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Samsung Galaxy ATIV SE: A great Windows phone that's really hard to find

Andy Patrizio | May 15, 2014
What do you get when you combine Windows Phone 8 with Samsung hardware? A wonderful phone with one big problem.

Samsung Galaxy ATIV SE

I've waited a long time for Samsung to release a smartphone that runs Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating system. I found WP8 appealing, but the Nokia hardware where it's most commonly available failed to impress. The Nokia Lumia 920 in particular was heavy, it ran hot, and you couldn't swap out its battery, which drained at a ridiculous pace.

Last year's rumors of a Samsung ATIV S—a Galaxy S3 running Windows Phone 7—never came to fruition, but Samsung has finally came through with the ATIV SE. It's not a Galaxy S4 running WP8, but it's close. Samsung's Galaxy ATIV SE is the phone I've wanted for a very long time.

It's not a Galaxy S4
I live in Orange County, California: iPhone country. It seems everyone has an iPhone here. Androids are exceptionally rare. But a few people have seen me using the ATIV SE, cocked their head to one side, and asked "Is that a Galaxy S4?" Not exactly, I say. Their misperception is understandable. The Galaxy ATIV SE looks a lot like a Galaxy S4, it just runs Windows instead of Android.

The Galaxy ATIV SE is available only from Verizon, but it wasn't on display at the brick-and-mortar store I visited. I had to special-order one. The Galaxy S4, by contrast, is available on six carrier networks: AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Cricket, and U.S. Cellular in addition to Verizon.

Measuring 5.42 by 2.75 by 0.33 inches, the ATIV SE is a fraction of an inch smaller than the S4, which leads to my single biggest complaint: None of the myriad cases designed for the S4—including the Mophie Juice Pack— fit the ATIV SE. That was an enormous disappointment. The way I see it, if Mophie won't make a Juice Pack for iPhone 5c, they'll never make one for the ATIV SE. I did find a few ATIV SE cases for sale on Amazon, but there's no good reason why Samsung had to change the case dimensions by such a tiny amount, so that Galaxy S4 cases won't fit it.

The ATIV SE has the same gorgeous screen as the S4: A 5-inch AMOLED capacitive touchscreen made from Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and capable of displaying 16 million colors. The 1920x1080 resolution results in pixel density of around 441ppi . In that regard, it's identical to the S4.

It's not a Galaxy S4 on the inside, either
The differences between the ATIV SE and the S4 are more than skin-deep. The ATIV SE is based on Qualcomm's newish Snapdragon 800 SoC (system-on-a-chip), which includes a quad-core 2.3GHz Krait 400 CPU and an Adreno 330 GPU. It's the same SoC you'll find in the Nokia Lumia Icon, but running 100MHz faster. Both Windows phones have 2GB of application memory and the same display resolution and pixel density


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