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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 28 Aug 2012

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £333 (£400 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £240
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

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/m2, 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.

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User comments

Stylus?

WinMo had a stylus, the whole point of iOS then Android was that you didn't need one. Tablets and Smartphones should be operated by touch alone.

One day something better than the iPad will be released, but this is not the way to go.

By confucious on 28 Aug 2012

Stylus?

If you want to take notes or are a digital artist then a stylus is a fantastic option. Of course the stylus is 'not' for everyone but for the intended audience... it's fantastic.

P.s. I have a Samsung 7 Slate that... has a Stylus and runs Windows 7/8

By rhythm on 28 Aug 2012

@rythm

You can leave the S Pen in its slot and just use your fingers.

That said, this stylus is a "proper" stylus, like a digitising tablet stylus, it is made by Wacom after all. It allows for multiple levels of pressure, which you can't do with a finger.

Also, if iOS and Android were designed purely for finger use, why are styluses for the iPad one of the most sold accessories?

I think I have met 1 iPad owner so far, who hasn't bought a stylus...

By big_D on 29 Aug 2012

Brilliant Review

Having just purchased one, as the Stylus solves a very real issue or two for me, I couldn't agree more - it's brilliant, but S-Note is very irksome! It appears impossible to have handwriting recognition pass over notes one scribbled, after the fact - which is what I'd really like to do - scribble notes, and then process them into text and edit them later

By Bollox_McFee on 29 Aug 2012

@big_D

I'm aware of that but thank you anyway

By rhythm on 29 Aug 2012

Funny..

I had an iPad 1 and now have a "new" iPad and have never used a stylus (I did get one free with another accessory but it is in a drawer somewhere, never used)
I know many iPad users and can honestly say I have never seen any of them use a stylus!
Maybe I'm wrong, but a stylus is not something that anyone I know of has been crying out for.
It seems to me they were aiming for best of both worlds but have ended up as a Jack of all trades.

By confucious on 30 Aug 2012

That's the point!

Jack of all trades is what most of us want. If you just want to slide from one screen to the next, display pretty pictures, listen to music and watch videos then any old tablet will do but if you want to work with writing, photo-editing and drawing of all types then a stylus is essential. A tablet so equipped is a great tool but I think I will wait for MS Surface Pro so that I can use real programs. I have a SG Tab 2 for the pretty bits.

By Mike01Hu on 30 Aug 2012

What happened to the phone capability?

Sure everybody thinks putting a phone into a big device like this is just dumb. I agree that holding something like this up to your ear isn't an option, however there are alternatives that are easy to imagine, wired or wireless. Why is this such a big ask nowadays!?
That was the whole point of the original Note, if it's going to be a good business platform, then it must replace ALL your devices on the road, though doing that ideally means also replacing your large screen device.
SwingAndAMiss for the Note 10.1.

By Heliosphan on 31 Aug 2012

Phone on Tablet

I implemented the GSM phone on my HTC Flyer as described in the XDA Forum and have not carried a phone or laptop since. It has been invaluable, and meant I don't have to bother syncing devices!

By Richard_Sk on 8 Sep 2012

Phone on Tablet

I implemented the GSM phone on my HTC Flyer as described in the XDA Forum and have not carried a phone or laptop since. It has been invaluable, and meant I don't have to bother syncing devices!

By Richard_Sk on 8 Sep 2012

Very nearly sold

I recently broke my iPad 2 and the cost of repair was close to the cost of a new tablet and I've been very tempted by the extra abilities of the Galaxy Note 10.1 (I don't find the cost of the new iPad compelling for the limited extra features).

I'd stongly suggest that anyone considering this tablet go into a retail store and try it out. I was pleasantly surprised by the screen. The clarity / crispness of screen was far superior to that of my iPad 2 (even though the resolution isn't much different on paper), it certainly doesn't look soft or blurry, and I didn't notice any visible pixels or jaggy edges.

Before using the tablet, the stand out feature for me was the split screen mulit-tasking as I frequently use my iPad to consume online training, and get annoyed at the constant need to jump between apps for watching a training video in the browser, then making notes in the Notes app. I'd imagined I could do both simaltaneously on the note 10.1. Hands-on, this didn't really work out as when typing notes, the keyboard takes up around 70% of the entire tablet screen, covering both apps.

This might have been helped by the ability to input noted using the S Pen. However, I found stroke thickness to be a problem as I couldn't find a global setting to adjust starting thickness which meant my marks varied from thick to very thick, no light, manageable strokes which meant I could probably fit a paragraph at best on to the visible S note area. I had a look under pen in the Settings app but nothing there. Hopefully this is just something I missed (the store attendant at John Lewis had no idea so I was left to fend for myself).

I'm not sure what to buy now as I don't think the iPad 3 offers enough benefit over the iPad 2, yet the Samsung didn't quite fit the bill. I'm hoping another tablet comes along that builds on that awesome concept of split screen multitasking - I just don't know what the answer would be for how to input text without covering half / most of the screen (Maybe a split / thumb keyboard)

By francomusso on 17 Sep 2012

Stylus is the Mouse of the Tablet

Any serious work requires a pointing device; a mouse on your PC, a stylus on your phone or tablet.

Makers once understood that: Windows Mobile (that was the best mobile OS from WinCE1 in ~1998 to WinMo 2003, crushing down media-favorite Palm) had an app market that remains unmatched today. For instance I still run and take with me my HP iPaq h2215 (WinMo 2003) with the ~$400 software I bought, it only lacks a comm access (WiFi or Phone); its 400MHz CPU and 64MB RAM are never too low given the 2 slots (2-GB SD and 64-GB CF). No other mobile OS has an offline COMPLETE Wikipedia with all images, a REAL and COMPLETE programmable calculator (sci, finance, built-in and user-built progs, a wonderful periodic table with links to offline extremely detailed element sheets), and above all, so vast a choice of EDUCATED and CAREFULLY WRITTEN (not to mention very low-priced) apps in ALL fields.

All these apps, being serious, require an accurate pointing device. Mine (on h2215) is a very convenient stylus, that is taken outside or inserted back in a fraction of a second, more convenient, precise and easy than the Note 10.1's one (that I have tried in store). I bought an HTC HD2, installed my old apps on it, yes I can use them, but it's awkward, far from as comfortable and efficient than on the h2215; and the 1000MHz CPU + 1000MB RAM add nothing to my old 400MHz + 64MB. I finally use my HD2 only for music: its Windows Media Player, one of the rare components that Microsoft has NOT COMPLETELY crippled in Windows Mobile 6.5, is wonderful and still beats current Google/Samsung one for a while. For the rest of mundane tasks I use a Samsung Galaxy S WiFi 4.0 (excellent), and my good old h2215: better carry 3 efficient and reliable devices (2005 phone, Galaxy, h2215) than one single imperfect "convergent" one.

Versailles, Thu 27 Sep 2012 10:03:00 +0200

By MichelMerlin on 27 Sep 2012

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