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Microsoft took a lot of its partners by surprise when it disclosed that it was working on its own tablet, particularly since the company had already been guiding the likes of Dell, HP, Samsung, Acer, and Lenovo through what it wanted to see, design-wise. This might not have been awkward if the Surface was a flop. But it's actually a good-looking, well-built piece of hardware. The kickstand and cover combination is both clever and practical. And we think that magnesium chassis is great.
How does Samsung's ATIV Tab compare? Well, by virtue of its Qualcomm APQ8060A SoC, it serves up better battery life. And that's from a lower-capacity power source in a lighter package. Our benchmarks also tell us that the Tab offers superior color performance from its display, though the difference is nearly imperceptible.
At the same time, we're not fans of the plastic shell, just as we criticized it on the ATIV Smart PC 500T. There's also no kickstand (I had to prop it up against a picture frame to get the shot above). And although the Tab is clearly meant to be complemented by a docking station of some sort, we still haven't seen what Samsung has planned as an optional upgrade for folks who can get their hands on this tablet overseas.
Does the ATIV Tab deliver a better experience in Windows RT than its competition? Not really. The same limitations we ran into on the Surface apply here as well. Samsung's device does wield faster hardware, but IE10 still stutters if you ask too much of it. Moreover, in a multi-monitor configuration (something we're partial to), simply moving your mouse around causes skipping if you're watching video on YouTube.
Of course, given confirmation that Samsung isn't releasing the ATIV Tab in North America just yet, it'd seem the company came to the same conclusion as us, just a little sooner. Nothing prevents Samsung from revisiting our market later in 2013 though, particularly if its concerns about Windows RT are addressed.
Should that happen, we'd advise Samsung to mind its pricing. At least in the U.K., 32 GB Tabs are selling for £525, or just a little less than a 64 GB Surface. In a head-to-head against Microsoft's Surface, we'd be looking for the ATIV Tab at a discount, and even then only if Samsung were to make a sturdy docking station available as an option.
We're definitely looking forward to getting our hands on tablets with Qualcomm's recently-announced 600- and 800-family SoCs, but Samsung's decision to hold off on the ATIV Tab in North America, at least for the time being, was the right one to make. This isn't a bad tablet by any means, but better Windows RT-equipped options already exist.