1600x900 pixels, plus a typical weight of 1.7kg, which is common to all three models.
The smallest model, the Lifebook E733, has a 13.3in screen with a resolution of 1366x768 and is best suited for the most mobile workers, such as travelling sales "road warriors".
All three laptops can use a common desktop dock, which also cuts down on the number of items IT departments need to keep in stock, and helps with hot desking as a user with any of the Lifebooks can just drop it into a dock on any desk.
The dock provides the usual array of connection options, sporting four USB 3.0 ports which enables a keyboard, mouse and more to be connected, plus an Ethernet LAN port, eSata connector, two DisplayPort, one DVI and one VGA port for connecting external displays.
Because the Lifebook E-Line laptops share much of their hardware, pricing is dependant on options selected, with the base price starting at £860+VAT and ranging up to £1,294+VAT.
27 Jun 2013
Microsoft's preview of Windows 8.1 is available to download and test now, but many users will be hard pushed to notice any difference at first glance, as a post-upgrade system presents the same tiled Start screen as before.
However, start to use Windows 8.1, and the changes start to crop up. These include tweaks to the user interface designed to improve the experience, an enhanced Internet Explorer 11, and one feature many professionals will have been waiting for: the ability to boot straight to the desktop.
On the user interface side, you can now customise the Start screen by swiping up from the bottom edge, which allows you to reposition tiles and create named groups of tiles.
You can also resize tiles, with new large (see image above) and small size tiles supported. Oddly, not all tiles support all of the sizes; we found that the mail app could not be switched to a large tile, for example.
Swiping up anywhere else on the Start screen now pulls up the Apps screen. This is reminiscent of swiping between multiple home screens on Android devices, and may have been implemented to make smartphone users feel more at home.
The lock screen can also now be customised via the Settings Charm (see below), allowing users the option to show notifications such as new emails and calendar entries. In addition, users can now choose to display a slide show of their photographs as the background.
The Apps screen shows a number of newly added apps in Windows 8.1, such as an Alarms tool, Food & Drink, Health & Fitness, and Sound Recorder. These are not all consumer-oriented, with new admin tools such as a Windows Memory Diagnostic, and pretty much all the apps found in Windows 8 have also been given an update.
For those with legacy Windows applications, you can set Windows 8.1 to boot direct to the Desktop. This is enabled from the Desktop itself, by selecting "Properties" from the taskbar. Under the Navigation tab, checking "go to the desktop instead of Start when I sign in" enables this (see below).
Windows 8.1 comes with IE11, which Microsoft claims has enhanced performance. It also enables you to have an unlimited number of tabs open, which you can simply tap between instantly (see below). However, this is still not as convenient as the tabs on a desktop browser as you have to swipe up from the bottom of the screen in order to see the available tabs.
IE11 also includes support for WebGL, enabling hardware support for 3D graphics acceleration in web content. We tried this out with a few WebGL-enabled sites (see example site below), and found that some worked, but not all of them.
Much has been made of the supposed reappearance of the Start button in Windows 8.1, but in reality, Microsoft has just added a Windows logo to the left edge of the taskbar, where the Start button was placed in older versions of Windows. However, tapping this just takes you to the Start screen, and does not bring up the old-style menus.
While many of the changes made to the user interface in Windows 8.1 are cosmetic, we found the overall effect is to make it feel a bit more "grown up" and less like a platform designed for kindergarten use, as the overhauled Windows Store (below) demonstrates. In fact, we would go as far as to say that Windows 8.1 is what Windows 8 should have been in the first place.
However, like with the original Windows 8 release, we found that many of the new features are not especially intuitive. For example, IE11 allows you to have two browser tabs open side by side on the screen, but it is not at all clear how you are supposed to do this. After much trial and error, we discovered you have to swipe up to show the available tabs, then hold down your finger on the one you want to appear alongside the already visible one.
In other words, while the changes in Windows 8.1 are useful and very welcome, we do not believe they are enough to convert anyone with a violent dislike for the radical user changes that Microsoft introduced with the release of Windows 8 last year.
For the last few years Korean tech giant Samsung has universally been acknowledged as top dog in the Android ecosystem. Sales of the firm's popular Galaxy smartphones and tablets constantly dominate the charts and to date it's the only firm to ever come close to matching the record breaking sales of Apple's competing iPad and iPhone devices.
However, sales of its Ativ PCs have been less impressive, with competitors like Lenovo controlling a significantly larger chunk of the PC market. Clearly unhappy with the situation, Samsung's unveiled its new Ativ Q hybrid laptop-come-tablet hoping to leverage its Android superiority to steal a bigger stake of the general PC market.
However with interest in Windows 8 still negligible it's unclear whether the dual-booting Android and Windows powered Q will be seen as an actual perk. This is especially true considering the recent arrival of Microsoft's homemade, super-powerful Surface Pro.
Measurements and weight
Samsung Ativ Q: 327x218x13.9mm, 1.29kg
Microsoft Surface Pro: 275x173x13mm, 907g
When it comes to size and weight neither the Q or the Pro are lightweight, with both weighing close to twice as much as less powerful Atom-based Windows 8 tablets. However of the two the Q is the heavier, with its physically attached slide-out keyboard making it close to 300g heavier than the Pro - even when the Microsoft machine is connected to its lighter detachable keyboard.
However, as noted in our hands-on review, the Q's increased weight does translate to pretty solid build quality and we found it was far more comfortable to type on than the Pro.
Samsung Ativ Q: 13.3in qHD+ 3200x1800, 275ppi
Microsoft Surface Pro: 10.6in touchscreen, 1920x1080, 208ppi
Samsung's made a big deal about the Q's screen claiming it is the brightest and clearest ever seen on any Windows 8 tablet. On paper there's plenty of evidence to support Samsung's claims, with the Q's larger 13.3in display boasting a 275ppi that puts the Pro's, still reasonable, 10.6in, 208ppi unit to shame.
Samsung Ativ Q: Intel Core i5 Haswell
Microsoft Surface Pro: 1.7GHz Intel Core i5
When it was first released in the US the Pro was a powerhouse device running off a top-end Intel Core i5 chip. However, having taken its sweet time to finally arrive in the UK, its powerhouse status has waned with Intel unveiling its latest Haswell line of processors just before the Pro launched. This means that the Ativ Q could well be a nippier device than the Pro.
Samsung Ativ Q: Up to nine hours quoted
Microsoft Surface Pro: 5.5 hours in V3 tests
Another added boon to Intel's Haswell line of chips is that they're far more power-efficient than their predecessors. This is a good thing as older Core i5-powered Windows 8 tablets, like the Surface Pro, suffered from battery life issues, generally petering out at around the five and a half hour mark. This is why Samsung has listed the Q as having an impressive nine hour life - here's hoping the claim proves true.
Samsung Ativ Q: Windows 8, Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Microsoft Surface Pro: Windows 8 Pro
The Ativ Q is one of a select number of devices that comes with both Google's Android and Microsoft's Windows operating systems pre-installed. The device is able to dual-boot, running both OSs at the same time and can even share data between the two, thanks to some nifty software touches by Samsung. The Pro by comparison runs on the more premium Windows 8 Pro version of Microsoft's OS. It's unclear yet whether the Ativ Q will be able to upgrade to the professional version of Windows 8.
Samsung Ativ Q: 128GB
Microsoft Surface Pro: 64GB or 128GB
Storage-wise, both are available in 128GB options, though you can also pick up a 64GB Surface Pro if you want to save some cash. How much of a value proposition it will be remains unknown as Samsung is yet to reveal the Q's price. To get an equivalent 128GB Surface Pro with a keyboard costs from £899, while the 64GB model can be purchased for £819.
Raced head-to-head, on paper the Samsung Ativ Q does outpace the Pro, which thanks to a series of delays getting to the UK is fast becoming a previous generation device. Chief sins are its non-Haswell Intel processor and slightly lower ppi display. Still, given we don't know the Ativ Q's price at the moment, the upgraded tech could well come at a premium cost.
Check back with V3 soon for a full review of the Samsung Ativ Q, and read our full Surface Pro review here.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
21 Jun 2013
Windows 8's app shortage has been a sticking point for many buyers since the operating system launched late last year. For both enterprise and consumer buyers looking for a decent bring your own device (BYOD) option, the OS' marketplace has been woefully understocked when it comes to apps and has shamelessly overcharged for the select few it has.
Clearly aware of this Korean tech giant Samsung has looked to solve the problem, creating its new Ativ Q hybrid, a device that can dual boot Google's app-rich Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean OS alongside Microsoft's Windows 8, theoretically meaning users can enjoy the consumer perks of Android while retaining the productivity perks of Windows.
Design and build
Visually the Ativ Q looks a lot like most hybrid devices, featuring a similar design to Sony's recently unveiled Vaio Duo. The device starts off as a standard tablet, but can be converted into a fully functioning laptop, by sliding the screen back to reveal an attached hidden keyboard.
A consequence of the hidden keyboard is the Q feels significantly chunkier and and heavier than a standalone Windows 8 tablet, measuring in at 327x218x13.9mm and weighing 1.29kg. While this isn't too bad for people looking for a bespoke laptop replacement it does mean that those looking for a lightweight tablet will do best to look elsewhere.
However, during our hands-on we were impressed by how much Samsung's managed to load into the design, packing it with USB3.0, USB2.0, micro HDMI, RJ45 (dongle), HP/Mic combo and microSD ports.
We were also impressed with the Q's build quality, with its metal chassis feeling robust and the hinge connecting the screen and keyboard proving far more sturdy than those seen on most other hybrid devices. We also found the keyboard, while a little squished together, was fairly comfortable to type on with its keys feeling responsive and suitably well built.
During our hands on we did notice the lack of a full touchpad. In order to make space for the keys Samsung's opted to load the Q with a Lenovo trackpad-point ball that sits at the centre of the keyboard. While we found the trackpoint suitably responsive we know some users aren't fans of the input design, preferring the larger and more common touchpad mouse replacement. Another key design cut we noticed was the lack of a dock for the S Pen Stylus that comes bundled with the Q.
Samsung made a lot of noise about the Q's 13.3in, 3200x1800, 275ppi display, claiming it's the brightest and clearest ever seen on a Windows 8 tablet. The firm went so far as to claim the Q's screen will make the device usable in direct, bright sunlight, a feat most tablets and laptops are yet to achieve.
While we only got to test the Q in the controlled lighting conditions of the Samsung showroom floor, we have to concede our opening tests proved there is some truth to the Korean firm's claim. Testing the display we found it boasted brilliant brightness and contrast levels, great viewing angles and was far crisper than we expected.
The Q's most interesting feature is its ability to dual-boot Microsoft's Windows 8 and Google's Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean operating systems. The device does this automatically whenever you turn the Q on and lets you switch between the two simply by clicking on the "dual-OS" tile housed in the Windows 8 touch UI. Users can then revert back to Windows 8 at any time simply by pressing the capacitive Windows button housed on the Q's front or slide-out keyboard.
Another nifty feature of the dual-boot is the ability to actually create shortcuts to Android apps in Windows 8. The feature is a clear move by Samsung to solve Windows 8's app shortage. Testing the Q we found the transition was very smooth, jumping between the two operating systems and we're looking forward to more thoroughly testing how Android and Windows can complement one another come our full review.
The Q is confirmed to run off one of Intel's latest Intel Core i5 Haswell processors, boast 4GB of RAM and feature Intel HD Graphics 4400 graphics. This means that, while the Q won't be great at running super-intensive Windows programmes, like hardcore 3D modelling tools or games, it should still be fairly fast and cope with most general use tasks. During our hands-on we didn't notice any problems with the Q's performance with it loading and running both Android and Windows applications issue free.
Battery and storage
As well as increased power, Haswell chips are also meant to be far more efficient than older Intel processors and as a result are meant to vastly improve devices' battery lives. Because of this Samsung's listed the Q as having a reasonable nine-hour battery life. While time constraints meant we didn't get a chance to test this, if true, it will mean the Q has one of the longest battery lives seen on a non-Atom Windows 8 machine. Most competitors, like the Microsoft Surface Pro, only last on average around five and a half hours. Storage-wise the Q is set to come loaded with a 128GB SSD.
Overall our first encounter with the Samsung Ativ Q was a positive one. The Q's dual-boot feature makes it scream BYOD, having the potential to offer all the productivity perks of Windows 8, alongside Android's consumer app offering. However, there are still several key questions that need to be answered before we can know if the Q will actually make good on its potential. First is how much it will actually cost and second, is how the device will handle security - a key concern on both operating systems. It remains unclear if businesses will be able to secure both the Android and Windows operating systems without overloading the Q with multiple tools - thus eating up its modest 4GB of memory and hampering its performance.
The Q is set for release in "summer this year", check back with V3 later for a full review.
Written by V3's Alastair Stevenson