Samsung's hinged Ativ Q hybrid does it all
LONDON -- It's a hybrid device, transforming from a Windows 8 slate into a full-fledged laptop in one quick motion. That's not all, though -- at the tap of an icon it'll boot into Android Jelly Bean, letting you swipe around all of your favorite apps from the Google Play store.
It's packing the latest Intel Haswell Core i5 processor, with a 13-inch display boasting a whopping 3,200x1,800-pixel resolution. Samsung has yet to announce pricing or availability, but make sure to keep checking CNET for all the latest news.
The Ativ Q's standard form is a rather chunky 13-inch slate. Lift the display up at the back, though, and it reveals a keyboard underneath. The screen folds up and locks into place behind the keys, allowing you to type and swipe in much the same way you would on any other touch-screen laptop.
It's the same converting technique we saw on Sony's Vaio Duo, but Samsung has taken it a step further. Rather than converting just between laptop and slate, the screen can lie flat, lifted above and parallel to the keyboard. I'm not entirely sure why you'd want to keep it in that position -- rather than have it lying flat in tablet mode -- but I guess it's useful to have the option.
More helpful though is the option to flip the screen all the way over, turning it, essentially, into a tablet on a stand. The screen automatically rotates as you turn it over. Samsung reckons this mode is best to use for presentations in meetings or just for watching video when you don't want the keyboard exposed.
Samsung also includes its S Pen stylus for handwritten notes or doodling when you're bored. It's the same smaller variety you'll get on the Galaxy Note 10.1, meaning it's not particularly comfortable to hold, but does at least slot neatly into the base.
The converting motion seemed fairly smooth in my brief hands-on time, although I worry that over time the small hinges might not be able to put up with much punishment. That's particularly important, as the rear stand is actually where the CPU is housed. While that's an interesting space-saving design, it potentially puts the delicate components at more risk from knocks and bumps. We'll give it a full stress test when we get it in for review.
It's a 13-inch machine with physical proportions roughly the same as any other 13-inch ultrabook's. It's 14 millimeters thick, which is satisfyingly skinny, it's small enough to slide easily into most backpacks, and at around 1.3kg (2.8 pounds), you won't struggle to carry it around for long periods either.
The keyboard's keys are quite small, so it might not suit those of you with hands the size of continents. There's no touch pad like you'd find on a normal laptop either. You'll have to make do with the little trackpoint in the middle of the keys, or just use the touch screen.
The 13.3-inch display boasts an astonishing 3,200x1,800-pixel resolution, which is the highest pixel count we've seen on a 13-inch machine. It gives it a pixel density of 275 pixels per inch -- better than the 9.7-inch Retina iPad's 264ppi, and a massive amount for such a big display.
Unsurprisingly then, everything looked absolutely pin-sharp. It's bright, too, and colors seemed rich and vivid. I wasn't able to spend a lot of time with the screen, so I'll leave my final judgment for the proper review, but suffice to say I'm excited to see my own high-resolution photos on it.
Windows 8 and Android Jelly Bean
Like James Bond's gadget guru, Samsung's own Q has a trick up its sleeve. It's first and foremost a Windows 8 laptop, but at the tap of a tile, it can boot into Android Jelly Bean. At first glance this might seem a bit of a gimmick, but when you take a moment to think about it, it actually makes a lot of sense.
If you're struggling to decide whether to splash your cash on a Windows laptop, a Windows tablet, or an Android slate, Samsung might have just the solution in the Ativ Q.
You can work in Windows 8 as on a regular laptop, taking advantage of the familiar Windows layout and Office tools. When the busywork is done, switch over to Android to play touch-screen games and casually swipe around any of the hundreds of thousands of apps from the Google Play store. Even if that doesn't appeal, the sheer number of additional Android apps goes a fair distance to make up for the lack of good titles in the Windows Marketplace.
The Android portion runs on the same Intel Core i5 processor as the Windows portion, so performance should be satisfyingly zippy. The chip is the latest Haswell silicon from Intel, which promises better battery life than its predecessor -- again, I'll test this properly in the review.
Switching between the two operating systems is a simple task of hitting a tile on the Windows 8 desktop. The switch takes a couple of seconds at most and thankfully doesn't require a restart. Going back to Windows is simply a matter of hitting the Windows home key beneath the display. The operating systems also share file folders, meaning anything you save in your gallery in Android will be available in your pictures folder when you return to Windows.
Interestingly, Samsung hasn't tried to apply any of its usual software additions over the top of Android. Instead, you get the pure vanilla Jelly Bean experience. It's the full-fat version of Windows onboard, too, rather than the hobbled Windows RT version, which was specifically designed for tablets. That means you're able to install any normal desktop software.
You can't blame the Ativ Q if it struggles to understand itself. It's at once a Windows tablet, an Android tablet, and a Windows laptop. Samsung evidently hopes this combination will be the perfect solution for people who want a device to suit both work and play.
Whether that's really the case or if it's actually a confusing hash of products that should remain separate entities remains to be seen. I'm certainly looking forward to finding out which it is, though.