Samsung is throwing its full weight behind Windows 8 with two new 11-inch tablets that come with an S Pen for note-taking and an optional keyboard dock that's dead simple to use. Plus, Samsung is defying Microsoft’s design sensibilities by slapping a Start menu right on the desktop.
UPDATE: Samsung has confirmed that the S Launcher Start utility will not be included on the final version. Bummer
Similar to Microsoft’s Surface strategy, the Atom-powered Series 5 Slate (starting at $649) is aimed at the lower end of the market, while the Core i5-powered Series 7 Slate ($1,199) we went hands-on with will target mobile professionals. The key difference is that both tablets will run full Windows 8. No gimped RT here.
Check out our hands-on impressions and video.
Regardless of which model you choose, the built-in S Pen will give professionals plenty of versatility, with an impressive 1,024 levels of sensitivity. In fact, Samsung will bundle both slates with its own S Note app, which will let you sync notes via S Cloud with other Samsung devices, like the Galaxy Note 10.1 or Galaxy Note phone.
Samsung’s home-grown Start menu utility is sure to ruffle some feathers in Redmond. Positioned right in the center of the desktop, you can see all of your programs in a drop-down menu, and get easy access to your documents, pictures and more on the right side of this box. There’s even a dedicated Shut down button. Samsung will also include its All Share technology for sharing content with Samsung TVs, as well as its Media and Music Hubs.
While the Series 5 Slate and Series 7 Slate sport an 11-inch display, the Series 5 will have a resolution of 1366 x768, while the Series 7 ups it to 1920 x 1080 pixels. The Series 5 is on the hefty side, weighing 1.6 pounds. The Series 7 will be even heavier (around 2 pounds) and thicker to accommodate a fan. The plastic build is fairly solid but not exactly sexy.
We’re also not fans of all of the port flaps, which cover the USB 3.0, microSD Card and SIM card slots up top. You’ll find an additional USB port on one side and mini HDMI on the other—yes, with more flaps.
One of our favorite features of the Series 5 and Series 7 is the optional keyboard dock. The push-button release is the easiest mechanism we’ve seen yet for switching from laptop to tablet mode. Plus, the magnets keep this clamshell secure in notebook mode. The keyboard offered plenty of travel during our hands-on time, and the touchpad was accurate (though we wish it were centered between the G and H keys).
The Series 5 Slate will ship with a 2-watt Intel Clover Trail processor, 2GB of RAM and 64GB of flash memory. Samsung says to expect 9 hours of battery life. The Series 7 Slate will feature a Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD memory. The trade-off is that you’ll get about half as much battery life.
So do either of these hybrids do it for you? Or will you wait for the Surface?