Samsung Ativ S review: A fresh start

GSMArena team, 30 October 2012.

Display

The Ativ S uses a 4.8" Super AMOLED HD screen - the same unit the Galaxy S III has. This means you can expect impressive image quality with the perfect blacks that really make the WP8 UI spring to life and punchy colors.

Samsung Ativ S
The Ativ S display

The colors are nicely saturated, but unlike the Galaxy S III, the Ativ S doesn't give you the option to tune them down if you don't like them this way. Still even the greatest LCD fans will admit that the black backgrounds of WP8 look way better on AMOLED screens.

Here's how the Samsung Ativ S did in our dedicated display test. Its brightness came a little lower than that of the Galaxy S III - Samsung probably had to make some adjustments to account for the different way the brightness settings are handled in Windows Phone.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Samsung Ativ S 0 129 0 302
LG Optimus G 0.14 197 1445 0.33 471 1438
LG Optimus 4X HD 0.34 369 1077 0.68 750 1102
Nokia 808 PureView - - - 0 455
Samsung Galaxy Note II 0 215 0 402
Motorola RAZR i 0 169 0 370
Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III 0 174 0 330
HTC One X 0.15 200 1375 0.39 550 1410
Apple iPhone 5 0.13 200 1490 0.48 640 1320

You can learn more about the testing process over here.

By the way there is also a dedicated display setting for auto display intensity, which might help extend your battery life. For example when a predominantly white background is displayed, the brightness will be automatically reduced to keep power consumption under control. You can turn this on/off in the Extra Settings menu.

Sunlight legibility is splendid - the HD Super AMOLED isn't the brightest around, but its reflectivity is so low that even outside in the brightest of days, you'll still be able to quite clearly see what's on the screen. Again, the Ativ S came slightly short of the Galaxy S III achievement, but that can easily be explained with the lower brightness of the screen.

Contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.970
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.680
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • HTC Desire C
    1.300
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.180
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

Viewing angles are impressive - there's some color tint to be seen when you reach the extremes, but the icons and text remain almost perfectly clear.

Just like the Galaxy S III, the Ativ S screen employs a PenTile matrix, but considering the high ppi you'd need to be looking from such a close range that your eyes will hurt to notice any crosshatch pattern.

Handling

We have to admit, the looks of the Ativ S take second place to size. Samsung's WP8 flagship is the biggest of the new generation of Microsoft-powered smartphones. But is it the handsomest? With Nokia Lumia 920 featuring that oh so sweet polycarbonate unibody, the answer is probably no.

Yet, Samsung have managed to achieve a premium look and feel without using exceptional materials and finish. If the Galaxy S III is a worthy reference, the Ativ S looks better. And because aesthetics are always a subjective thing, the important things to consider about the Ativ S design are the AMOLED screen, expandable storage and user-replaceable battery. They are all clearly points in favor over both the Nokia Lumia 920 and the HTC Windows Phone 8X.

Samsung Ativ S Samsung Ativ S
Samsung Ativ S held in hand

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