Hands-on with the Rogers Samsung ATIV S, HTC 8X and Nokia Lumia 920

Rogers and Microsoft held a joint press conference this morning that focused on the new suite of Windows Phone 8 devices.

While we’ve previously shown you the Nokia Lumia 920 and HTC 8X, both of which will be exclusive to Rogers in some form (the 8X will be exclusive to the carrier in 8GB form), this was the first time we’ve had a chance to play with the Samsung ATIV S.

The device is flat-out gorgeous. It’s significantly taller than the 8X, but at a thickness of 8.7mm and weight of 135g it comes off as smaller than the 4.5-inch Nokia Lumia 920. The Super AMOLED HD screen is vivid and bold, through we could see ourselves tiring of the relatively low pixel density of 306ppi after being spoiled by the sharp, beautiful Super LCD display of the HTC 8X.

We weren’t able to play with any of the software, but the final hardware feels great in the hand. We couldn’t tell exactly where the aluminum started and the plastic ended, but it did feel demonstrably better than the Samsung Galaxy S III. From the back, it resembles in many ways Samsung’s previous Windows Phone king, the AT&T-only Focus S. We’re also big fans of the exposed speaker grill at the bottom

As with all Windows Phones, there is a dedicated camera shutter button on the right side. We’re assuming the camera sensor is identical to the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II, but we’re excited to see what improvements Windows Phone 8 brings to the experience.

As you can see from the Apps screen, there are a bevy of Rogers, Microsoft and Samsung offerings, including Samsung’s  updated Music Hub and MiniDiary, Rogers’ One Number and My Account apps, and Microsoft’s Office and OneNote offerings. There’s also, curiously, a Live Wallpaper app, which we presume will be a launcher or screensaver of some sort, as Microsoft doesn’t seem to allow moving background on its main screen.

We also see something called Family Story and Beauty, likely scrapbooking and picture touch-up apps respectively. Samsung’s ChatON has been bundled with the phone as well, and Rogers’ Anyplace TV Live takes centre stage. These apps will most likely be removable, an advantage over equivalent Android phones.

We also got glimpses of the Nokia Lumia 920 in black and the HTC 8X in blue, which looks closer to purple in real life. The 8X was noticeably lighter, thinner and more pocketable than Nokia’s massive flagship, and the reds on the Super LCD display were deeper and richer than the Nokia. That being said, The Lumia feels great — substantial — in the hand and very robust.

You can see from the home screen the Lumia 920 is also showcasing many Rogers apps. The carrier made no bones about its excitement for having so many branded apps on its Windows Phones. Its One Number service is front and centre (well, top and left) on the live tiles, indicating a prominent place in its holiday lineup. Curiously, though Skype is built right into Windows Phone 8, neither Microsoft nor Rogers made any mention of the popular VoIP service.

From the back the two phones look remarkably different, and yet the internals are almost identical. While neither phone has expandable storage (only the ATIV S does), the Lumia comes with 32GB of storage as opposed to the 8X’s 16GB. And while the two phones share the same processor and graphical prowess, the Lumia gets the edge in terms of camera performance with its 8.7MP PureView sensor and lens combo. And we can’t forget Nokia’s strong lineup of exclusive apps like Drive, Transit, Camera Extras, City Lens, Cinemagraph and more.

The wild card here happens to be the ATIV S. While the HTC 8X and Lumia 920 bring separate value propositions — size, build quality, screen for the former; camera, software extras for the latter — Samsung’s Windows Phone 8 offering seems to be just another smartphone. Yes, it’s beautiful, and the 4.8-inch screen is vivid, but ultimately it’s going to be overshadowed in Rogers’ fall lineup.

Lastly, we had a brief hands-on with Samsung’s 11.6-inch ATIV Smart PC tablet, which runs a full x86 version of Windows 8. We don’t know specifics on pricing or whether it will be available off-contract in an iPad model, or through a 3-year contract using Rogers’ data-only plans, but we’d imagine it will be the latter.

We’ll update you on all the impending pricing and availability announcements in the coming days.