Samsung is truly looking to take Apple on with its latest incursion into the turbulent world of Tablets. With a starting price of $499, they are poised to hit Apple right in the core of its iPad space. Therefore, Samsung created a Tablet that they felt could really do this. To some degree, they have done a credible job. Without further ado, TechnologyBlogged.com presents this Review of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (“Note 10.1”):
Touch Screen / Display
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has what is likely the nicest feeling touch-screen of any Tablet I have ever handled. It is incredibly smooth, and instantly responsive. Its 1280 x 800 pixel resolution display is quite impressive, considering the fact that many other pundits have been slamming Samsung for not using a full 1920 x 1080 resolution HD display. Here at TechnologyBlogged.com, we believe this has a lot to do with the fact that many of these pundits base their Tablet ratings on how a particular Android Tablet compares to the New iPad, and quite frankly when it comes to resolution on a 10.1 inch display, 1280 x 800 is quite acceptable. However it would seem that the light sensor used to auto-adjust the display lighting is not that well calibrated, thus the screen would often remain dark in dimly lit rooms as opposed to adjusting accordingly in a timely fashion.
Design, Look, and Feel
Samsung borrowed many of the Galaxy SIII’s design elements and retrofitted them into this Tablet design. The soft plastic shell, which is an interesting design aesthetically, is a rather unfortunate decision, because it creates an impression of flimsiness. I usually do not compare products to their Apple counterparts, but this is one area where I simply cannot help myself. Apple manages to sell a $499 device that feels solid enough to use as a self-defense weapon, yet, as I hold the Note 10.1 with one hand I’m concerned it will snap in half due to lack of structural support!
Around the Tablet’s bezel I also noticed many points which when I applied minimal pressure proved easy to squeeze. Build quality is an area few Tablet manufacturers have a really good grip on. Samsung, with its history of flimsy Netbooks, should have known better. But hey, they need to maximize profits in order to pay the Billion dollars in damages to Apple, right? So, a word to the wise, get a really good case to transport this baby.
Like many Tablets of yore, the 10.1 is also a fingerprint magnet.
Software / UI
On board the Note 10.1 is the Android version 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). However, it is not stock ICS like the one found on Google-branded Tablets and Smartphones. Instead it is overlaid by Samsung’s own in-house UI known as “TouchWiz”, which honestly does its best to throw “suggested apps” at consumers. However the Tablet does come with some really nice software, such as Multiscreen, Adobe Photoshop Touch, Polaris Office, and a plethora of apps designed to facilitate use of the included S-pen.
Many of these apps are actually extraordinarily useful. While consumers have become wary of “bloatware”, which is when manufacturers purposely load relatively useless apps onto devices, the 10.1 apps are all full-featured, free, and make excellent use of the Tablet’s ample capabilities.
I think Multiscreen is really one of the coolest things about this Tablet. Users can have two windows open side-by-side and work on both simultaneously without having to switch back and forth between apps. This came in handy while reading articles. I would initiate Multiscreen to take notes using S-note, or open up Wikipedia to get some more information about what I was reading.
S-note was especially cool. Upon removing the stylus out of its storage dock, a small side bar quickly appears showing a number of useful apps that work well with the included writing peripheral.
The Note 10.1 comes with two cameras, which is to be expected from all full-size (read:10 inch) Tablets these days. The rear camera is a 5-megapixel, 1080p capable video recording camera with flash! The front camera is an above-standard 1.9 megapixel, which supports 720p video recording. For comparison, the new iPad still makes use of a ludicrous VGA quality front camera (640 x 330) resolution and the Nexus 7 has a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera. Skype calls made using the 10.1 were fantastic, with the other caller able to see me in superb quality (although this is may also be due to having a high-speed Internet connection).
The rear camera did not seem particularly impressive. Yes, the quality of the videos and pictures it takes is quite nice when compared to the iPad, but it left a lot to be desired, seeing as my HTC Amaze 4G has an 8-megapixel camera on its backside. Now I know this is an Apples to Oranges comparison, however I strongly believe that Samsung, which was the pioneer in cell phone cameras, should have used its technology to distinguish itself with this feature.
To be totally honest, at this stage in their development, taking pictures with a Tablet is a bit of a fool’s errand, and will not replace a dedicated SLR or even a sophisticated cell phone.
HD, sub-HD, Streaming – the Tablet handled all like a king. Its quad-core Exynos 4 CPU had no problem handling the highly demanding “The Matrix” in full 1080p – while streaming, with subtitles.
Another area the Note 10.1 excels in, is gaming, again thanks to its quad-core CPU. Games such as “Front Line Commando” really came to life. Another game that amply demonstrated the CPUs prowess is “Make It Fly”, a flight simulator for Android created by the US Air Force, where players assemble planes meeting specified criteria for missions and then test them out.
When it comes to Tablets, one of the biggest issues we have at TechnologyBlogged.com, is the placement of the speakers, which generally produce a sound that impels us to plug in headphones and call it a day. Samsung really did an excellent job with the speakers. The sound they produced was nice, loud, and clear, with a touch of base. The placement is also phenomenal. With the exception of people with overly large hands, most users will rarely find their hands blocking the speakers while holding the tablet in both landscape and portrait mode!
For the most part, the included S-Pen was masterfully designed. A small slot in the bottom right corner of the tablet securely stores the pen/stylus when not in use. Unlike most styluses for capacitive displays, the pen itself is not capacitive. It is actually an active digitizer, and thus offers even greater precision while writing and drawing. Since it is battery-free, it draws its power from the screen. When the pen is removed from the Tablet, a line of S-pen apps shows up on the right side of the screen ready for instant use. The pen itself is small, with a dark grey color. It doesn’t feel that sturdy, so I would not recommend squeezing it too hard, however in actual use it was absolutely fantastic.
Pretty decent – especially in standby mode. I found on average I got a solid 11 hours of use – so practically speaking a whole day of usage.
The microSD card slot is an excellent addition, allowing users to expand their storage space quite seamlessly. The built in IR blaster is a great addition for users whose home AV equipment is IR capable. However the setup proved finicky and requires the manually adding individual settings for supported devices.
Wrap Up / Final Thoughts
If you are in the market for a 10.1 inch Android Tablet and have a spare $499 to spend, this might just be what you are looking for, although it is no competitor to the iPad. If writing on a Tablet is important to you, and build quality is an afterthought, and you can get over the horrible UI Samsung have plastered over Android, this bit of consumer technology will be right up your street.
Is the 10.1 an ‘iPad-killer’? Honestly – no. However, it has raised the bar for Android Tablet performance with their own in-house Exynos quad-core CPU, thus other companies like Asus or Toshiba will certainly be forced to up their game in order to compete in the Android space performance wise. It is our duty to point out that if Samsung had shipped this tablet with Jelly Bean, it would be a whole lot faster than it performs currently.
Rating: 6/10PS: Digging this story, news or review? Let us know! Comments open.
About Benny Sabghir: Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I enjoy all aspects of consumer electronics - especially writing about it. I also enjoy hitting the gym, running and discussing the history of my three favorite wars - The American Revolution, The Six-Day War, and the Star Wars Trilogy. Currently in Jerusalem, Israel. Find me on Google+ View author profile.