Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500t Review

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Hardware:

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When I took the ATIV Smart PC 500t out of the box the first thing that hit me was it's size. The 11.6 inch display is much larger than the iPad's 9.7 inch. I honestly didn't mind the increase in size. I find it better than a smaller screen. While my expectations for a tablet may be different from other, more casual users, I think that if you want a tablet that can also be a mini work machine, a bigger screen is a benefit.

While the device as a whole is larger than the iPad the weight feels practically the same. With a weight of 1.65 lbs vs the iPad's 1.44lbs, the weight isn't a problem. I feel that for the little increase in weight, the difference in functionality between the two devices is definitely greater. (We will talk more about that in the software section).

The one problem I had with the hardware was the screen resolution. Going from the iPad's 2048-by-1536 screen resolution, to the ATIV's 1366 x 768 resolution was more than noticeable at first. But over the course of the past week I have begun to notice it less and less.

Battery life on this thing is outstanding, considering it is an x86 Atom device. I have used the device for up to 7 hours constantly taking notes and using the stylus and I have found the battery on par with things like the iPad or Transformer tablets.

Speaking of the stylus, it is truly impressive. I used to take notes on my iPad with a capacitive stylus and it was decent. When I used the SNote app, the stylus support was so good I can now right very small on the screen, which was next to impossible on the iPad. My only caveat is that the stylus feels very cheap and pulling it out of it's holster on he back of the tablet has caused some of the paint to peel off of the stylus.

When is comes to the 8MP rear camera, I have not even used it. The 2MP front facing camera is decent enough for Skype, but the rear camera is pretty much useless for how I use a tablet. I never take photos. I did take a sample photo for this review and it turned out decently. See the gallery at the end.

To comment on functionality I have to list the various ports on the device.

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  • USB 2.0 (2 more are added with the keyboard dock)
  • MicroSD
  • Mini HDMI
  • Headphone jack

Having the ability to plug in a flash drive and drag files over is so gratifying for me. After having to deal with the headache of moving files on my iPad, the ATIV definitely beats the Apple experience.  Having to plug into iTunes to put files on my iPad, or email them to myself, or find a computer and drag it over to Dropbox, wasn't the best experience.

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The plastic build of the device definitely feels a little cheap. You can push in the plastic and when you grab the device with one hand it will sometimes creak. The only benefit I see to this is I am more willing to place my device down on a table because it is less likely to scratch than the iPad's back. However, already the metallic paint on the Samsung logo has begun to rub off. This is due to me setting the tablet onto my desk and just casually using it.

The keyboard also feels cheap. However, there is a metal hinge on the keyboard dock, likely to help keep the tablet from being top heavy while in the keyboard. Another problem with the keyboard is the trackpad. The trackpad lags sometimes when opening a program, or opening a new tab in the desktop mode. For 3 or 4 seconds the trackpad is unresponsive and jerks around. Hopefully a driver update can fix this.

The capacity of the device is just around 40gb when you first turn it on, I quickly put a microSD card in and expanded it's capacity by 64gb. The hard drive capacity is not an issue on this device.

PROCESSOR | Intel Atom Z2760 1.80 GHz

MEMORY | 2 GB DDR2L 1600 MHz

HARD DRIVE SIZE | 64 GB SSD

Overall, the hardware is lacking in quality, but surpasses competitors with it's functionality.

HARDWARE: 7/10

Software:

Here is where this device truly sets itself apart. The Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500t is an x86 Windows 8 tablet, meaning you can run any Windows app you can on a desktop. The only constraint is the processor of the device.

The "Metro" interface on Windows 8 is very fluid for the most part, the only slow down was when running certain apps on the desktop. The slow down in the desktop is not as bad as one would think for an Atom processor. Having several tabs open, using Word, and having multiple metro apps running made the computer slow down very little. However, as soon as a flash heavy site opens up the computer really lags.

I found that changing the user agent with a chrome plugin fixed this. I changed the user agent to that of an iPad and it helped the resource hogging flash sites.

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While using some metro apps I had them crash on me. I was using a third party e-reader and even Xbox Music crashed on me. SNote crashes and has various other issues as well, This is probably just problems with it being a newly released OS. I expect updates to fix some of the crashing problems, but right now it does get annoying.

Overall Windows 8 worked fine, despite some of the slow down in the desktop and some crashing in metro, I found that I didn't have too many problems. They just need to tackle the bugs as fast as possible.

SOFTWARE: 8/10

App Selection:

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The "Metro" interface is definitely lacking in apps. I am missing a feature rich ePub reader, decent PDF annotator that allows me to copy images from the PDF and paste it into another app, and a couple of other things. But the lack of apps doesn't hurt much because I can flip over to the desktop and hundreds of thousands of apps are at my disposal. If I had purchased a Windows RT tablet, I would have been very disappointed.

Here is the sort of experience you would have currently using this device. I needed a Video Player that could play an FLV file. The Windows Store did not have any I could find so I went to the desktop, downloaded VLC and used that.

This experience is not ideal, but it is only a matter of time before the Windows Store grows to fill most people's needs.

APP SELECTION: 7/10

Final Thoughts:

My overall experience with this device was positive, but this isn't a home-run for Samsung or Microsoft. As long as metro apps crash and have odd behaviors, it will be a set back when using this device. The thing about the iPad was that I hardly ever had crashing apps. At least not at the frequency of this device.

Having to restart the tablet to get an app to work correctly is not ideal. I even had to once uninstall SNote and reinstall for it to work properly. These sorts of experiences will drive people away from Windows 8 and its tablets. This tablet is missing the extra polish it needs on the software and hardware.

The build quality was a let down for the most part. I already have paint peeling of the stylus, the metallic painted Samsung logo rubbing off, and these things will not go unnoticed.

The features of the hardware were very nice however: a keyboard dock, USB ports, HDMI out, MicroSD slot, great batter life, very accurate stylus. The concept of this device is great and its execution was just good. Samsung and Microsoft needed this tablet and many others to be great to attract people from iOS and Android.

My final opinion is this: if you own an iPad and feel like it is too restricting in terms of the freedom you get with it, this tablet could work for you. If you are looking for a casual device to browse and play games, maybe this is not the device for you...for now.

Hopefully Microsoft and Samsung can fix the issues I pointed out with the overall performance of the tablet with some patches. Once that happens and those issues stop, then I would definitely recommend this tablet over iOS or Android, but until then, unless you are excited to be an early adopted, maybe you should sit this out for another 6 months until all the kinks have been worked out.

OVERALL: 7.5/10

This tablet could have been an 8.5/10 if the bugs were fixed. I will keep you updated on how Windows 8 evolves as I continue to review the Windows ecosystem in full.

UPDATE: Part 2 of this review will be coming in the next week. I will focus on using this device in the dock as a laptop replacement as well as a tablet replacement.

Nokia Lumia 920 review will be coming later this week.

Here is a gallery: (all photos taken with Lumia 920)