Tech Biz

Draw-On Portables: Samsung ATIV Q vs. Microsoft Surface Pro

Both of these tablet-laptop hybrids run Windows 8 and accept styluses.

J.T. Quigley

Although Windows 8 has struggled with mainstream adoption, the fusion of a familiar-to-use Windows experience and a more modern touch-screen interface is likely to become the norm – at least as long as traditional and hybrid laptops exist.

The Windows 8-powered Samsung ATIV Q and Surface Pro are both capable portables that can function comfortably as full-blown laptops. With both offering stylus support, they add versatility for regular users and a necessary function for those in art-focused lines of work.

Both the ATIV Q and Surface Pro are, essentially, tablets on steroids. “They have the guts of Ultrabooks,” quips GizMag. “There's some kind of touchscreen or tablet functionality, and they also offer some kind of physical keyboard.”

Samsung’s ATIV Q is technically a convertible, as the keyboard is permanently attached to the screen. It allows for several different viewing angles, and the keyboard can be folded back to make it a tablet. The ATIV Q is larger and heavier than the Surface Pro – but it also sports one of the most dazzling displays ever seen on a portable consumer device.

The ATIV Q also offers dual-booting of Windows 8 and Android, giving users full access to Google Play store apps. It can even share information between the two operating systems.

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At 327mm long by 218mm wide, the ATIV Q is 47 percent larger than the Surface Pro. It is only negligibly thicker – even with the built-in keyboard – at 13.9mm. It weighs in at 2.84 pounds, almost a full pound heavier than the Surface Pro. But most importantly, the ATIV Q’s 13.3-inch display packs an incredible 3200 x 1800 pixels with 276 PPI.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro is a tablet first, but the detachable keyboard (sold separately) turns it into a full-fledged laptop. It’s small and lightweight – 275mm x 173mm x 13.5mm and only 1.99 pounds. While not as impressive as the ATIV Q, the Surface Pro comes equipped with a full HD 1080p screen that is 10.6 inches diagonally.

The Surface Pro also runs Windows 8 Pro, while the ATIV Q is stuck with the standard version.

Apart from size and screen, the two machines also come with completely different processors and GPUs. While both are powered by Intel components matched to 4GB of RAM, the ATIV Q features the latest-generation Haswell Core i5 chipset rated at 2.6GHz. It also offers an Intel HD Graphics 4400 card.

The Surface Pro, on the other hand, uses last year’s Ivy Bridge Core i5, with a clock speed of 1.7GHz and a HD Graphics 4000 GPU.

As for internal storage, the ATIV Q offers 128GB and the Surface Pro offers either 64 or 128GB configurations. Both accept external storage via microSD card slots. Both also have 720p front-facing cameras and USB 3.0 ports – but the ATIV Q has a HDMI port and the Surface Pro has a Mini Display port.

Finally, the battery life must be considered. The ATIV Q, powered by the super-efficient Haswell CPU, claims nine hours of usage between charges. The Surface Pro has been criticized for its weak four-hour battery life – a deal breaker for many.

The ATIV Q has been announced, but Samsung is mum about a release date and price. PhonesReviewUK reported that Samsung is taking preorders in Germany – to the tune of 1599 euros ($2140).  However, the blog also stated that “devices are often cheaper in the US [therefore] it’s still thought that the likely price of the device stateside will be around the $1599 mark.”

The Surface Pro was recently given a $100 price cut, making the entry-level model only $799. Although the ATIV Q boasts the latest and greatest components, the Surface Pro is only half as expensive.

Despite the price, artists may be tempted to splurge on the ATIV Q. Samsung’s convertible includes an S Pen stylus with 1024 degrees of pressure sensitivity. The higher resolution and longer battery life could also be a deciding factor for artistic professionals.

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Those looking for something affordable and ultraportable will probably be happy with the Surface Pro from Microsoft. However, anyone with deep pockets and patience should probably hold out for the higher spec ATIV Q from Samsung.