2012
11.19

On Friday I took delivery of my new Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T.  This is an Intel Z2760 powered Windows 8 Pro tablet; it’s not Windows RT like in the Surface.  I wanted something that I could install Visio, VLC, codecs, etc, on.

The Review

The device has an 16:9 ratio 11.1” screen, making it bigger than the Surface or an iPad.  But, it’s lighter than a Surface because it has a plastic back instead of VaporMG.  It feels smoother in the hand than a Surface to me.  The processor is an Intel, but it’s not a Core i processor.  Instead, it’s been saddled with the awful Atom brand.  It is not the Atom of old.  It’s Intel’s answer to ARM.  And that’s why there are no vents, no fans, and the body has no heat, even after 6 hours of usage.  There is 2 GB RAM which is enough for Windows Store apps and for my Office 2013 usage.  If you need more, then look at the “pro” tablets with Core i CPUs and 4 GB RAM (much shorter battery life).

The screen has 5 point multi-touch and stylus support.  The stylus comes with the tablet and slides into the back.  It’s moulded in such a way that is hidden in the body of the tablet (9.9 mm at the thickest point).  You’ll hear Apple say that a stylus is not required for a modern tablet.  I say it is useful; I spent this morning in a briefing taking hand written notes on a lined page in OneNote 2013 on my tablet without any concern over battery, knowing that my note will be synced onto SkyDrive when next online.

I also bought the optional keyboard.  The tablet docks into the keyboard giving you a work and travel friendly ultrabook experience, something that the Surface floppy hinged keyboard can only do on a flat surface such as a table.  The keyboard also gives you an extra battery.  The life of my device listed at 14 hours, or 10 hours video play.  I used it most of Saturday and Sunday to watch video, read Kindle, surf, play games, etc, and it lived up to the promise that was made.  Docking the tablet is a process of pushing it down (after removing the sticky “feet” from the slots in the tablet), and waiting for the audible plug and play response.  A big button gives a click to release the tablet from the two locks.

The touch pad is a gesture pad with Windows 8 support.  Unusually for a touchpad, it is not sensitive to accidental touch.  In fact, it’s the opposite, requiring a more forceful touch than I’m used to.  Being an 11.1” screen device, the keyboard is an OK size, not much different than I’m used to.  You get an extra 2 USB ports on the keyboard.

The speakers are shit.  You’ll need that audio jack on the top.  There’s a USB port on the tablet, as well as a MicroSD port to extend your storage.  Devices with a modem can take advantage of the SIM slot on the top.  And there’s a micro-HDMI port on the left hand side under the audio control.  Unlike the Surface, there is also a handy auto-rotate disable/enable button. 

The screen quality is good.  I give the Surface the edge; it’s hard not to because the Surface’s screen is one of the best around – we photographers value contrast and “pop” rather than pixel counts (as in retina).

As a device, I’m very happy.  I expect this to become my primary device, unless I’m in photography mode and I want something with more RAM and CPU for Photoshop.  I’ve ordered a 64 Gb MicroSD card to extend the storage so I can sync SkyDrive, another thing you can’t do with Windows RT.

My Experience

I bought the device from Misco.ie (also trading as Misco.co.uk).  I prefer to buy from a brick shop in case big ticket items have a problem, but these were the only guys I could find with stock.  The device arrived on Friday afternoon in the office.  And it would not power up.  OK, maybe the battery was flat.  I charged it for about 90 minutes and still nothing.  So I was left to think it was Dead on Arrival (DOA).  I called Misco.ie and part way through a call, I was hung up on.  I called back, was put through to a non-English speaking person in Samsung’s support desk who had never heard of the device, and was hung up on again.  Now I was angry.  I called Misco (they are in England) again and the support desk person had a real attitude, a real “innit” geezer.  I was promised he’d called Samsung, arrange a collection, and call me today.  So far, nothing.  I don’t expect a call from them.

But as you’ve figured out by now, I got the device working.  I brought it home from the office and sat it on the charger from 18:00 until 22:45.  I was about to give up: I picked it up (still charging) and was tapping the power button.  Nothing.  I looked up at the TV, kept tapping (inpatiently), and noticed a blue light.  The power LED came on.  I pulled the power and it still ran.  I shut it down, powered it up, restarted, etc.  I can’t be sure what was wrong, but it appears to me that the tablet was resting on the power button during shipping and drained the battery.  Maybe it wouldn’t start until it was 100% charged!?!?!?!  3 days later and it’s working perfectly.

But my advice:  Don’t buy from Misco.  Ever.  Seriously: Never.

By the way, the price of the tablet is approximately 69% more expensive in Europe than you can get it in the USA on Amazon.com.  That is pure robbery, Samsung.

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2 comments so far

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  1. How do you find the build quality? How does it compare with the iPad?
    I’m tempted to get one, as I’ve been trying to delay the arrival of iPads into our school until we can look at a good quality Win8 slate.
    I can get it in the UK for £569 with a 5yr Samsung warranty which seems a reasonable deal at the moment. There seems to be two codes A01UK &A02UK at the smae price, but I can’t see any difference.
    I just worry how long they will last in the hands of your average secondary school student.

    • It’s about the same as an iPad. However, Surface RT has everyone beat on build quality IMO. I’ve done the 4 foot drop test and it was unscathed.

      IMHO, anyone that’s buying hundreds of tablets for school kids needs to find better ways to spend money. Half those will either disappear, end up in toilets, stolen, broken, etc.

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