With pen input and a highly customised version of Android 4.0, the Galaxy Note 10.1 distinguishes itself in a crowded market. You’d be forgiven for confusing the Note 10.1 with the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, as both look extremely similar. Both are 10in Android tablets, and both come in white or grey.
S Pen stylus What’s unique about the Note, just as with the original 5.3in Galaxy Note, is its stylus. The screen responds to your fingers as usual, but also works like a Wacom tablet when you write with the pressure-sensitive stylus. Whether you need a stylus or not is debatable, but there’s no doubt that if you need to annotate documents or draw onscreen, it’s something no other 10in tablet offers. When you remove the stylus from the bottom of the Note 10.1 a shortcut bar appears where you can launch, among other apps, Samsung’s Note app. This is probably the best of all those preloaded, letting you write notes, sketch and even write formulae. Text and equations can then be converted to editable text.
Hardware and build
Inside the Note is a fast 1.4GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. This version has 16GB of storage, but a 32GB model is also available. There’s built-in GPS, Bluetooth and also Wi-Fi direct for sharing photos and other files with compatible devices.
The Note 10.1 has a distinctive, but not especially premium look. The tablet is neither the thinnest nor the lightest tablet, but it compares respectably to others in its size class. It measures 256.7×175.3×8.9mm, and weighs 583g – noticeably lighter than the iPad. It’s designed with the intent of holding it horizontally in two hands, with the front-facing 1.9Mp camera centred above the display, and stereo speakers mounted on either side.
We like the front-firing stereo speakers, which are surprisingly loud and well-positioned for holding the Note and watching videos. HD clips look great, too, and motion is crisp. There’s no USB in or HDMI out port, but a microSD slot lets you add up to 64GB of extra storage and, oddly, an infrared emitter means you can control your TV.
The screen is a mixed bag. Despite having the same 1280×800-pixel resolution as the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, it’s sharper and has more vivid colours. Viewing angles are good, too. Next to an iPad, though, it looks inferior.
The Note 10.1 excelled in our lab tests, setting new benchmarks for graphics performance on Android tablets, and for web browsing across all tablets. In SunSpider, for example, it blasted through the test in 1.2 seconds, compared with the Google Nexus 7’s 1.7 seconds.
With the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, Samsung offers its most tailored operating system and locked-and-loaded app selection yet. Samsung ships the Note 10.1 with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich, but Jelly Bean is expected to be rolled out to devices in the near future. Like other Samsung devices, this tablet is not for Android purists. Most of the overlays and modifications make for a more friendly experience. Samsung does its most far-reaching TouchWiz overhaul of the Android OS seen on one of its tablets yet. Among the tweaks: it replaces such basics as the Settings menu and the layout of the Notify launcher. The trade-off is you get more control over many options, but in other cases Samsung clutters the interface. Also changed is the stock Android keyboard, which is now a Samsung keyboard with off-white buttons with black letters, and a dedicated number row.
Some of our favourite additions include the resizable pop-up video player (which launches a video into a separate overlay window that can be placed anywhere on the screen) and the dual-screen option that Samsung’s enabled for side-by-side views. Currently, the dual-screen mode is available for just six apps: Samsung’s own native S Note app, the web browser, video player, a Note-enhanced version of Polaris Office, and Google’s Gallery and email apps
10.1in (1280×800) PLS TFT capacitive multitouch screen; Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich; 1.4GHz dual-core processor; 1GB RAM; 64GB storage; microSD; dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n; Wi-Fi Direct; Wi-Fi channel bonding; Bluetooth 3.0; A-GPS; Glonass; USB 2.0; 3Mp rear, 2Mp front cameras, 1080p video; 3.5mm headphone jack; 256.7×175.3×8.9mm; 583g