Full HD Display and Wacom Pen
As you'd expect from a higher end tablet or Ultrabook, the Samsung Smart PC Pro has a full HD display with wide viewing angles and pleasing colors. Like all touchscreens, this is a glossy display and it has plenty of glare in well lit rooms, though the 400 nits PLS display tries hard to keep things viewable in bright light. When viewing large areas of solid color (not easy to avoid when using the Windows 8 metro UI), we noted some grain, as if Samsung had applied an anti-glare coating, though none is evident. I'm not a fan of that grain unless I am getting some glare relief. This is a PLS display, which Samsung uses often in Android big screen tablets, and it has characteristics that are similar to IPS, with slightly cooler colors and bright whites. Viewing angles are wide, though not quite as wide as the Surface Pro and Acer Iconia W700. Colors are reasonable enough to do artwork and contrast is excellent. It's not my favorite tablet display, but it's head and shoulders above most laptops with TN panels.
As with most Windows 8 products other than Surface Pro, Windows 8's auto-brightness is turned on by default and it's heavy handed unless you spend most of your time in well-lit environments. Turn this feature off in Windows General settings to achieve max brightness. As with the Samsung Series 7 Slate, Samsung offers color temperature adjustment settings for movies, general use and more (general is the default).
The ATIV 700T has a Wacom digitizer with included digital pen (Samsung calls it an S Pen, just as they do with their Android products) that fits into a silo. Since Samsung wanted to give us a place to garage the pen, it had to be a small pen compared to the full size mechanical pencil design of the Samsung Series 7 Slate and MS Surface Pro pens. Have no fear; if the small S Pen gives you a hand cramp, you can use other Wacom tablet PC compatible pens like the S7S pen (which Samsung still sells) and the Surface Pro pen. The good news here is that Samsung ships the tablet with Wacom WinTab drivers so those of you who require pressure sensitivity in Adobe Photoshop, Paint Tool SAI and Corel Painter get it out of the box with no hunting or waiting for drivers (if for some reason yours doesn't have the drivers pre-installed, you can download the Wacom digitizer driver using Samsung SWUpdate software update app). That said, we found pressure curves weren't the best in Photoshop (most pen strokes were heavy even when we used a light touch), but things were better in Painter 12. There is no pressure setting option in Windows Control Panels, only pen calibration for alignment, which we had to use every few days because calibration drifts, much like other Windows 8 tablets with digital pens. You also get pressure sensitivity in programs that use the newer Windows ink API like Autodesk Sketchbook Pro and ArtRage.
Performance and Horsepower
The Samsung ATIV 700T runs on the near ubiquitous standard Ultrabook hardware: a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U ultra low voltage CPU with Intel HD 4000 graphics, 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM (soldered to the motherboard and not upgradable) and a fast 128 gig mSATA SSD. That means it's as capable as any Ultrabook and can run Windows 7 apps like Adobe Photoshop CS6, iTunes, software development tools and MS Office very well. Pure slate designs have fewer cooling opportunities compared to laptops, and that means there's more thermal throttling here vs. a machine like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 or the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A. Thermal throttling happens when the CPU or GPU temps get high and the machine automatically cuts back their clock speed until temperatures have sufficiently dropped. The Samsung throttles a bit less than the Acer Iconia W700 which almost micromanages core temps, and the Surface Pro throttles least, which is surprising since it's the smallest unit (Microsoft's perimeter ventilation is apparently quite effective).
We ran PCMark 7 no less than 8 times (poor ATIV!) because it scored lower than expected. Most runs scored around 4,034 but we have seen a few other reviews where it managed 4,400. No idea what's wrong with ours, but even at 4,400 it's a bit lower than the competition.
Windows Experience Index (scale of 1.0 - 9.9):
Desktop Graphics: 4.5
Gaming Graphics: 6.2
Primary Hard Disk: 8.1
Benchmark Comparison Table, Windows 8 ULV Notebooks and Tablets:
Keyboard Dock Included
The keyboard dock? Well, it's problematic. Early adopters on forums have complained about constant keyboard disconnects, and our retail purchased unit has that problem too. The tablet doesn't fall out of the 1.6 lb. keyboard dock but it electrically disconnects and reconnects at the slightest movement, so you'll hear the tablet bing-bong every time it thinks the keyboard was removed and reinserted. Maybe you'll get lucky and will get a unit that doesn't have this problem. The problem seems to be in the dock rather than the tablet, and Samsung will replace it if you get a bad one. Beyond that, we have to wonder why Samsung didn't put a secondary battery in the keyboard dock as do many other manufacturers, and why it has just two USB 2.0 ports rather than 3.0 ports. We'd also love to see a full size SD card slot but no luck; it's those USB ports and a pass-through charging port only. The good news is that the island style keyboard is comfortable for typing, though we like the HP Envy X2's keyboard and trackpad a bit better.
The Samsung's 4 cell Lithium Ion polymer battery puts in a relatively good showing here and we averaged 5.5 to 6 hours of actual use time on a charge with WiFi on and brightness set to 50% with auto-brightness turned on. That's about an hour better than Surface Pro but an hour short of the Acer W700. Those results are in a mixed productivity scenario with MS Office, email, web browsing, drawing in Photoshop and ArtRage Pro and streaming a 45 minute HD episode of House of Cards using the Netflix Windows 8 app.
The tablet comes with a very compact laptop style brick charger with the usual 2 piece cord.
WiFi and Bluetooth
Samsung uses Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235 dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n with Intel WiDi wireless display support. This is one of the few Core i5 Windows 8 tablets that has Intel WiFi with WiDi, so keep that in mind if you prefer WiDi to plugging a micro HDMI to HDMI cable into your HDTV to watch content on the big screen. The tablet has Intel Centrino Bluetooth 4.0 + HS but no NFC or GPS. In the US, Samsung currently doesn't offer a 3G/4G option.
There's a lot to like about the Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T: it's fast, battery life is pretty good and it has a good full HD display with both multi-touch and a Wacom digitizer. The keyboard dock is in the box, so there's no hidden cost. We're not too keen on the black plastic casing that looks more netbook than $1,200 Ultrabook and Samsung needs to get the issue with keyboard disconnects sorted out (hopefully a few months from now, only working docks will be on the shelves). If you're a transformer type who needs both a laptop-style typing experience and a dual digitizer with digital pen, the Samsung ATIV 700T is the go-to model among Intel Core i5 Windows 8 tablets.
Microsoft Surface Pro Review
Samung ATIV Smart PC 500T Review
HP Envy x2 Review
Samsung Series 7 Slate Review