Samsung made significant changes to the Galaxy Note 10.1 since last we saw this inkable Android tablet at Mobile World Congress last February, and all the changes are for the better.
For starters, Samsung ditched the dual-core chipset for its own quad-core Exynos processor (1.4GHz), bringing the Note up to speed with rival Android devices from ASUS and others. Samsung also doubled the RAM to 2GB. And most notably, Samsung learned from HTC's Flyer folly and redesigned the Note 10.1 to include a pen hold, so the S Pen can dock securely in the device.
Yes, Samsung really put effort into polishing up the Note 10.1 for its big re-reveal on August 15, and Samsung reps went so far as to call the Note 10.1 the company's "hero device" for Fall 2012, meaning Samsung has high hopes it will sell well and Sammy will put marketing resources behind it. Given that the 5.3-inch Note "phablet" sold five million units in a little more than a month from its launch, Samsung's confidence may be well placed.
TabletPCReview spent some time with the Galaxy Note 10.1 prior to its launch, and found that Samsung may be onto something with the Android-and-pen niche its claimed.
The most notable new Galaxy Note 10.1 feature is its take on multi-tasking. Samsung will offer a multi-screen feature that enables two programs to run simultaneously side by side, just like with Microsoft Windows. At launch, users can run S Note -- Samsung's memo and note-taking application -- next to an open email, web browser, running video, Polaris Office, and the photo gallery -- or any combination of the programs -- complete with copy and paste functionality and screen shot drag and drop sharing. This is ideal for jotting down notes while transcribing a video, or maybe tweaking a Polaris Office slideshow through email.
Seeing S Note run side by side with a video and one can understand why Samsung upgraded the processor to quad-core and doubled the RAM to 2GB, as the Note 10.1 handled the relatively taxing task with no issues. Samsung also promised to make an SDK available for other app developers looking to get in on the multi-screen fun.
Of course, S-Note still supports inking, handwriting to text, shape recognition, and the excellent formula feature we witnessed in Barcelona.
About that S-Pen, that's been changed as well. Gone is the clunky old unit with 128 pressure points, in its place is smaller and sleeker stick that sports 1024 points of pressure sensitivity. The cat is also out of the bag on the screen technology. What was "proprietary" in Barcelona is now Wacom (as we always suspected), and it offers palm rejection up to 14mm.
We found the new S Pen to be extremely comfortable in use, and Samsung will ship the Note 10.1 with additional rubber and plastic pen tips (rubber for those that like a little resistance, plastic for those that don't). It's much better than its smaller cousin, which ships with the Galaxy Note, and easier to use. The new S Pen also has grooves on its lone button for better touch identification.
Wacom fans will know that the benefit of a Wacom pen over others is that fact that Wacom pens don't require batteries. On the Note 10.1, the S Pen is powered through radio waves emitted from the display. Finally, in a nice touch, the Note 10.1 is configurable to quick launch an application when the S Pen is undocked.
Samsung puts its TouchWiz overlay on all its Android devices, and for better or worse, it's one of the heavier skins out there. It can be better because it adds great new and innovative features to Android (like multi-screen), and it can be worse because many believe it delays Android OS updates. The Galaxy Note 10.1 will ship with Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0, but Samsung promises it will be updated to Jelly Bean by the end of the year.
The Note 10.1 will support b/g/n Wi-Fi, and there was no talk of a 4G LTE unit during our time with Samsung. We can confirm that the Galaxy Note 10.1 will not sport NFC. That's disappointing, especially given how prominent NFC features are on the Galaxy S III.
Also disappointing is the Note 10.1's display resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels, or about 150 pixels per inch. That's certainly good enough for a decent picture, but it is the 2011 standard. The new iPad and high-end Android devices have high-resolution displays with at least 220 pixels per inch (the new iPad has a whopping 264 ppi). When asked why so low, Samsung reps simply responded they thought it was "adequate." Still, it's tough believe that Samsung would skimp out on display resolution with a device partially targeted at artists that comes preloaded with an S Pen-supported version of Photoshop Touch. Most likely, the low display resolution is a battery/power consumption issue, and/or a cost-cutting measure.
Oh yeah, about the cost. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 will cost $499 at launch for the 16GB version and $549 for the 32GB version. It goes on sale August 16. Both versions support microSD up to 64GB. Other features include the excellent Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 design with front-facing speakers and many of the same content sharing features found on the Galaxy S III, like Pop Up Player (for videos), Smart Stay, AllShare DLNA, and an infrared blaster that effectively turns the Note 10.1 into a universal remote.
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