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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review: This Tablet’s Mightier with a Pen

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Its specs are certainly impressive: It sports 2GB of RAM (double the typical amount) and a 1.4-GHz quad-core processor. It’s dangerous to assume that beefy components will automatically result in a pleasing experience, but in this case they deliver–I found the Note 10.1 to be zippy and responsive. It’s also got a five-megapixel camera on its back and a 1.9-megapixel one on the front, and stereo speakers on its front edges.

[UPDATE: The Verge’s Nilay Patel, who ran the Note through formal benchmarks, wasn’t impressed with its performance — and, alarmingly, he found that it got slower over time.]

With 1280-by-800 pixels, the screen doesn’t even begin to rival the Retina display on Apple’s new iPad. It’s only got a third as many pixels, so photos aren’t as eye-popping and text isn’t razor-sharp.  Then again, no other tablet except the iPad has a Retina screen, so at least Samsung’s tablet is in good company.

The Note 10.1 runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich  — an upgrade to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is due later this year — but Samsung has added a number of features beyond the S Pen-related capabilities. While they don’t come anywhere near Apple’s heights of simplicity and seamlessness, they’re mostly good stuff. (A few design decisions are odd: I don’t understand why Samsung placed a screen-capturing icon on Android’s omnipresent toolbar, a place of honor it scarcely deserves.)

An awfully clever feature dubbed Multiscreen might be more accurately called Multiapp: It lets you run two programs at once, each in a window that occupies half the screen. That allows you to perform feats which are impossible with other Android tablets and the iPad, such as opening up a file attachment and editing it in the bundled Polaris office suite without ever leaving the e-mail program.

The catch is that Multiscreen only supports six programs at the moment: S Note, Polaris, the web browser, the photo gallery, the video player, and e-mail. Samsung says it plans to provide third-party developers with the tools they need to build the feature into their own apps; for the sake of Note 10.1 buyers, I hope that many of them do.

Mini-apps, a feature held over from previous Samsung tablets, offer another way to use two programs at once. They’re shrunken-down versions of tools such as S Note, the calendar, and the music player, and you can leave them open in a corner of the display as you use any full-screen app. As on Samsung’s Galaxy S III phone, the video player has a nifty picture-in-picture mode that lets you watch it out of the corner of one eye as you work in another program. There’s also a program, powered by Peel, which lets you use the tablet as a TV guide/universal remote.

Samsung, in short, has done an admirable job of beefing up the Galaxy Note 10.1 with useful Android software. The tablet’s biggest drawback is that too few other companies have done the same. Eighteen months after Google released Honeycomb, the first tablet-friendly version of Android, there are still shockingly few good Android apps developed with tablets in mind. By contrast, there are over 225,000 iPad programs. In fact, numerous apps I’d love to use with the S Pen, such as Paper and Procreate, are iPad-only.

There are plenty of Android apps that run on both phones and on tablets, the Galaxy Note 10.1 included — it’s just that they rarely make good use of the tablet’s roomy screen. News aggregator Zite, for instance, is excellent on the iPad. On the Galaxy Note 10.1, it’s far cruder, leaving vast expanses of wasted white space. (Full disclosure: Zite is owned by CNN, a sister company of TIME.)

Until the Android tablet-app situation brightens considerably, I can’t give an unqualified thumbs-up to any large-screen Android tablet. (The paucity of tablet-specific software isn’t as dire an issue with Google’s own Nexus 7, since phone apps work decently on its smaller 7″ display.) But the S Pen isn’t a gimmick or an anachronism; if you’re smitten with it, and can live with Android’s limitations, you should be tickled with the Galaxy Note 10.1.

MORE: Going Android: An Experiment

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18 comments
Bill Mitchell
Bill Mitchell

I have owned the Note 10.1 for 2 weeks.  Do I wish it had a 1920 x 1200 HD screen?  Yes.  Would a 1920 x 1200 screen work lag free with a wacom digitizer and pen with the mobile processors and gpu's now available?  I'm guessing no.  I'll take the lag free pen.

While the picture on the tablet isn't oh-my-god amazing it is quite good.  The only time you notice any pixelation or artifacting is when you are trying to read very small print.  The answer?  Don't read very small print.  Anything above 8 or 9 point print is crystal clear.  Videos look fantastic.  Also, nothing lags - ever.

Web Browsing is actually faster than on my laptop.  I was actually a bit taken back at first how quickly even complex pages load.

Using the pen?  In a word, excellent.  Zero lag and you can write very very small and have it be perfectly legible.  Rumor is that the Note 10.1 will be getting the Note 2.0 software upgrade which is some pretty remarkable tech.  It will create a real ecosystem that can rival anything else out there.

If you want a toy with an eye-candy screen, get the iPad.  If you want a tool you use like mad all day doing pretty much everything you used to use paper and pen for, get the Note 10.1.

Baza Firm
Baza Firm

Text perfect, well-written, all properly submitted. I used the information in discussions with colleagues. They were stunned.

samsung un55es8000
samsung un55es8000

 I got some idea through this article.Thanks for your information.Keep on updating.

Loren Cook
Loren Cook

Excellent tablet! Got mine on Aug 17th.

The article is incorrect about the SD card -- it can use a 64 GB SDXC card.

I have added one to my Note 10.1.

Anumakonda Jagadeesh
Anumakonda Jagadeesh

I have been using Samsung Samsung Galaxy Note

10.1. It is excellent with several features.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh

 Nellore(AP),India

e-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

Faisal Mehmood
Faisal Mehmood

I am

glad to see that people are actually writing about this issue in such a smart

way, showing us all different sides to it. You are a great blogger. Please keep

it up. I cant wait to read whats next.....Mobile Price pakistan

Hannah Martin
Hannah Martin

I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7inch after finding some reviews http://search4reviews.net/ and I am very happy with my order, the 7inch model was just the right size for me. Would recommend getting 1.

Computer Source
Computer Source

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is a nice tablet. Apple is suffering because Samsung keeps making great products.

slrigs
slrigs

I do want to say, this was a very helpful article and well-written. Thank you. :)

slrigs
slrigs

!As much as I want one of these, it's not happening unless they come out with a cellular model.  What I fail to understand is that Samsung is pitching this tablet to a very specifc niche market (read: ME) I'm an independent contractor who works at raw job sites in a 4 state area. If there's nothing but chiggers and ticks, WHERE is the Wi-Fi hot spots????? Come on, Samsung: get your act together! If you are pitching this for artists, students and "free thinkers", we need to be free to hook up to the web EVERYWHERE!!!

naprawa klimatyzacji
naprawa klimatyzacji

I got some idea through this article.Thanks for your information.Keep on updating.

Paul Tarlow
Paul Tarlow

Before people get all excited about Samsung saying the Note will be upgraded to Jelly Bean they may want to do some Google searches on Samsung's promise to upgrade their last round of tablets to Ice Cream Sandwich. Five months after Motorola updated their WiFi XOOM to ICS most Galaxy Tab owners are still waiting for the update Samsung promised "soon" last March. And don't let them tell you it is a carrier issue - I've got a WiFi only and I'm stuck TWO Android versions back. The company is great on promises when they want you to buy something new - they are deplorable when it comes to meeting their commitments after they have your money.

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

Do not use a dollar sign for your posts or you get sent to moderator hell.  My rather insightful, non-profanity laced, non-dissing anyone, perfectly reasonable post will never be seen.

Why do they bother with these comments if a simple dollar sign is going to dump it to begin with?  Why not a simple script that tells the writer as they write that posts containing dollar signs will be dumped when a dollar sign is used?  Seems like they don't give a rip about their reader's comments when they just toss them away without a warning after several minutes of their life were wasted in the effort.

And to bypass the dollar sign taboo, just use USD after the number.  What got me? A mention about how using a proprietary stylus wasn't good for customers but could get the company 49.95USD in profits on a 50.00USD stylus.

If they care that little about their reader's efforts to express their opinions and insights into a story, they should just close these comment boards altogether.  That way we can just get on with our lives and not bother wasting our time in the comments.

Fatesrider
Fatesrider

So it's a PDA on steroids?

Wow....  Innovative.

To be fair, though, tablets are entirely useless for most people who look for something other than to sit and drool while looking or poking at a screen.   Productivity tools they are NOT.  Every tablet manufacturer has SO missed the boat when it comes to making a practical, USEFUL device in tablet form.

But a stylus is a step in the right direction.  I say step because a tablet should be able to accept ANY point - including pens and pencils - given the kinds of screens they have without that point leaving a mark and still do input. 

Why is that? 

Because that's the real world where students, and the rest of us who would find something like that actually useful and worth spending money, on live.

I hated that proprietary styli were often required for different PDA's.  I don't KNOW that the Samsung stylus is proprietary or just a plastic-pointed pencil-shaped piece.  Either way, people don't just walk around with styli in their pockets.   They need a pen or pencil to write with.  Styli can be lost and pens are easy to find.  Pens and pencils are everywhere.  Granted that it's a marketing decision (a $50.00 replacement stylus generates about $49.95 worth of profit, but I digress), but it's a poor one from an innovation point of view.

But this is a better idea than most other tablets in that it is actually USEFUL for people to be somewhat productive.  Especially students who may want to take notes, read a book, mark things on that book and not lug around 20 bounds of paper and binding to do it.  Granted, making spit balls out of a tablet would be problematic, but I'm sure teachers wouldn't mind that inconvenience to their pupils.

They could have done it better than they did, but this is better than most have done - including Apple.  And coming from a tablet hater like me, that's saying something.  Now, all they need to do is put that in a laptop with a real keyboard (making the keyboard detachable if necessary for weight considerations) and they'll have something a tablet hater could potentially be interested in.

Troy G Batson
Troy G Batson

 So that would be a total of 96gb?  Thats cool, I was looking at getting the Note Cell Phone so this may be something I get as well.  Just need to get it on one of the shopping channels now so I can get it on the monthly payment plan.  Too frugal and cheap to buy it outright and there is no finance charge and I get it home right aways anyhow!!  Thanks for the update.

Davidthb
Davidthb

@Anumakonda Jagadeesh 

Hey, I was wondering since you have been using the tablet. Do you think it would be possible to create math tests for kids in elementary school by using the s-note app ?I have yet to see how these equations look like on real paper after you print them. I.e. the font size, placement, etc.Do you have any idea? 

Nitesh Ahir
Nitesh Ahir

as you said.... first of all SAMSUNG

Galaxy Note 10.1 (http://techland.time.com/2012/... should have eraser rather than published tab with pen... what you think on that????

this is bull shit that we can't use USD...

harrymccracken
harrymccracken

Sorry if you had trouble posting (and I wasn't away that mentioning dollar signs caused issues). It would be great if there was a non-proprietary stylus technology that permitted cheap universal stylii, but as far as I know, it doesn't exist. The real cost of the technology is in the screen electronics, not the pen itself.

--Harry