Samsung Ativ SE review: Under the radar


Launched silently a few weeks back, the Samsung Ativ SE for Verizon Wireless ends a long break for the Korean manufacturer, and puts a fresh device in charge of their small Windows Phone lineup. The smartphone features top-end hardware tucked into a familiar looking body taken straight from last year’s Samsung Android flagship, the Galaxy S4.

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Samsung Ativ SE official images

Quite frankly, considering the specs and features on offer, the low-key release of the Samsung Ativ SE is quite surprising. At a quick glance, it matches the significantly better marketed Nokia Lumia Icon on just about every level. Heck, it can even put the now Microsoft-owned phone to shame by offering useful features such as an IR blaster, a removable battery, and a microSD card slot.

Here’s the full list of the Samsung Ativ SE’s talents.

Key features

  • 5″ 16M-color 1080p Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen with Gorilla Glass 3
  • Windows Phone 8 OS (easily upgradable to Windows Phone 8.1)
  • Quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400 CPU, Adreno 330 GPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset, 2GB of RAM;
  • 13MP autofocus camera with LED flash, 1080p video recording, Samsung Shooting modes app
  • 2MP front-facing camera, 1080p video recording
  • 16GB of built-in storage, expandable via the microSD card slot
  • Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
  • IR port for remote control functionality
  • 2,600mAh user-replaceable battery

Main disadvantages

  • Only available on Verizon Wireless in the United States
  • Design is a tad too familiar

A quick look at the spec sheet shows that, by Windows Phone standards, the Samsung Ativ SE is as well-equipped as it gets. With beefy chipset, ample amount of RAM, as well as an easy update to Windows Phone 8.1, the smartphone is sufficiently future-proof too – it will not fall behind the update curve for some time to come.

Hardly a surprise, the Samsung Ativ SE does have a couple of downsides. Pundits will argue that the design of the smartphone has already been played out – it is essentially a Galaxy S4 with a new, shinier paintjob.

There’s also the matter of availability and marketing exposure. The Ativ SE is only available on Verizon Wireless in the United States, thus depriving the rest of the world from a worthy alternative to Nokia’s dominant lineup. Within the Big Red’s own Windows Phone lineup, the Ativ SE sits behind the much better marketed, though not necessarily better-equipped Nokia Lumia Icon.

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Samsung Ativ SE live photos

As always, we will kick our review off with an unboxing, followed by a design and build quality walkthrough.

Editorial: You might notice that this review is shorter than usual and doesn’t include some of our proprietary tests. The reason is it has been prepared and written far away from our home office and test lab. Still, we think we’ve captured the essence of the device in the same precise, informative and detailed way that’s become our trademark. Enjoy the good read!


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