At first glance, the 10.1-inch version of Samsung's Galaxy Note looks a lot like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, except that it comes equipped with an S Pen stylus. Still, this is a device that differs from the common tablet in many ways, above all, in its bundled software which has been specially created for use with the S Pen.
Don't think the Galaxy Note 10.1 is just a Galaxy Note with double the diagonal. They were designed for two completely different purposes, with only the S Pen being the common denominator.
They also have one other thing in common: an impressive list of hardware specifications and standard supreme Samsung performance. The Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with a quad-core Samsung Exynos processor, especially elegant dimensions and Android OS 4.0.1 (ICS), upgradeable to Jelly Bean and completed with the TouchWiz UI. This is currently the best Samsung tablet with the Android OS, for sure. Many will find it the best Android tablet in general, due to its possibilities and performance, while others who like it won't see any particular use for the S Pen.
Build and Design
The Galaxy Note 10.1 differs from the one Samsung showed off during MWC in February. As the new Apple iPad, Google Nexus 7, and other fantastic tablets from Acer and Asus appeared in the meantime, Samsung had to improve its flagship tablet before it was worthy of the competition. It is now equipped with a better and faster chipset, and its appearance was also improved. Furthermore, it is even smaller now.
Thus, the Galaxy Note 10.1 looks quite modern, powerful, and convincing. It resembles the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, but the white color combines with a silver rim, using metal in crafting the body and a very slim edge that leaves a much better impression than the 'classic' Samsung 10-inch tablet. At 262 x 180 x 8.9 mm and 600 grams, the Note 10.1 provides a very pleasant and balanced feeling when held in hand, and is one of the slimmest and lightest 10-inch tablets available on the market.
Unlike the device's hardware, performance, and design, the screen does not deserve nearly as much praise. This is a 10.1-inch PLS TFT panel with a resolution of just 800 x 1280 pixels. This results in an unimpressive pixel density of 149 ppi, which is far below the latest iPad's Retina, as well as far from the pixel density provided by Full HD screens on Acer and Asus 10-inch tablets. Furthermore, the Galaxy Note 10.1 does not use Gorilla Glass.
Luckily, the imaging appears above average for 10-inch tablets, and the jagginess of skew edges is visible with the naked eye only when you get really close to the device. Color vividness is fantastic, especially when it comes to warm and cold tones, while the neutral ones somewhat suffocate the contrast. Objects made from contrasting nuances look a bit washed out, and the overall contrast is suddenly lost when the tablet is exposed to direct sunlight. On the other hand, the viewing angle is very wide, and it almost does not affect the imaging quality on the screen.
Thus, it can be concluded that Galaxy Note 10.1 has a solid display which the users will be pleased with, but it is not impressive, like Apple's or that of a growing number of other competitors'.
Other Buttons and Ports
A pair of speakers is located on the metal edge -- one on each side when the device is held in the landscape position -- while the front includes only a front-facing camera (2 megapixels) and an ambilight sensor. Of course, unlike the 'little' Galaxy Note, this 'big' one does not have a speaker for making telephone calls. However, VoIP calls are possible via the speakerphone or by using a headset.
The upper edge of this tablet offers a 3.5 mm headphone slot, a Micro SIM slot, as well as a microSD card slot, protected with plastic covers. There is also the volume control and the Power button.
The lower edge includes a microphone and a slot for holding the S Pen, while the central part holds a nonstandard 30-pin connector for battery charging and connecting the device with additional items. It is high time Samsung implemented a standard hub, like Micro-USB -- as it is, users are forced to almost constantly carry around their charging cable. The back side includes only the Samsung logo and a 5-megapixel camera with a LED flash.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with a 1.4GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos 4 chip and the Mali-400MP graphic processor. This is the same chipset as the Samsung Galaxy S III, which is a good recommendation when talking about this tablet's speed. With its 2GB or RAM, it is clear that you can do anything you want without glitching, stopping, or waiting.
Synthetic benchmarks -- all of them -- show that the Note 10.1 is convincingly the fastest tablet on the market. With a 162890 score on BrowserMark, it is much faster than Nexus 8 (132477) and the new iPad (104222), as well as current Galaxy Tabs. The same results were marked by AnTuTu and SunSpider.
The tablet comes with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) which will soon be upgraded to Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). The TouchWiz UI which is layered on top brings a practical step forward in relation to competitors' models; widgets of various, but standard, sizes pop up in the forefront with this user interface. Like legos, these can be arranged in several desktops. Similarly, TouchWiz UI brings the most detailed notifications panel, and it is possible to quickly set up many options on the tablet here.
S Pen and S Apps
What makes Galaxy Note 10.1 different from all other tablets is the S Pen, a passive stylus like the one Galaxy Note and Galaxy Note II have, which brings many new functions to this device -- ones that are typical for other tablets. It is true that HTC Flyer also comes with S Pen, but it is on a whole different level.
The S Pen is rectangular with slightly rounded edges, which makes it feel natural when held in hand. There is a button near the tip which can be pressed in order to perform certain tasks, i.e. gestures while working with the tablet. The tip is made from rubber and the user can press the display with it rather strongly, without fearing it might be damaging it. Naturally, the device detects how much pressure is being used, which comes in handy while drawing or creating notes, as well as performing many other tasks.
Also, just like with the Galaxy Note II, the S Pen does not have to touch the display -- the device will know that you have brought it near. This is very useful while using applications like YouTube for precisely replaying or forwarding videos, Adobe Photoshop Touch for precisely positioning the cursor, or any other application which includes high precision when touching pixels. I also love the fact that the tablet 'knows' when you are resting your hand on the screen while using the S Pen and ignores this type of touch.
Writing and drawing excluded, S Pen is a great alternative to a finger for using the tablet. Pressing the button on its tip while moving it to the left equals the back option, moving it downwards opens the context menu, while double-clicking it starts the S Memo application. Pressing the button and holding it creates a screenshot.
S Memo is a mini application that enables creating notes in various colors and of different pen thickness, with the option of adding images, maps, and similar objects. Thus, S Note enables the user to create advanced documents that can be exported as JPEG or PDF with several pages.
There are other applications suitable for using the S Pen. S Planner is a calendar that allows users to write notes in different modes (year, month, week, day etc.). It can be synchronized with other calendars, like the one on Facebook.
Of course, the most attractive application is Adobe Photoshop Touch, which comes pre-installed. Users can edit photos with it nearly as detailed as with the desktop version of Photoshop. The S Pen is really useful here, and going back to the mentioned 'real' desktop Photoshop seems like a step back. Adobe Ideas also comes with the Note 10.1; this is similar software, but far more elementary. It enables sketches, adding existing images, etc.
Regardless of the excellent hardware and design, the Galaxy Note 10.1's most important element is the S Pen, and you need to pay attention to this detail while deciding on the purchase. If you need a tablet for drawing and creating notes, the Note 10.1 is the perfect choice. If you do not plan on using the S Pen often, then buying this tablet is not that justified.
When it comes to selection, there is little difference when comparing this model's collection of apps to that of Samsung's Galaxy Tab series. Still, the tablet has the unique option of working with two applications at the same time on a divided screen, but not with any two apps -- Video player, Polaris Office, S Note and the web browser are all supported.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 has a 7000 mAh battery which cannot be taken out. In practice, there will be no need for a spare battery, given that this built-in one provides exceptional battery life, and it is possible to use the device actively for several days, even with a wireless connection. This is an area in which Samsung is standardly consistent, and one in which it has successfully thrown down the gauntlet to its competitors, ever since its first tablet.
When it comes to its features, practicality and performance, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 leaves its competitors a long way behind. On the other hand, the same cannot be stated for its display, which is solid, yet not nearly as impressive.
The conclusion is clear -- this is an excellent tablet, one of the best offered at the moment, even when all available mobile operating systems are taken into account (iOS, Android OS and Windows 8 RT), but there is still room for improvement.
Users who will be using the S Pen frequently will be most satisfied, given that this provides the Galaxy Note 10.1's greatest advantage, despite all other qualities hardware or software-wise, with excellent S Apps. Those who do not require the S Pen will also be pleased with this device, but they could be equally pleased with other devices, regardless of the manufacturer, and even saving a few bucks at the same time.