Samsung goes big with Windows 8-powered Ativ line

Ativ tablet, laptops, and PCs take center stage amid a smorgasbord of new Samsung devices.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
4 min read
Samsung Ativ Tab 3
Samsung unveiled the Samsung Ativ Tab 3 at an event in London on Thursday. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Ativ name may be silly, but Samsung Electronics is betting heavily on it as the namesake for anything related to Windows.

In a showcase Thursday that featured a slew of products, Samsung's Ativ line played a central role. Ativ has become the umbrella brand that includes laptops, tablets, all-in-ones, and smartphones, and some of the devices were on display.

Samsung is hoping history repeats itself with Ativ. It previously poured its resources into developing the Galaxy brand for anything associated with Android, and its flagship Galaxy S line of smartphones is a smash hit, with the Galaxy name extending into multiple lines of successful phones and tablets.

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Microsoft could certainly use the jolt. The reception for Windows 8 has been tepid, with users uncomfortable with the new tile-based user interface. In May, Microsoft boasted of 100 million Windows 8 licenses sold, but critics contend usage and interest remains low.

The company announced the Ativ Q, a convertible device that can change between tablet and laptop forms and runs Windows and Android.

The device juggles both Windows 8 and Android 4.2.2, also known as Jelly Bean. Users can switch between the operating systems quickly, and you can pin Android apps on the Windows start screen.

It has a hinge design that allows it to change into four different forms: a flat tablet mode; a laptop mode; an angled display or floating display for more comfortable viewing; and a display mode achieved when you flip the display.

The Ativ Q can juggle both Android and Windows 8. CNET

The device runs on a 13.3-inch display with an intensely rich 3,200x1,800-pixel resolution and 275 pixels per inch, which the company boasts is the world's highest resolution. The qHD display is optimized for use in bright sunlight conditions. It also includes a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor for the camera and an Intel i5 Haswell processor. It's 13.9 millimeters thick and 1.29 kilograms. It has 4 gigabytes of memory and a 128GB solid-state drive for storage. It has two USB ports, an HDMI port, and a slot for a microSD card.

The tablet also comes with an S-Pen stylus, that works with popular apps such as Evernote.

Samsung also announced the Ativ Tab 3, a slate powered by Windows 8.

The company boasts that the Ativ Tab 3 is the world's thinnest Windows 8 tablet, and said the device shares many design cues with the Galaxy line of tablets. Like the Galaxy Note line and Ativ Q, the Ativ Tab 3 comes with the S-pen stylus, which works with Office applications.

The tablet has a 10.1-inch display with a 1,366 by 768 resolution, weighs 550 grams, and is 8.2 millimeters thick. The tablet uses an Intel Atom processor, has 2GB of memory and 64GB of storage.

Microsoft Office 2013 is bundled into the tablet for free, Samsung said.

Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite
Samsung's Ativ Book 9 Lite is one of nine products that Samsung officially launched on Thursday. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Korean consumer electronics giant also unveiled the Ativ Book 9 Plus, which is the successor to its Series 9 line of laptops, as well as the Ativ Book 9 Lite, which is the budget-friendlier equivalent.

Samsung said the Ativ Book 9 Plus boots up in six seconds and wakes up from sleep mode in one second.

The Ativ Book Plus will come with a 13-inch display with 3,200x1,800-pixel resolution, a touch screen, and 12 hours of battery. It is 13.6 millimeters thick and weighs 1.3 kilograms. It will use one of Intel's Haswell series processors (i5 or i7), which the chipmaker boasts offers better horsepower with vastly improved battery life. It can hold a maximum of 8 gigabytes of memory and 256GB of storage. It has two USB 3.0 ports, a micro HDMI port, and mini-VGA port.

Its more affordable cousin, the Ativ Book 9 Lite, will also have a 13-inch display, but is a hair thicker and slightly heavier at 16.9 millimeters and 1.44 kilograms. Unlike the Plus, the Lite version will have a touch screen as an option. It will use a solid-state drive for storage, and a Samsung-specific quad-core processor. It will come with a maximum of 4GB of memory and 256GB of storage.

The Lite has one USB 2.0 port and one USB 3.0 port, as well as a micro HDMI and mini-VGA ports.

The Lite also comes in three colors: wine red, marble white, and ash black.

The company unveiled the Ativ One 5 Style, an all-in-one computer expected to compete against Apple's iMac or other fully integrated computers such as Dell's XPS One.

The all-in-one has a 21.5-inch touch-screen display with 1,290x1,080-resolution, 4GB of memory, up to 1 terabyte of storage, and a quad-core AMD processor. It will also have two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, an HDMI port, and a 3-in-1 card reader.

Samsung executives banter about the latest Ativ devices. CNET

Missing from the lineup were any devices running on Windows RT, the stripped down version of Microsoft's Windows 8 that runs on a different processor architecture that is more similar to tablets and smartphones, making for cheaper and more power-efficient products. One Samsung executive stressed the point that the products were not running on Windows RT, an implicit shot against the ill-received OS.

Samsung also didn't show off any new Ativ smartphones running on the Windows Phone operating system. Despite public declarations of its support for multiple operating systems, the company's mind has largely focused on Android, which powers all of its hit smartphones. The company expanded its line-up of Galaxy S4 phones with three new devices, the Galaxy S4 Mini, the more rugged Active, and optical lens-packing Zoom.