It’s half a year behind, but with the Samsung Ativ S, the South Korean giant has finally come up with a Windows Phone version of its smash hit Galaxy S3 phone. Like its Android powered brother, it sports a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED HD display, and runs on a whizzy dual-core 1.5GHz processor, while an eight megapixel camera capable of shooting HD video lurks around the back. But is Windows Phone 8 really a worthy substitute for Google’s mobile OS? Let’s take a look.
The Samsung Ativ S may not be the most striking of Windows Phones - in between Nokia and HTC’s colourful efforts you could easily overlook it - but when it comes to hardware, it’s easily our favourite. For its large size, it’s incredibly light and thin (just 135g), with well placed buttons that are still easy to reach. It looks like a cross between a Samsung Galaxy S3 and a Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and that’s no bad thing.
The display meanwhile is mesmerising: the HD resolution makes it pin sharp, and the vivid colours Samsung’s Super AMOLED tech produces really make the colourful tiles of the Windows Phone homescreen stand out.
We can’t really fault the Samsung Ativ S for its hardware: it may not be as striking as the Nokia Lumia 920, nor possess the same fantastic PureView camera, but it’s also a full third lighter, and not nearly as fat.
The software is where the issues lie. We’re not going to linger on Windows Phone 8 itself: unlike Android, its core doesn’t vary between devices since Microsoft doesn’t let manufacturers tinker with it. It’s fast, power-sipping, easy to use and colourful, but it still lacks the apps and excellent web browsers of Apple and Google’s platforms. Be sure to check out our full review of it to find out if it’s for you.
If it is, you still need to consider whether the Samsung Ativ S is the right choice for you. Phone makers can’t change Windows Phone, but they can provide their own exclusive apps for it, and Samsung’s are a little lazy. There’s a “Now” app which shows you the weather and Yahoo! News reports, a basic image editor and a Music Hub where you can buy songs for download - except it’s powered by 7digital, which has an app for Windows Phone anyway.
It’s a meagre selection compared to the exclusive apps you’ll find on a Nokia Lumia Windows Phone, particularly the super Nokia Music free streaming app, and the utterly essential Nokia Drive, a free satnav app with maps for the entire world you can download in advance. Samsung’s rubbish calendar app does little to make up for this. It’s a shame, as a Samsung Windows Phone with Nokia’s extras would be a dream come true for many.
The bottom line
The Samsung Ativ S doesn’t push the boat out when it comes to build like the Nokia Lumia 920, but its big, gorgeous display and light weight make it the most comfortable of the top notch Windows Phone 8 blowers so far. Sadly, Samsung’s phoned in the software: until someone can come up with mapping software to rival Nokia’s, our advice remains the same: if you’re going to go with a Windows Phone, it needs to be a Lumia.
Samsung Ativ S available to buy at Expansys