Samsung ATIV Book 8 NP880Z5E-X01 (subjective owner’s) review

I have bought this computer some 6 months ago.

Samsung ATIV 8 on Amazon

It is my primary computer since, as I moved to Germany last year, and did not bring any computers with me, and as I did not permanently settle here, I did not want to buy any desktops until I decide where I’m going to live more than a year. I wanted something lightweight and small, but still with full HD screen, and if possible with decent VGA card, as I was collecting some games that I like on Steam, with plan to play sometimes, so it was nice to have feature.

My primary use of computer is Visual Studio (with Resharper), Office (365 installed offline), reading articles and Skype/Viber. I also run virtual machines in VmWare player or VirtualBox when I want to test something etc. Therefore I wanted computer with i7 CPU. Ram was to be 16GB as it is max that current generation of motherboards can support, and SSD drive as mechanical hard drive is slow (biggest bottleneck of any computer), heavy, and unnatural for an electronic device. I also wanted good keyboard, but I could not find computer which has it combined with all other qualities, so I decided to buy Das Keyboard Model S Ultimate later.

If you take a look at this computer, it is not really what I wanted, as it has 1TB mechanical, 5400RPM drive and 8GB of RAM. As everything else was acceptable, and it has decent Radeon 8000 series graphics card, I decided I can live with less than perfect keyboard (from what reviews said) and bought it.

First downside, HDD was fixed with Samsung 840 Pro 256GB, which was easy to install, and original HDD is now in this External 2.5″ HDD enclosure, which is very good and I can only recommend it, it even has special connector (not standard mini-USB, but with double contacts, for better power supply). To install HDD into this computer, whole bottom cover needs to be removed, and also you need to disconnect quite a few connectors inside to access HDD, but it should not be a problem for anyone who ever opened a tablet or phone. To find out how to do it yourself, you can see this video on YouTube.

Second downside was trivial to solve, as laptop is delivered with one soldered (you cannot replace it) 8GB RAM module, and I just ordered Kingston 8GB DDR3 1600MHz and plugged it in (there is small cover for installing RAM, so you don’t have to open whole computer).

As I’m not trying to give an complete and objective review on this device (there are already plenty on the Internet), I want to go straight to the point that interests any of you thinking about buying it – what are “hidden” downsides and problems of this device, that you cannot really read from reviews, but you have to use it extensively to find out:

  1. Touch screen functionality enabling/disabling requires you to log out, and if you just close screen lid while computer is on and unlocked, touch is not disabled while screen is off, metal surface interacts with screen (random touch/click/drag events) and can cause all kind of weird things happening on your desktop (from my experience, worse than letting 2-year old play with touch screen). This is one of most annoying issues, that Samsung could solve by providing bug fix for their driver software.
  2. Hard drive is slow, not anything specially slower than other mechanical drives (even faster), but still, in my opinion computer is completely unusable with default hard drive, and if you plan to spend money on this computer, calculate additional cost of SSD with, or otherwise go for similarly priced computer that already has SSD. You don’t need Core i7 in same computer that only has spinning platters storage inside. With SSD, it is completely different device, especially with this Samsung 840 Pro, as Samsung Magician software has “Rapid mode” that uses system RAM for caching, so in normal usage achieves results that are impossible through SATA 3 interface:

    Crystal disk mark of Samsung SSD pro 256GB
    Crystal disk mark of Samsung SSD pro 256GB
  3. If you put it to sleep, while you have “Hybrid sleep” enabled, and configured options to go to hibernation after certain time in sleep (i.e. 2 hours), when moment to go to hibernation comes, computer turns on, and stops on screen saying it cannot load windows. There were very weird things happening with it, i.e. sometimes I would put it to sleep in evening, and when I turn it on in the morning it would freeze on windows welcome. Then I would kill it with holding 4 seconds power switch, do a clean boot, and then just send it to hibernation and turn on again to get my session from last night! I know it sounds crazy, but I did it more than once. Something is wrong with either computer or how windows saves memory to drive, and then it remains for next session. Sometimes this would cause computer to turn on to go to hibernation, and then as I’m not there it would stay so on “cannot load windows screen” few hours, and it would become very hot. It happened in bag once, and if I did not remove it it could have been roasted. If you leave it to sleep in evening with charger disconnected, you may encounter in morning that it is off and battery completely drained, with your windows session gone. I’m not sure if it is caused by installing SSD and enabling Rapid mode, or maybe with installing another RAM module, but I don’t remember having this issue when computer was completely new, but it might have never been configured to go to hibernation after some sleep at that time. For me, issue is solved by disabling sleep, I configured it to always go to hibernation. As SSD is very fast, difference is unnoticeable, so it is very good workaround that completely eliminates issue.
  4. SD card slot is “reduced size” (half depth), so if you are used to carry around a fast and big SD-card to extend your HDD capacity like me, then count it out on this computer, as half of the card sticks out of computer
  5. If you require robust device, but also care that your computer is not scratched, you will be disappointed with Samsung’s decision to put plastic on top of the screen, as it is one of most sensitive areas when computer is in messenger bag:
  6.  Bottom cover is plastic, it will get scratched, change color, and deformed on places which run hot on the inside:

 

So, these are all problems that I experienced with this machine so far. I’m very happy with it, and only first one is annoying, as I forget about it sometimes and close unlocked windows. It is very good device otherwise, I spilled water on it once, keyboard is very good and does not let it inside, and battery is really good, you can work on it 4-5 hours without power.

If you already own it, I can recommend this TeckNet® 90W power supply, which has compatible connector, it is lighter and better looking than original one:

 

If you are still indecisive, feel free to send your questions in comments.