Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review

28 Aug 2012

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 adds multitasking and stylus control to Android, but it won’t be everyone’s ideal tablet

Price when reviewed 
400
Buy it now for 
4

Samsung’s giant stylus-driven smartphone, the Galaxy Note 5.3in, was an unlikely success. Now the Korean manufacturer is swelling its range with the Galaxy Note 10.1 - a 10.1in Android tablet with built-in Wacom digitiser, stylus and a tweaked version of Google’s Android 4 OS.

At a glance, the Note 10.1 looks deceptively like any other Android tablet. In fact, it’s almost identical to Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 - right down to the chrome speaker strips on either side of the screen. Our review model was pearlescent gloss white, with a silver trim skimming around the tablet’s edges. If the gloss white is too ostentatious, then fear not – the Note 10.1 is also available in a more drab, businesslike grey.

Whichever you choose, though, the Note 10.1 is a little lacking in star quality. It’s no ugly duckling, but set against the premium tablet competition, such as Apple’s iPad or Asus’ Transformer Pad Infinity 700, the Note 10.1’s plastic shell places it at a distinct disadvantage. It isn’t that the Note 10.1 feels very flimsy, but without the stiff metal chassis of its peers, unavoidably it feels rather plain and ordinary. It also picks up smudges and scratches too easily, while the slight flex in the plastic backing cheapens the overall effect.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Coming after the pixel-packed Full HD screens that we’ve found on Acer’s Iconia Tab A700 and Asus’ Transformer Pad Infinity 700, the Samsung’s 1,280 x 800 pixel display also appears mundane. The only compensation is the quality on offer; with a maximum brightness of 414cd/m[sup]2[/sup], a contrast ratio of 828:1, wide viewing angles and vibrant colours, it’s by no means a bad screen - the only thing lacking is pixels.

So far, so average, but the Note 10.1’s trump card is concealed within – namely, its stylus, which Samsung has dubbed the S Pen. Remove the S Pen from the Note’s bottom-right corner and the customised lock screen instantaneously comes into view. From here, a quick brush of a fingertip or the stylus’ nib sends you directly into the customised Touchwiz front-end; a dab of either of the four shortcut icons gives quick access to the S Note, Browser, Video player and Gallery apps.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Yank out the stylus while the tablet’s switched on, meanwhile, and a quick-launch menu springs out from the screen’s edge, providing access to a handful of preinstalled apps, such as Adobe’s excellent Photoshop Touch, Polaris Office, and Samsung’s S Note and S Planner apps. The only disappointment is that it isn’t possible to customise the quick-launch menu - you're stuck with the default apps.

It feels surprisingly natural flicking through Google’s OS with a stylus. The S Pen’s square profile and slightly rounded edges feel comfortable in the hand, and the slight give in the nib makes for a natural pen-like feel. The extra feeling imbued in art and painting apps is amazing, too, where the Wacom digitiser’s sensitivity adds a level of control that traditional capacitive styli can’t match. When it comes to using remote-access applications such as TeamViewer or LogMeIn, or sprucing up photos in Adobe’s Photoshop Touch, the extra precision for directing and tapping onscreen elements is most welcome.

Samsung has also added multitasking to Android with the Note’s multiscreen feature. This permits two applications to run side by side, and also allows for floating windowed apps, such as S Note and the Video Player, to be positioned freely. There are limitations: the multiscreen feature only works with the pre-installed Internet, Video Player, Gallery, Email and Polaris Office apps.

Detail

Price ex VAT £333
Price inc VAT £400
Warranty 1 yr return to base
Overall rating 4
Performance 5
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4

Physical

Dimensions 262 x 180 x 8.9mm (WDH)
Weight 580g

Display

Screen size 10.1in
Resolution screen horizontal 800
Resolution screen vertical 1,280
Display type LCD
Panel technology IPS

Battery

Battery capacity 7,000mAh

Core specifications

CPU frequency, MHz 1.4GHz
Integrated memory 16.0GB
RAM capacity 2.00GB

Camera

Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Focus type Autofocus
Built-in flash? yes
Built-in flash type LED
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Other

WiFi standard 802.11n
Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes
HDMI output? no
Video/TV output? no

Software

Mobile operating system Android 4

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