Technologizer

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

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When Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphone went on sale in the U.S. in February, two things made it, um, noteworthy. At 5.3″, its display was the largest one ever offered on a phone. And the Note came with Samsung’s S Pen, a precision stylus which let you jot notes and sketch pictures without jabbing at the screen with your finger.

Let’s face it, though — that humongous screen completely overshadowed the S Pen. Everyone had a strong opinion about it. Many people found the notion of a phone with a screen that edges in on tablet territory alluring: Samsung says it’s shipped ten million Galaxy Notes to date. Others, however, considered that same notion to be comical rather than practical. (Held to the ear, the jumbo-sized Note tends to throw off proportions and make it look like your skull has shrunk by a size or two.)

Now Samsung is releasing its second Galaxy Note device, the Galaxy Note 10.1, which goes on sale in the U.S. tomorrow. This Note, unlike its smartphone sibling, shouldn’t be an object of controversy.

(MORE: The 12 Best Android Widgets for 2012)

There’s nothing startling about its form factor: It’s an Android tablet with a 10.1″ display, a size that’s comfortably familiar in the Android world, and not radically dissimilar from the 9.7-incher on Apple’s iPad. But it’s a solid, straightforward Android tablet that comes with an S Pen, a suite of pen-friendly apps and some productivity-oriented software enhancements which give it a more businesslike flavor than Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 10.1.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 with 16GB of storage lists for $499, the same price as a 16GB iPad. But the 32GB Galaxy Note is $549, $50 less than a 32GB iPad. And while there’s no 64GB model, the tablet’s microSD slot lets you add a 32GB memory card for $20 or less, bringing capacity up to 64GB for a grand total of about $570 — a steep discount off the 64GB iPad’s $699 sticker price. Both the 16GB and 32GB variants offer wi-fi but no cellular option and come with 50GB of Dropbox online storage for two years.

If the Note 10.1 sells well, it won’t be on the strength of the bang it delivers for your buck. It’ll be because it’s one of the relatively few Android tablets with a snappy answer to the bottom-line question “Why should somebody buy this instead of an iPad?

The iPad doesn’t come with a pen and may never do so, given Steve Jobs’ famous declaration that “if you see a stylus, they blew it.” Scads of companies have stepped in to fill the gap — my favorite iPad stylus is Adonit’s Jot Flip — but all of their designs suffer from the fact that they’re designed to work with a tablet that was engineered for fingertips.

Samsung, however, built the Galaxy Note 10.1 from the ground up for pen use. And when it decided to add pens to some of its devices, it made the eminently sensible decision to work with Wacom, the company which dominates the market for graphics tablets used by artists.

The S Pen, which stows in a slot on tablet’s side when not in use, is based on Wacom’s technology. That means that it’s pressure-sensitive and extremely precise, and doesn’t use a battery. Using it feels like writing with a slightly stubby ballpoint; Samsung also sells a larger pen, as well as one with an “eraser” on the opposite end from the nib.

Android doesn’t come with any apps meant expressly for pen use. So Samsung created some of its own, including S Note, a highly capable note-taking program which lets you write and draw on simulated lined pages, graph paper and blank sheets. You can use a fine-line pen, a pencil, a paintbrush or a highlighter; pressure sensitivity lets you vary your pen strokes or lay down a thicker coat of paint by pressing harder.

S Note can also convert your block-letter or cursive input into editable text. It did a surprisingly accurate job of deciphering my chicken scratchings. But as with every other device I’ve ever used with handwriting recognition, the payoff didn’t seem worth the effort required: You need to write words a few at a time, then pause while the tablet interprets them. Except for brief notes, if you want to see your words in a crisp, legible typeface rather than your own handwriting, you’re probably best off using the on-screen keyboard. (Samsung sells a case, obviously inspired by the iPad’s Smart Cover, which lets you angle the tablet for comfy typing.)

Unlike the iPad, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is designed to let you rest your palm on the screen as you write or draw without getting confused by the fact that two parts of your hand are in contact with the display at once. Despite this, I found myself occasionally triggering actions unintentionally as I worked.

I suspect that the fact I’m a southpaw doesn’t help: When I begin to write on the left-hand side of the screen, my palm rests on top of Android’s on-screen buttons for tasks such as going back one screen and returning to the home screen. A righty’s palm would fall in a less critical spot.

The S Pen works in other apps besides S Note, of course. I liked using it to crop photos and perform touch-up work in Photoshop Touch, which Samsung throws in for free. The tablet includes a program that points you towards pen-friendly programs in Google’s Play store; most of the ones I tried didn’t support pressure sensitivity, but the S Pen is still a plus in any program that involves handwritten note-taking, sketching or any gesture that’s tough to perform accurately with a fingertip.

Pen aside, this is one of the best big-screen Android tablets I’ve tried, a nicely-styled 1.3-pound package that’s a skosh lighter than an iPad and doesn’t look too much like an iPad clone. (Samsung, presumably, would like to minimize the future time it spends squabbling with Apple in court.)

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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