The Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T proves two things: you can never have enough words in your product name and that there is a place for tweener Windows 8 tablets. At the lower end of price and functionality we have Windows 8 RT tablets like MS Surface RT with an entry price of $500, and at the upper end we have Intel Core i5 tablets like the Samsung ATIV 700T and upcoming MS Surface Pro, priced around $1,000 and up. And then there are Windows 8 convertible tablets like the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13, Lenovo ThinkPad Twist and Sony Vaio Duo 11 selling for $1,000 and up.
The Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T has dual band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, an 8MP rear camera with LED flash and a front 2MP camera. The tablet has 1 USB 2.0 port, a 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD card slot that's compatible with SDXC cards. It looks much like an elongated Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10 Android tablet, complete with very shiny gray plastics and front stereo speakers that flank the display.The tablet runs Windows 8 and there's an optional $129 keyboard dock with two USB 2.0 ports (unlike Asus and Lenovo Android keyboard docks it lacks an internal secondary battery).
Though not remarkably high resolution, the 11.6" tablet has a 400 nit, 1366 x 768 PLS display that's sharp and colorful with good viewing angles. The tablet has both capacitive multi-touch and a Wacom active digitizer with S-Pen for drawing and taking notes. The S-Pen shines more here than on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 because Windows has a wider and better selection of art and note-taking apps than Android.
The ATIV 500T sells for $649 for the 64 gig model with a 1.8GHz Intel Atom CloverTrail CPU and 2 gigs of DDR2 RAM. Obviously it's not a performance powerhouse, but the Atom CPU is x86 compatible, and that means it can run Windows 7 apps, unlike Surface RT. Windows RT tablets have a distinct advantage over Core i5 machines because they double the battery life and offer silent operation, and this Atom tablet shares those advantages. In our tests we've gone 8 to 9 hours on a charge, and this is a fan-less and thus silent machine. It's also a bit slimmer and lighter than Core i5 machines, weighing in a 1.7 lbs. vs. 2 lbs. for the ATIV 700 Surface Pro and 1.5 lbs. for the Surface RT and iPad with Retina Display. So there's a place for the ATIV 500T and Atom given the current constraints of technology where full Core i machines lack the battery life and fanless designs of ARM and Atom.
That said, the tablet feels slow compared to Intel Core i5 Windows 8 convertibles and tablets. This is not something that I'd recommend as a main machine, unlike Core i5 and i7 ULV products. It's better used to compliment an existing computer, much as one would use the MS Surface RT or Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (and the 500T offers more functionality than those two). The Windows 8 UI is responsive enough because Microsoft has done a superb job of optimizing it for low end hardware. But for art students and professionals, the ATIV 500T can be frustrating: I found myself waiting for menu listings and palettes to appear after launching Corel Painter 12 (from the internal SSD, which should make for instantaneous launches) and Photoshop CS6 filters were sluggish. I've been using Painter 12 for years and have never seen this kind of launch sluggishness, but I noticed several apps taking a long time to load. That said, most apps run decently after the slowmo blast off. Multi-tasking is best done with restraint because the 32 bit CPU with Intel SGX545 Graphics and 2 gigs of RAM can handle only so much.