With Windows tablets slowly starting to become part of the mainstream mobile market and the newer models becoming much better and much faster than the first generation, the Samsung Ativ 500t is one of the early, quiet entries into the Windows 8 tablet offerings outside of Microsoft’s first Surface lineup (Dell, HP, and Acer being the other early entries), and I emphasis the word ‘quiet’ seeing as Samsung is all in with Google (read: Android) and barely market or advertise Windows products. With the Ativ 500T running full Windows 8.1 (originally shipped with Windows 8.0 and upgraded to 8.1), we’ll see if this tablet either deserves the same bad rap as most first generation tablets or if it’s a diamond in the rough.
At first glance, this tablet looks a feels like a slightly bigger Galaxy Note tab 10.1 (WAY bigger than an iPad Air) and for the most part, it fits that design mold. The tablet has a plastic body feel to it but not cheap, speakers on front of the tablet where you can’t easily cover them (but possible), Stylus tucked away in the bottom right corner, volume button on the side, power button up top and screen lock button next to it and the windows button located at the bottom middle area of the tablet. Micro HDMI, Micro SD, full USB port and SIM ports all present and easy to access. Compared to other tablets, it is a bit big and a little heavy but not to the point, you don’t want to carry it around and not convenient to use. Just be for warned, you won’t be carrying this around the same way you would an iPad Air, or a Kindle HDX to read on a bus or train. The screen is very bright and responsive baring any loading issues with apps (more on that later), and over all I had very little to complain about with the design of the tablet itself. My only really issue is the power cable for the tablet. Samsung decided to go with a custom power cable instead of a micro USB charger. The connecter itself is very then and if you need to replace it for whatever reason could be a little expensive. Have a micro USB charger would been more convenient in case you need to replace it and is less fragile than the power connection for this tablet. But again, this a minor grip that does little to hinder the experience.
Before I go into the software, please be advised: I am a fan of the Windows 8 – 8.1 live Tile OS. I do realize that I am probably a
leper minority by admitting this so I will be less critical of the OS itself and more critical of the OS as to how it functions and performs on this tablet.
Now that we’ve cleared the air, I will comment on the Live Tile or Metro UI side first (Microsoft keeps changing the name). The 8.1 upgrade improves performance on this tablet greatly, and makes this table much more useable than prior to it. Being as though this tablet is running a last generation Atom processor with full Windows 8 (not the RT version), you’re going to have some speed issues depending on what you are loading, and this is not different. But overall, the Metro side runs pretty well after the upgrade. The only issues that I ran across was that every now and then on start up the tablet would freeze. This is sporadic and a simple restart would fix the problem. Some apps load slow when launching for the first time but nothing as severe as loading apps with 8.0. But this is common across the board with these Atom processes but the Ativ 500T keeps it at a minimum (still annoying at times). The desktop side works as normal, allowing you to install applications such as MS office and Adobe Photoshop. Productivity applications like word and applications like Spotify and Chrome works with no issues, but something graphic heavy programs like Photoshop will drop in performance (but is useable with the stylus), so don’t expect the Ativ 500T to run like its big brother 700T with an core processor. The 5MP back camera is decent and useable for a tablet and the front facing camera is serviceable for video chatting (but not the best quality). Both cameras seem to work a lot better with the Samsung camera software verses the Windows 8.1 default software.
Overall the Samsung Ativ 500T is a good tablet considering it is a first generation Windows tablets. But this tablet is not for everyone. If you are looking for a everyday media consumption tablet or a tablet for reading eBooks or Kindle books, though you can use the tablet for those purposes, this tablet is more of a productivity tablet more than anything else and is a good companion for you PC if you are not up for carrying around a laptop but want the tablet experience. The Ativ 500T does have its performance issues put it’s on par with most performance issues found in earlier full Windows 8 tablets (verses the Windows RT tablets just running the metro tiles UI only), and does handle those issues better than most first generation full windows 8 tablets (the 700t is a much smoother experience but it comes with a huskier price tag). Samsung did a good job handling the Windows 8.1 OS with this tablet and hopefully, with the new Baytrail processors now available, Samsung will continue the Ativ tablet line, and take this good start and make it great down the line. (Rating 8.0)
*the case shown is a Cush Case purchased from Amazon, you can find it here.