Design, Software, and User Experience
The 500T’s screen is bright and glossy and Window 8 positively shines when you turn up the brightness. In fact, there's a bit of glare in certain settings. The screen has a 1366 x 768 resolution and 400 nits brightness. At the top brightness setting, the screen is sharp and colors are vibrant, but I found that I wanted the screen at that top setting all the time – lower brightness settings just weren’t satisfying to me. The display responds well to taps and swipes, and I found myself using the lone Windows button (a physical button near the edge of the screen) more than I expected. The button toggles between the Modern UI Start Screen and Desktop mode.
The speakers are on the front of the display, but even with the good speaker location, I sometimes wished the tablet were louder while watching a movie. When actors spoke in low voices, I had to lean in – this isn’t a tablet I could see myself watching video with while moving about in the kitchen, for example. That said, the sound was fine when I held the tablet steady while sitting, and it’s plenty loud enough when headphones are plugged in of course as well.
I like that the back camera has a flash, which is critical for getting decent shots indoors, where the lighting is often too dim. The pictures we took were clear and crisp, for a tablet at least, and the video quality in Skype chat was also good. Interestingly, the volume was fine (via the tablet’s speakers) during Skype chats.
Swipe past the Start screen’s default set of tiles, and you’ll see two pages marked “Samsung Apps.” Not all of the apps here are from Samsung (Evernote, Kindle, Netflix, and Merriam-Webster, to name some), but they’re largely useful. The worst days of bloatware are probably behind us, but I still like to note when computer makers send me systems (like this one) that are generally free of unnecessary junk. I doubt you’ll uninstall any of the free apps already on this tablet.
Some Samsung-specific apps include S Note, S Gallery, S Player, and Samsung QR Code. Pick up an S-Pen, and you can write notes by hand in S Note. It’s a robust note-taking app, and I like the tools for making your sketches clean and professional. You can get by with your finger if you don’t have an S-Pen. The QR Code reader is basic, but easy to use. The tablet also includes Norton Security Studio, which is handy for remotely managing your Norton products on your other devices, assuming you have Symantec software on them to begin with.