With the launch of Windows 8 just around the corner, new tablets and PCs will soon start appearing everywhere sporting this new software. Samsung's getting in on the game early with the Ativ Smart PC -- an 11.6-inch beast of a slate that offers a keyboard dock for some speedy office work.
There's no word yet on pricing or availability but we'll keep you posted when we find out more.
With a screen size of 11.6 inches, the Smart PC is considerably bigger than most tablets you'll find on the shelves. It's certainly taking the top spot among Samsung's existing slate line-up with the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 offering a more compact unit.
It's the same size that Samsung showed off with its Series 7 Slate PC -- which I doubt you'll have seen on sale in many places -- and I found it to be rather too big for portable work. It's well sized for working on at your desk and at 304mm wide, 9.9mm thick and 189mm deep, it's smaller than most laptops so you won't struggle to cram it into a bag. However, that size means it weighs a not inconsiderable 750g, so holding it in one hand and swiping around might be a struggle.
It's not just about the tablet though -- the Smart PC comes with a clamshell that folds out to provide a full-sized keyboard. It's a similar system to what we've seen already on tablets like the Asus Transformer Prime and Microsoft's upcoming Surface tablets, so it's evidently a concept we're going to be seeing a lot more of in the coming months.
When closed, the case brings the overall thickness to 19.9mm and the weight to 1.45kg. That's pretty chunky for a tablet but will hopefully mean it's much less susceptible to knocks and bumps when you cram it into a bag and cart it off around town.
Screen and features
The 11.6-inch screen offers a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is the same found on the existing Series 7 Slate PC -- I found that to be bright and sharp. If Samsung at least matches that display, I'll be content. If it beats it, then great stuff. It does, however, offer 10-point multi-touch, which is a significant improvement over the 2-point offered on most tablets. This should make swiping around Windows 8's Metro interface that much easier.
Like the Slate PC before it -- and, of course, Samsung's Galaxy Note phone and tablet -- the Smart PC has a stylus for tapping around the interface or just for doodling. Windows 8 is designed very much with touch in mind, so you might find using your finger easier for general navigation, but on my Windows 8 tablet, a stylus comes in very handy for taking notes and using sketching applications.
Windows 8 software
The Smart PC will ship as standard with Windows 8, which is the latest iteration of Microsoft's operating system. If you haven't seen much of Windows 8 before, expect a radical change from the standard layouts of Windows 7. The traditional desktop is replaced by a sliding bar full of colourful app buttons listed in a grid formation.
It's a very visually pleasing interface and it's evidently been built with the touchscreen in mind -- each icon is so big that even the dizziest of toddlers won't struggle to choose the right one. I have so far been very pleased with the interface on my tablet so I'm looking forward to seeing what tweaks, if any, Samsung has made.
What it will be bundling with Windows is its S Note app -- seen before on the Galaxy Notes including the Note 10.1 -- which aims to make quickly writing shopping lists or annotating pictures easier. Also present will be the ChatOn instant messaging application that will apparently sync with the Windows People app, allowing you to see all your contacts from your social networking services in one place.
It's running on an Intel Atom processor, although Samsung hasn't been forthcoming about exactly what speed or how many cores this uses, so it's difficult to gauge precisely how powerful this thing will be. The 2GB of RAM should help it multi-task pretty well though.
With Windows 8 on board and the keyboard dock, the Sony Ativ Smart PC is evidently designed for those of you who want to get some serious work done on your tablet, not just play Fruit Ninja. Its 11.6-inch size certainly won't appeal if you need a lightweight slate for travelling, but if work is your priority -- and if the price is right -- it might be worth a look. Stay tuned for a full review soon.