While the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Note (2014 Edition) is usually described as having an octa-core processor (In fact, it’s even named the “Exynos Octa 5420”), this isn’t quite accurate. It does have eight cores, but they aren’t all used at once. Instead, they’re organized into two quad-core systems. The first is a set of four 1.9 GHz A15-class cores — cutting edge designs which produce a LOT of horsepower. Case in point, over three runs of Quadrant benchmarks, the Note averaged a somewhat startling score of over 18,000. In comparison, Samsung’s own flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4, only hits 12,000, and it wasn’t that long ago that even high-end smartphones were coming in just under 5,000. As you might imagine, that kind of speed eats some serious battery power, though.
That’s where the other processors come into play: a set of four 1.3 GHz A7 cores. These kick into gear when you’re not taxing the processing abilities that much — things like casual web browsing, lightweight games, etcetera. They still provide quite a bit of power to run the device, but they’re much more energy efficient than the A15 cores, and let you browse or YouTube to your heart’s content without having to bother the more power-intensive cores to do it. Overall, the system works remarkably well, as mentioned below in the “Battery Life” segment.
The Note comes with either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage (of which 25 GB was accessible on our 32 GB review unit). Granted, some other competitors offer 64GB or even 128GB options, but never at this price point. And on top of that, the Note has a microSD slot, allowing you to expand its memory. Using a 64GB microSD card (the largest currently available), the Note could be easily set up with 70-85 GB of available storage, for much cheaper than any comparable device.
The software side offers a lot of interesting little tidbits. As many apps as there are in the Note’s software package though, my opinion still is that the “killer app” really isn’t the famous S-Pen, as useful as it can be. Instead, it’s Samsung’s “Multi-Window” option. I first ran into this when I reviewed the Galaxy Note 8.0, which allowed you to run two apps side by side on-screen. There, it was already a cool and useful add-on, allowing you to do things like look up an address on Google Maps while keeping the email open, surf the web while you were replying to messages, or a host of other useful things. It was a nice, useful little app that the multitasking user could appreciate.
On the Note 10.1 however, with more screen space, it’s come into its own, and become an absolute essential. A 10-inch tablet has almost exactly twice the screen area of a 7-inch tablet — with two windows running, it’s essentially like having two smaller tablets in your hand at once, sharing the same data. Granted, only certain apps can run side-by-side out of the box, but this includes many of the standard Google apps like Maps, Chrome, Email and Gmail, music and video players, Youtube, and a lot more. Most users won’t have any trouble going without the other apps that can’t be split-screened. You can even cut and paste both text and images from one window to the other, and run different instances of the same app at the same time. Watching something while a friend messages you? Looking up an address while doing something else? Browsing the internet while YouTubing? Multi-window allows you to do any and all of those things, without interruption. Even with the limitations on what apps can use it, you’ll find most of your common uses are probably covered, and then some.
Of course, that isn’t to say that the Note 10.1 2014’s many other apps aren’t useful, sometimes extremely so. Even putting aside things like the Dropbox app’s 50GB free promotion, there are a ton of nifty options mostly geared towards the use of the S-Pen.
Although it might seem like a “gimmick” feature to those who don’t need it, the S-Pen is extremely handy if it falls into your area of use. For starters, it offers 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity; way more than any built-in app takes advantage of, but enough that the avid artist could certainly consider the Note with a good drawing app as a poor man’s replacement for a Wacom tablet.
A custom version of Sketchbook Mobile is included, with extra S-Pen functions, although I think an upgraded app could probably take it a lot farther. There’s also some relatively straightforward note apps and limited handwriting recognition. Evernote is thrown in for note-taking, as well as Samsung’s own “Scrapbook” app designed to take advantage of the S-Pen’s cut and paste options.
The Note 10.1 2014 features a pretty standard gamut of wireless features for high-end devices, with dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Curiously though, it doesn’t seem to have NFC, possibly because Samsung decided it wouldn’t be very useful in a tablet. Otherwise, performance of all the wireless options was just as expected.
There has been no word yet of a 4G LTE version. However, its predecessor was available with 4G LTE.
Basically the only real dedicated productivity app on the Note, besides Google’s email/sync/calendar options, is Polaris Office for working with documents. It works well enough for that purpose, even though it’s not as popular as the bigger names in the mobile office market.
Besides the standard music and video players, plus Hub (Samsung’s equivalent to Google Play, a music and video content store), the Note 10.1 2014’s entertainment apps are fairly low key. The most notable is the software for the device’s IR port, which lets the Note mimic a remote control for most home theater components. It had no problem talking to my Olevia TV and Dish Network satellite box, and control was quick and easy. You can even have a panel in your notification shade, to quickly access the channel up/down, volume up/down, and power buttons from any other app. My only real complaint in that department is software; the included app doesn’t want to just give you a straight up remote control interface, instead giving you a simplified one along with a program guide. I prefer the Peel Remote that shipped on other Note models, but fortunately you can install that onto this model.
Also included is screen mirroring via Samsung AllShare, which allows you to wirelessly mirror your device’s screen to a compatible TV — in essence, HDMI without the wires. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a compatible Samsung TV available to try this out on.
On more conventional methods of screen output though, the Note 10.1 2014 does have HDMI capability… somehow, at least. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it. It’s theoretically supposed to be available via an MHL connection, but even hooking it up to my TV via a Samsung brand MHL adapter doesn’t seem to do the trick; neither the TV nor the tablet seem to recognize anything is connected. It’s possible that I did something wrong in this equation, but I can’t figure out what it might be.
Equipped with an 8MP rear camera and a 2 MP front camera, the Note delivers decent image quality, but nothing special. It’s comparable to most 8 MP smartphone cameras, which is really all you can probably expect on a tablet, where camera quality is going to be a secondary priority at best.
With all the features it has thrown at it, and that massive set of processors, you’d expect that the Note 10.1 2014’s biggest weakness would be its battery life. Surprisingly, that would be wrong. While it’s not going to set records, in average use this tablet’s battery holds up quite as well as any of the other 10-inch models are likely to.
Depending on brightness settings, you can reasonably expect somewhere in the range of 8 to 10 hours of life from it, doing things like browsing, reading, and playing light games. It should be kept in mind, though, that if you decide to push it to the maximum with a lot of high-end 3D games or the equivalent, you’re going to get a lot less out of it than that; in extreme circumstances, you might see as relatively little as 4 hours. Still, that’s an awfully long time to be running extremely demanding apps or games.
Speaking of power… although it does come with its own 2 amp charger, the Note 10.1 2014 is very forgiving about charging off other, lesser power sources. It’ll charge (albeit very slowly) off a supply of just 500 mA, and a 1 amp phone charger does quite a good job charging it overnight. So while you might want the main charger with you if you’re draining the battery every day, on the whole you can comfortably rely on whatever other standard chargers you happen to have around you.
Don’t miss our final conclusions on this model on Page 3.