A Buggy But Beautiful Laptop - Wired

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Earlier this year, Samsung announced it would be rebranding its entire PC and Windows-based tablet lineup. Formerly categorized under a collection of computers named “Series something,” Samsung’s new machines now fall under an umbrella called ATIV, with laptops now known as ATIV Books. While the numerical suffixes are sticking around, the “Series” part of the name has been ported over to new numbers. You’ll find ATIV Books on the market ranging from the ATIV Book 2 (lowest end) to the ATIV Book 9 (top of the ladder).

The ATIV Book 6 sits squarely in the middle of this pack. It has a somewhat rare 15.6-inch touchscreen (upgraded to a full 1920 x 1080 pixels) and is powered by a 2.4GHz third-generation Core i7, 8GB of RAM, and a 1TB traditional hard drive. An AMD Radeon HD 8770M handles graphics (switchable with integrated graphics as needed), while connectivity includes four USB ports (two 2.0, two 3.0), HDMI, VGA, SD card slot, and a pop-out Ethernet port.

There’s no denying this matte-black system with understated glossy black and chrome detailing looks good on paper and in reality. But the ATIV Book is a system that clearly suffers from some first-generation hiccups, and buyers will have to be patient with its quirks (presumably while waiting for driver updates and Windows 8.1).

My most immediate issue involved the overall keyboard layout. The ATIV Book 6 includes a numeric keypad, which naturally shifts everything else to the left. But this feels extreme, pushed awfully far over to the point where I just couldn’t get situated for touch typing. (Your fingers want to hit the numeric 4 instead of the Enter key, for example.)

To put this in perspective, if you look at the top row of keys on the typical laptop, the center of the machine will hit somewhere around the 6 or 7. On the ATIV Book 6, the 9 key is in the center of the machine. The touchpad is also slid over to the left, a natural shift, but reaching all the way over for the left Ctrl key is surprisingly difficult, even with big hands.

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

While this is something you can probably get used to (though I never did during my multi-day test period), other issues aren’t as readily reparable. There is substantial lag when launching apps — this is evident in benchmark results — and I had initial trouble getting software to run at all on the machine.

Two simple benchmarks required several attempts to install and get running successfully. Samsung ended up sending a second machine that didn’t have the installation problems, but did experience the same lag issues. (The company blames Norton, for what it’s worth.) What’s up with all this remains a bit of a mystery. General app performance is good, but not great — a bit on the slow side but not bad considering the non-SSD hard drive. Battery life, at a shade under 4 hours on full-screen video playback, is good for a machine of this size.

AMD graphics are increasingly rare on laptops, and here it’s evident why. Frame rates were lower across the board when compared to Nvidia-based laptops, although they’re considerably higher than even latest-generation integrated graphics scores. Ultimately, if you’re looking for a gaming rig, the ATIV Book 6 probably won’t suffice.

On the plus side, the notebook is impressively slim. At 27mm thick, it’s a full 10mm thinner (and, at 5.4 pounds, a pound lighter) than the 15.6-inch Lenovo IdeaPad Y500 we reviewed just two months ago. And the IdeaPad doesn’t even have a touchscreen. One other bonus you get with this machine is Samsung’s new SideSync app, which lets you see, and control, a Samsung Galaxy device via your computer. That’s a lot better than the usual shovelware.

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

Still, all that initial bugginess is troubling. On the other hand, if you can get comfortable using the ATIV Note 6 on a day-to-day basis, it may still be a worthwhile buy.

WIRED Good specs, thoughtful extras. Slim and light considering its screen size. Responsive, crisp touchscreen.

TIRED Uncomfortable keyboard layout. Some general bugginess. Old, third-generation CPU.

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED


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