When shut off, one could be forgiven for thinking that Samsung’s Ativ S is the Galaxy S3, given the close similarity between the two devices’ outlines. From a distance, a similar relationship could be observed between the Windows Phone 8-powered Ativ S and the Android 4.1-powered Galaxy Note 2, given their shared design language. Both the Ativ S and Galaxy Note 2 are also made of plastic, though the metallic-looking finish on the former does make it look somewhat more attractive.
Still, you won’t mistake one for the other when placed side-by-side. The Galaxy Note 2’s 5.5-inch 720p Super AMOLED screen dwarfs the Ativ S’s 4.8-inch 720p Super AMOLED panel.
On the inside, the Galaxy Note 2 has the absolute performance advantage. Its quad-core Exynos 4 chipset is clocked at 1.6GHz and is paired with 2GB of RAM, while the Ativ S has a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 system-on-a-chip that runs at 1.5GHz and is paired with 1GB of RAM.
Despite this, the user experience should be similarly snappy, especially considering that Windows Phone has usually been well-optimized and that its previous version provided a good user experience even on a single-core smartphone.
In terms of storage, the Galaxy Note 2 is the clear winner. It has 16GB, 32GB and 64GB options, plus a provision for up to a 64GB microSD card. The Ativ S only has the 16GB and 32GB options, and support for a 32GB microSD card.
Much like the Ativ S’ comparison with the Galaxy S3, the choice is heavily influenced by operating system preference. At this point, Android is already a highly-refined operating system with a deep application ecosystem. For its part, Windows Phone 8 doesn’t have the same sort of developer support yet, but it presents an interesting new user experience due to its Live Tiles.
There’s also the question of size and features. The Ativ S is a regular-sized smartphone, while the Galaxy Note 2 is a hybrid smartphone/tablet with a stylus. Buyers who look forward to using the stylus would quickly go for the Galaxy Note, but the Ativ S is a fine choice as a general-purpose handset.