It should hardly be a surprise that the Ativ S has almost exactly the same measurements as the Galaxy S III. At 137x70.5x8.7 mm, it's slimmer and narrower by the smallest of margins, but it's also 0.4mm longer. The Ativ S also weighs about the same as its popular sibling - 135g vs 133 g for the Galaxy S III.
Like the Galaxy S III, the Ativ S is entirely made of plastic but uses a different finish and has a distinct styling. Less curvy and given up the hyperglaze of its droid cousin, the Ativ S looks somewhat more muscular and aggressive.
Samsung went for a less complicated styling than with the "nature-inspired" Galaxy S III and we think it did its WP8 flagship a favor. The droid might be the more powerful device but the rectangular shape and the prominent Start button of Ativ S convey a stronger visual message.
What the Galaxy S III has in its favor is a somewhat better fit in hand but the look and feel of brushed aluminum beats hyperglaze. To be clear, the rear cover is all plastic, and quite thin too, but it fits perfectly in place not giving in to pressure at all. The finish is a perfect imitation of brushed aluminum.
It goes well with the chrome framing around the 4.8" Super AMOLED screen.
Above the screen are the usual suspects - an earpiece, proximity and ambient light sensors, and a 1.9MP camera for video chat.
Below the display we find the mandatory Windows three-button control deck. - The Start button is of the regular kind , while Back and Search are capacitive touch keys. The Start button is quite prominent and solid to press, as well as pretty comfortable to locate by touch. That makes sense as it has no backlighting whatsoever. The capacitive keys on the other hand have pleasant haptic feedback (which can be disabled) and solid white backlighting.
The right side of the Ativ S has the lock/power key and the camera shutter. A dedicated camera key is mandated by Microsoft in all Windows phones, and we cannot agree more. The shutter key on the Ativ S is pleasingly responsive with a soft but distinct half press. It will launch the camera even when the phone is locked and does so amazingly fast. The power key is placed higher than on the Galaxy S III and is harder to reach.
The thin volume rocker is the only control on the left side.
The top and the bottom sides are nothing out of the ordinary - the 3.5mm jack and the secondary microphone are on top, and the microUSB port plus the mouthpiece reside at the bottom of the Ativ S.
The Ativ S back is quite good-looking. Although it's made of plastic, it almost has the genuine cold feel of brushed metal, next to being absolutely fingerprint-proof. The camera lens is centrally placed at the top, the single-LED flash on its left.
The engraved Samsung logo, the Windows Phone branding and the prominent side-to-side loudspeaker grille complete the solid, engineered look of the rear.
Under the cover, the hot-swappable microSD slot and the microSIM slot are right above the battery compartment. The Ativ S is powered by a 2300 mAh battery.