After my time with the Acer Iconia W510, I was really excited to get my hands on the Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T. I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with it at the Windows Phone 8 launch in late-October, but it was difficult to get a good impression of a device in that type of setting. I spent a few hours setting up my accounts, installing apps and desktop applications, and personalizing the settings yesterday, and I was immediately impressed. Not to disparage the Iconia W510, but the difference between the two tablets was night and day.

Right off the bat, I was impressed with the hardware design. The entire tablet is enclosed in smooth plastic which looks like brushed metal with a blueish tint. It just feels great in your hands. The larger-than-usual 11.6-inch screen is also a nice plus. I was worried that it might be too big for a tablet, but that’s not the case. The screen resolution is still set at 1366 x 768 pixels, but the extra inch or two makes it seem as if you have more screen real estate. I also really like how you don’t need a special dongle to access the USB port.

My favorite feature, however, has to be the digital S-Pen. The ATIV Smart PC 500T isn’t the only Windows 8 tablet to support a digital stylus – the recently-released Microsoft Surface with Windows 8 Pro also includes one – but the S-Pen works very well. When you combine it with Windows 8′s top-notch handwriting recognition, you get a stylus that is highly accurate and feels very natural. It’s not something you’d want to use in every circumstance, but I found myself quickly swapping between touch and pen. Once the keyboard dock arrives, I expect to add two more input methods to the mix.

Finally, after the horror of discovering crapware all over Acer’s device, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Samsung has significantly improved the experience on its tablet. While there are a few pre-installed apps and applications, only the Help Center and Office 2010 trial are pinned to the taskbar, and you won’t find any shortcuts on the desktop. So far, I’ve only needed to uninstall a handful of applications. The standard WinKey+VolDown keyboard shortcut also works for taking screenshots, unlike the Iconia W510.

Overall, my time with the Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T is off to a great start. I’ve already begun installing desktop applications like Office 2013, Photoshop, and SkyDrive for Windows desktop, and I’ll be writing about how these and other applications perform over the coming weeks. Look for my full review of the tablet in the near future.

The Samsung ATIV Smart PC 500T tablet was provided to me, by Intel, as part of the company’s #IntelTablets #TabletCrew program.