Samsung Galaxy Note 101 Review

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Mar
28
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Earlier in the month, I was one of the few people who got to play around with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. This time around, we put Samsung’s latest tablet through its paces for our full review.

Although some people are mistaking it for the Galaxy Note 2, it is a different beast. The Galaxy Note is a full-on tablet. There are some similarities with the original Note and this Note tablet such as the S Pen and, surprisingly, phone capabilities.

Before we go on with the review, let’s talk about the specs. As I stated in my hands-on, the Galaxy Note 10.1 has a lot more in common internally with the Samsung Galaxy S III than its little brother, the Galaxy Note. The Note 10.1 uses the same quad-core Exynos processor as the Galaxy S III. Both even run at the speed at 1.4GHz. However, there are differences. While the Note 10.1 does away with NFC, it has double the RAM (2GB) than with the S III. This doubling of the RAM not only speeds up the tablet than the S III but is necessary for one other feature of the Note 10.1 which we will see below.

 

Other hardware specs are the 1.9MP front-facing camera and the 5MP rear-facing camera with LED flash. The model that will be arriving here in September with be 3G-enabled and will come with 16GB of internal storage. The tablet also has a microSD slot which adds 64GB of storage. The 10.1” display has a resolution of 1280×800 which is more than enough to play 720p video. Because the tablet is a Note after all, the Note 10.1 comes with the S Pen that is neatly tucked away in its slot at the lower right hand when looking at the screen.

Speaking of the S Pen, the S Pen stylus comes from Wacom. Tablet-users – the PC accessory – should be familiar with the brand. It is the name when it comes to graphic tablets. As such, Wacom has brought its stylus know-how to the Galaxy Note 10.1. This includes the 1024 pressure sensitivity of the stylus.

This means that depending on the pressure input from the stylus and the if the app supports it, you can increase or decrease the darkness of the lines you are drawing on to the tablet.

With the included S Note, you already get to see the potential of the Note 10.1 as a sketch device. I was able to download a couple of apps (Infinite Painter Free (Note) and Autodesk’s SketchBook Express) to play with the S Pen. Both apps make good use of the S Pen, they still aren’t optimized for the Note 10.1 and the additional functions and input sensitivity of the S Pen. The tablet even has hand recognition functionality with certain apps such as S Note.

One small annoyance is that the because the Note 10.1 makes use of the S Pen, there are other items such as the charging cable of the Note 10.1 which can interact with the surface of the tablet such as opening an app or unintended scrolling.

Comparing the Note 10.1’s hardware with Samsung’s flagship smartphone, the tablet also has a number of features from the Galaxy S III such as Smart Stay which detects if someone is looking at the screen and will disable standby if it does. It also has Popup Play which lets you play videos on top of the screen similar to Picture-In-Picture.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 is also the first tablet that I have seen that makes use of the big display of the tablet for true multitasking. With supported apps, you are able to see the multitasking button on the upper right hand corner of the app which lets you divide the display into two windows. For example, you can have both the S Note and the Internet Browser windows on the same screen so you can take notes while researching on the Internet. Another is watching a video and then checking Internet for more information about the video.

While multi-tasking is encouraged with the Note 10.1, with two or more windows open, the power of the processor shows its limitation. Even with the bigger memory, the smoothness of interface is lost a bit and stuttering becomes evident especially when both windows are doing a lot of work. It is not as bad as it seems considering the capability in such a small device.

With the power and the large screen of the tablet, I am impressed with the battery life. The tablet will last up to two days without a charge with WiFi only and even longer in Airplane Mode. With 3G enabled, the Note 10.1 will last a whole day with enough breathing room before plugging it into the charger.

You might notice that the Note 10.1 has an infrared transmitter on top. The tablet has a Smart Remote app where you can pair your home theater devices with the tablet and Note 10.1 becomes an all-in-one, home theater remote. Obviously, it will work with any Samsung devices but it will work with other brands as well – although not all brands are supported.

Speaking of home theater, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is also DLNA-compatible with what Samsung has branded AllShare Play. This allows you to send and receive content from other DLNA-compatible devices.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 still uses a proprietary port underneath the tablet. I had hoped that Samsung would have done away with proprietary ports since that is another cable to bring along just to charge or connect the tablet. I would have preferred a microUSB port similar to smartphones and other tablets.

I’m not really into large tablets such as the iPad or even the Galaxy Tab 10.1. I have always found them bulky and awkward to use as a consumption device. After even just an hour of holding them, your wrists begin to hurt from the weight. However, having a big screen does have its advantages such as reading fixed format PDFs and comics which tend to be illegible on smaller displays. Watching videos is also a plus on the Galaxy Note 10.1’s large display and because of the resolution of the display, you also get to see 720p videos with crisp detail. Because of the power of the Exynos processor, the Note 10.1 will even handle 1080p content with ease.

On the other hand, because of the S Pen of the Note 10.1, this tablet is different all together. All it takes is a different mindset. Once you start thinking of it as a creation device, the stylus, the large screen, even the heft, it all makes sense.

One big hurdle of the Galaxy Note 10.1 is the app support. Sure, Samsung (and to some extent Adobe) already has a number of apps that makes use of the stylus and the multi-tasking abilities of the tablet. However, it will take more third party support especially when it comes to drawing or anything with production which will truly bring the tablet to life.

For those that want to consume content on a portable device, I’d still suggest getting a smaller tablet such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 or the Galaxy Tab 7.7. I think that the Galaxy Note 10.1 is mostly intended for the creative user who will actually use the S Pen for more creative work than just use it to tap and scroll. Not that the Note 10.1 can’t be used as a consumption device, it can and does it very well. On the other hand, there are other – less expensive – tablets that perform 90% of what the Galaxy Note 10.1 does.

  • Plus: Multi-tasking; Excellent battery life; S Pen functions; Infrared transmitter; Front speakers; Decent camera
  • Minus: Limited hand recognition functionality; Weight; Expensive; Limited app optimization
  • Bottomline: While the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 isn’t marketed to anyone in particular, it is evident that creatives will get the most out of the tablet.

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