The Samsung Galaxy Note is not the first 10.1-inch Android tablet with an active pen. That distinction belongs to the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet. But whereas the ThinkPad Tablet was targeted at business users and shipped with an N-trig pen, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 features Wacom technology (that’s an open secret, the official line from Samsung is that it is proprietary). In addition, the Galaxy Note 10.1 closely resembles the ultra-slick Galaxy Tab 10.1, and not the sturdy ThinkPad.
Actually, the Galaxy Note 10.1 (and Galaxy Tab 2 10.1) more closely resembles the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, which Samsung release overseas in response to Apple legal claims that briefly halted sales of the Tab 10.1 in Germany. This is a good thing, as the new look is a bit longer than the old, complete with plastic chrome lining and front-facing speakers instead of the inferior rear and side speakers found on most tablets.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 is also slightly thicker to account for the Wacom – err, “proprietary” – technology. However, you’d be hard-pressed to tell without the benefit of direct comparison.
New Note & Memo Features
From our hands-on time with the Note 10.1 at Mobile World Congress 2012, it’s obvious that this Android tablet will not simply be a scaled up version of the Galaxy Note. For starters, it runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich 4.0, while the original still runs Gingerbread (it should get Ice Cream Sandwich in Q2). The Note 10.1 S Memo app is more feature rich, and includes greater handwriting-to-text capabilities as well as shapes and mathematical formula/equation support.
The formula support is extremely neat. Simply jot down a math problem, be it complicated algebra or simple addition, and the Memo app will digitize it and even calculate it. The Memo app can also stay open and function alongside the browser or a video in a dual-window mode. This has application when taking notes from a video or web page, and is a TouchWiz feature that is also present in its basic lite apps. It’s essentially multiple open windows support, and it’s sorely lacking on other tablets. We wouldn’t be surprised if Google “borrowed” something similar in future Android releases.
New S Pen
The S Pen has also been upgraded, and is larger than the tiny stick that ships with the Galaxy Note. As a result, it’s more comfortable to hold and features an eraser end for quick corrections. The stylus button also works, but was only able to snap screenshots during the demo. Hopefully Samsung will extend its function before release. While Samsung reps could not confirm how many pressure points the large S Pen supports, one mentioned 128. By comparison, the original Galaxy Note S Pen supports 256 pressure points.
Unfortunately, the Note 10.1’s thin design means there will be no room to dock the larger stylus on board. Also, the preproduction units showed no signs of a tether slot. It’s a safe bet Samsung will be happy to sell you an accessory case to store both, however.
Also unfortunate is that the Galaxy Note 10.1 continues the Samsung tablet tradition of not having any useful inputs outside of a proprietary pin connector. There is no HDMI and no standard USB, micro or otherwise. The S Note we tested did have a microSD card slot, however.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 will ship with both Adobe Photoshop Touch, a lite version of the desktop software, and Adobe Ideas, a vector-based drawing app. Both are also available for iOS, but thanks to the S Pen, we can predict with confidence that these two programs will be much better for Android than Apple.
There is no word yet from Samsung regarding a release date, carrier support or a price.