Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review

Summary: When it works well, the Galaxy Note 10.1's S Pen functionality is impressive and reliable. However, we'd like to see more emphasis on handwriting recognition. The quad-core processor can surely handle this, and we'll be looking for it in the next-generation Note device.

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TOPICS: Tablets, Android, Reviews
28
  • Editors' rating:
    7.7
  • User rating:
    7.8
  • RRP:
    £420.00

Pros

  • Responsive S Pen stylus
  • Quad-core processor
  • Nice split-screen function
  • The only 10.1in. tablet with pen input

Cons

  • Proprietary charge/PC connector
  • No Micro-USB port
  • No HDMI port
  • Handwriting recognition could be supported more widely
  • Relatively expensive
  • Slightly flimsy build

We found Samsung's 2011 Galaxy Note an odd device: it was unwieldy for everyday use as a phone thanks to its 5.3in. screen, and its clever S Pen input showed promise but didn't quite deliver enough.

The 10.1in. Galaxy Note 10.1 also supports stylus input, and sits in direct competition with Samsung's Galaxy Tab 2 devices — although it's more expensive. The Wi-Fi only Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 currently sells for £264 (ex. VAT) SIM-free, while the Wi-Fi and 3G version costs £349 (ex. VAT). The equivalent Galaxy Note 10.1 models cost £335 and £420 (ex. VAT) respectively.

Design
The Galaxy Note 10.1 is very similar in appearance to the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1. The distinctive pair of speaker grilles on the front are a trademark, and their location is welcome since it means you can't accidently cover them with your hands.

samsung-gnote-101-1
The Galaxy Note 10.1 looks very similar to the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, but includes an S Pen stylus.

Our review sample's white screen bezel (there's also a grey version) has silver (dark grey on the other version) edging that extends into the back to frame the 5-megapixel rear camera. The majority of the backplate is white (or grey), very shiny and probably prone to scratching — although it doesn't attract fingerprints. It flexes a little when pressed, but not enough to cause real concern.

samsung-gnote-101-2
The Galaxy Note 10.1 comes in white or grey. The main camera at the back is a flash-equipped 5-megapixel unit.

The general look and feel doesn't match the quality of the third-generation iPad or Asus Transformer Pad Infinity, for example, although it's superior to that of low-end tablets. Considering the price of the Galaxy Note 10.1, we expect better.

The 10.1in. screen delivers good viewing angles and is bright enough, but the resolution, at 1,280 by 800 pixels or 149 pixels per inch (ppi), is disappointing. Asus manages 1,920 by 1,200 (224ppi) on its Transformer Pad Infinity, while Apple delivers 2,048 by 1,536 pixels in a 9.7in. screen (264ppi) on the third-generation iPad. Samsung's flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S III, delivers a similar resolution — 1,280 by 720 pixels — in a much smaller 4.8in. screen, giving more than double pixel the density at 306ppi (but not as high as the iPhone 5's 326ppi — 640 by 1,136 pixels in a 4in. screen).

The Galaxy Note 10.1 weighs 597g for the Wi-Fi only version and 600g for the Wi-Fi+3G option; it's a shade heavier than the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and significantly lighter than the latest iPad, which weighs 652g (Wi-Fi) or 662g (Wi-Fi+3G).

Features
The Galaxy Note 10.1 runs on a 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos 4410 processor supported by 2GB of RAM — this is the first time we've seen more than 1GB of RAM in any tablet or smartphone. Dual-band (802.11a/b/g/n) Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 are integrated as standard, and you can have 3G mobile broadband as an option. There is 16GB of internal storage, of which 11.66GB was free on our review sample. A microSD slot lets you add more storage capacity.

Samsung uses a proprietary port for battery charging and PC connection, which is irritating. There's no Micro-USB port, so you really don't want to mislay that Samsung cable.

samsung-gnote-101-3
Charging and PC connection is via a proprietary 30-pin connector on the underside. The top of the device carries a SIM card slot, a headset jack, an infrared port, a covered microSD card slot, a volume rocker and the power button. HDMI out is via a separate (optional) adapter for the 30-pin connector.

The charger/PC connector is on the bottom edge of the Galaxy Note 10.1, with all the remaining ports and slots on the top. There's a covered microSD card slot, a power button, a volume rocker, a headset jack and a SIM card slot. The lack of an HDMI port for video out is disappointing — you'll have to buy a separate £25 (ex. VAT) adapter for the 30-pin connector to enable this.

Harking back to the days when infrared was common on mobile phones and laptops, there's a small infrared 'eye' on the top edge of the device — Samsung includes Peel Smart Remote, which turns the Galaxy Note 10.1 into a remote control for your TV.

The S Pen stylus lives in a housing on the chassis. Irritatingly, it only fits one way into its housing — the law of averages suggests you won't guess right every time.

The screen is entirely pen-friendly, and sweeping around and tapping to run apps is quite intuitive. Obviously pen support within apps is required to get the maximum benefit from this feature.

As you pull the S Pen out of its housing, a sidebar opens up offering access to the pen-supporting apps. This is a great little feature, but the list of pen-friendly apps is small: S Note, S Planner, Crayon Physics, PS Touch and Polaris Office.

Polaris Office has been tweaked to allow handwritten or drawn notes to be made within documents. S Note is a pen-based notes app that also supports the keyboard, and can perform handwriting recognition. S Planner is a diary app that will pick up your Google calendar, Crayon Physics a pen-based game, while PS Touch is Adobe's PhotoShop Touch for image editing or drawing from scratch.

These applications are fine as far as they go, and you can download more via Samsung's preloaded S Suggest, which offers up a range of apps suited to the device and includes a separate selection of those with S Pen support.

The Galaxy Note 10.1's screen is pressure sensitive, effectively increasing the size of strokes as you press harder. The S Pen itself is fairly solidly made, and feels quite comfortable in the hand. It has a side button that adds some features: hold it down while tapping the screen once takes a screenshot; hold it down and double-tap the screen to launch the S Note app.

Samsung has included a number of interface tweaks. The keyboard, for example, comes in three versions, which you switch between by pinching inwards to call up a trio of thumbnails.

samsung-gnote-101-kb
Three on-screen keyboards are available: standard QWERTY, Floating and Split.

The standard QWERTY keyboard offers a separate number row and a useful button that intuitively changes between '.com' and 'www.'. The floating keyboard is smaller, while the split keyboard is ideal for use when holding the device and tapping with your thumbs in landscape mode.

samsung-gnote-101-split
Split-screen mode, in landscape (top) and portait (bottom) orientation.

Another feature Samsung is proud of is the ability to work in split-screen mode, with two applications open at once. This works well, but is only available to the web browser, video player, Polaris Office, Gallery, email and S Note app. The apps sit side by side in landscape orientation, or top and bottom in portrait mode.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 also comes with a video player that will play in 'pop up' mode. You can overlay it onto any other screen and even resize it. We're not convinced of its utility, but it's nice to see Samsung innovating in this way and video playback was smooth when we tried it.

There's a fair bit of software in addition to the standard Android 4.0 bundle. We've already mentioned several. Others include AllShare (Samsung's DLNA app), ChatON, Dropbox and a file manager. There are also Samsung's Music, Video and Games hubs, plus a Learning hub. These provide access to specific content and apps.

Performance & battery life
Samsung's quad-core Exynos processor and 2GB of RAM help the Galaxy Note 10.1 handle side-by-side apps and pop-out video comfortably enough. However, applications loaded a little slowly and there was a certain sluggishness in response to finger presses — we didn't experience the lightning-fast response we were expecting given the spec. Even so, we don't see this as a deal-breaker.

Battery life was good. The 7,000mAh Lithium Ion cell didn't perform outrageously better or worse than the average and you ought to get between eight and nine hours from it depending on how hard you push. During our testing period we never felt it was powering down faster than we'd expect.

Conclusion
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 expands the original 5.3in. Galaxy Note to a standard tablet size, presumably in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. When it works well, the S Pen functionality is impressive and reliable.

However, we'd like to see more emphasis on handwriting recognition — for example, the ability to write emails onto the screen and a handwriting module in the keyboard. The quad-core processor can surely handle this, and we'll be looking for it in the next-generation Note device.

 

Note: prices quoted below are from Expansys.com, include taxes, and refer to the 16GB Wi-Fi+3G model reviewed here:

Specifications

General
Dimensions (W x H x D) 25.78 x 8.9 x 17.53 cm
Manufacturer's specification http://www.samsung.com/uk/consumer/mobile-devices/galaxy-note/galaxy-note/GT-N8000EAABTU-spec
Weight 583 kg
OS & software
Operating system Android 4.0
Synchronisation software Kies
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.4 GHz
Processor model Exynos 4410
RAM 2048 MB
Storage
Internal 16000 MB
Connections
Ports proprietary (30-pin) docking connector, headset jack
Slots MicroSD
Networks
2.xG GPRS, EDGE
2G GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900
3.xG UMTS
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
GPS receiver Yes
Short range Bluetooth 4.0
GPS technology
Accuracy enhancement system A-GPS
Antenna built in
GPS receiver yes
Input devices
Stylus Yes
Touchscreen Yes
Camera
2nd camera front
Flash Yes
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 1 megapixels
Main camera resolution 5 megapixels
Zoom 4 x
Power
Battery type Li-ion
Battery capacity 7000 mAh
Number of batteries 1
Standby time 1500 h
Talk time 33 h
Miscellaneous
Accessories 30-pin to HDMI adapter
Expand

Prices

Price
Price AUD 629
Price GBP 500
Price USD 760

Topics: Tablets, Android, Reviews

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Talkback

28 comments
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  • I like the hardware

    I thought that the software felt a little laggy (touchwiz always feels that way to me). Maybe Jelly Bean will make it better. I like the pen interface and the build quality felt great to me. I will reserve my rating until I use a unit that is not on display at Best Buy.
    redhaven
  • HTC Flyer

    I bought an HTC Flyer, in large part for the pen support. The pen works well, and with the Honeycomb update, the pen became available to all applications. However, I found that while theoretically a cool addition, in fact I rarely use the pen. Android is optimized to touch input and it works well. Other Flyer owners do seem to appreciate the pen and use it regularly.

    That's not to say that the pen is purely a 5th wheel for me. For one thing, the kids love drawing on my Flyer with it. For another, I found it very useful when remoting into Windows machines, where it really helps in selecting menu items and such. Every so often I use it to write a note to myself (shopping list and such). But by and large, I'm confident that when Google brings out a 32Gb Nexus 7 (and I buy it), I won't miss the pen much if at all.
    dsf3g
  • Wait.. what???

    9.0

    "When it works well, the Galaxy Note 10.1's S Pen functionality is impressive and reliable. "

    Isn't that kind of a tautology?

    Actually, it's even more confusing than that - how can something be 'reliable' only when it works well? It's kind of assumed that it's 'unreliable' when it's not working well (kind of the definition of the word, actually..)

    That aside, it's kind of weird to compare the Note to older or lower end tablets and conclude it's too expensive. The reality is that the Note has a Wacom digitiser built in - one with 1024 pressure levels. That's *expensive*. More expensive than a retina display.

    Speaking of... that's the other mantra that keeps coming up 'every other tablet uses higher resolution'. Actually, no they don't. Most are still around 1280x800. The higher res tablets are still fairly uncommon and you generally have to give something up to get it.

    Samsung decided that the pen was a feature that was more useful and innovative than simply upping the screen resolution (and making it thicker and heavier to compensate for the battery hit the screen would cause).

    As for build quality - I'm bewildered by this. I find the build quality just fine. I have an Asus Transformer Prime as well and the difference just isn't that huge. On the other hand, the Note *works* nearly flawlessly and the Prime has all sorts of problems, many of which are caused by that 'high end' aluminum case.

    The Note also has a great 'hand feel'.. its curved metal frame and flat plastic back makes it easy to hold at any angle and it doesn't feel like it's about slip out of my fingers. It feels like I'm holding a clipboard.

    It's also cool that it works with any Wacom penenabled digital pen. I've tried it with the ones that come with the Samsung Series 7 tablet and with the one that came with my old Toshiba M700 Tablet PC. Not only do they work - the eraser tips do as well. Drawing with Sketchbook Pro and Photoshop Touch is a dream with one.

    Is the Note 10.1 perfect? No. Is it a good deal? Yes. Especially if you want to sketch or take notes with a pen. There really isn't any competition for it in those cases.

    As for price: $500 for a 16GB WiFi model puts it in direct competition with the 16GB iPad 3. The iPad has QVGA screen - the Note has Wacom pressure sensitive digital pen. It also comes with an IR remote and a microSD card slot, two things the iPad doesn't.

    In fact, three of the cons of this device: Proprietary charge/PC connector, No Micro-USB port, No HDMI port are things of which the iPad 3 is just as guilty. I hope I find these on the iPad 3's review...
    TheWerewolf
    • Check out the Toshiba AT300

      It has HDMI, USB OTG and it looks a bargain. There is a review of it over at the register.

      http://www.reghardware.com/2012/09/24/review_toshiba_at300_android_tablet/
      Alan Smithie
    • I think the connections were mentioned for that reason

      8.0

      I've only had a play with the demo in the samsung store...

      But I think the reviewer is alluding to the fact that samsung has taken an annoying leaf out of apples book; the costly accessories. I also noticed the proprietary port, although this is just a left over worry from samsung's dark days ( before smart phones they were the worst for chargers; every phone had a different one and some were 50 quid) but that's just my own personal experience.

      Over all I was very impressed. I actually liked the plastic back - in my experience pen - enabled devices with metal cases frequently crack around the pen-hole, plus it compliments the sgs3 nicely. The pen itself; well hand writing support didn't work on my hand writing, but the pressure sensative strokes were a nice touch.

      My lasting impression of the pen from my 15 minute play was that i kind of felt like i was being forced into using the pen how they wanted my to use it instead of (as i see the point of such a thing) how I wNt to use it. But thats personal experience and it's a display model. There was definitely no fault with the pen in my experience.

      Did i not compare it to ipad? Well that's because I won't; it's an exceptional device that I think samsung were spot on to align in price with it's competetor; whichever you'd choose, it'd be personal choice, nothing to do with a hardware short coming on either device.

      I do think it's a bit of a shame to adopt apple's annoying accessory tax, proprietary ports and chargers; not a deal breaker, and of course it's competition plays the same game, i just always feel samsung and co have the freedom and opportunity to correct apples mistakes.
      MarknWill
      • Proprietry ports

        That's a deal breaker for me. Sorry but I don't want to buy any extra devices that don't go with the mini-usb port found on Kindles and Samsung phones. Sick of having to rummage around or have a clutter of multiple leads when only 1 is needed!

        I really hoped we'd moved on to standardisation and away from the dark days of random connectors.
        Pastabake
      • Micro USB enough?

        8.0

        Not a technical expert in anyway so forgive my naive question.
        Can you really achieve everything through the Micro USB port? I just had a chance to fiddle with one of these devices a friend recently brought and by all means it really is a game changer in the tablet world. The screen quality is not as good as my ACER Iconia Tab A700 (HD screen) but in all honesty, the Wacom display is way superior when it comes to sensitivity and I'm not even going to mention the pen... yet ;)

        What really blew my mind is the idea of using this in the classroom with S-Note and the pen (which by the way CAN be activated via the keyboard) to take notes and then back home switch it into my Monitor using the HDMI plug converter (yes, this needs to be purchased separately :( ) and use a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard to use it as my laptop replacement.
        Finally a word on pricing, I'm kicking myself now for having bought the ACER 2 months ago that is only marginally cheaper and offers so little for that money compared to this beast...

        Windows tablets seem to be going this route though with quite a few bringing the pen into play but still very skeptic that they will be able to compete pricewise with Android.
        zetrue
    • Werewolf makes good points

      10.0

      I sold my iPad 3 for this tablet. This review's positive acknowledgments are even grudgingly given. For instance, the handwriting recognition is frigging near-perfect but somehow the writer makes it a negative. You can access it from any place the keyboard is active... what more do you want? The iPad it's nice, i liked it, but is a consumption gadget and the Note tablet is that AND and a creation gadget--and a damned good one. It's literally an 'apples' to oranges comparison. How are any company's products supposed to break through when Apple and its lawyers and Fanboys cause even the lowest-rung reviewers to self-censor?
      Jorj_X_McKie
      • I agree with you 100%

        10.0

        I could not have said it better than that. Bravo!
        MrMiffy Piffy
    • Fabulous review my friend!

      10.0

      I couldn't agree more with you my friend. The Wacom Digitizer is amazing. I have a Fujitsu tablet PC laptop with the pressure sensative Wacom dititizer and it is outstanding. I love taking notes on it and want to get this GAlaxy Note 10.1 because of this feature. I am curious though, on my fujitsu I have Microsoft one note and anything I write with handwriting it converts to typed text if I choose. Does the Galaxy 10.1 do this also? If it does that would be awesome. Getting back to your review though, I completely agree with you, I would much rather have the Wacom Digitizer and Pen function than a retina display anyday. It is a breath of fresh air to see someone review a product with honesty and intellect as yourself. Thank you very much for your opinion. Peace
      MrMiffy Piffy
      • Yes, it does MrMiffy Piffy

        5.0

        I am using said feature to post this comment. You can also use it on S-Note . My favorite is the math formula, and the shape correctors. Highly useful for projects at school. My teacher almost thinks it's cheating lol
        kikax
    • Waco creator

      6.0

      I am tempted to get one of these. I have one doubt regarding to the use of my Waco Creator kit . I guess the pen is going to work but wold be a way to connect the table?

      Could you tell me more about designing features? Not here a expert on this kind of midea...

      thanks for your help

      Scarriao
      su.carriao
  • Proprietary Connector

    Hmm.. At my company it's easier to find a iPad connector then a mini usb connector.

    I really don't know anyone with a iPad that uses HDMI. I mean I have a connector for my iPad and I've probably used it once.

    With all the cloud storage options I never miss the Micro-USB port.

    However your point "Werewolf" is well taken. I wish there were more even handedness in reviews. It seems that depending on the reviews it's skewed severely one way or the other depending on which fanboy camp they are in.
    Johnpford
    • Strange that your company is so backward ...

      ... or maybe you're all just Apple fanbois?

      Does no-one own a modern none Apple phone? a digital camera? a Kindle?

      Wow that's one hell of a company you've got there!

      Perhaps if the iPad was more than just a toy you'd be able find some uses for the SDcard, min-usb, and HDMI port.

      Good luck with the cloud btw.
      Pastabake
    • Perfect timing for your mis-informed comment

      3.0

      So now it is Jan of '13. Is it easier to find a new lighting iPad/iPhone connector than it is a Micro USB? Is it easier to find a new lightning connector than an old iPad/iPhone connector? How are you dealing with the fact that any new Apple device purchased will require a new connector?
      In the mean time guess what they replaced the micro USB port with? That's right, the micro USB port. THAT is why people complain about propriatary. Your company spent a lot of money on those cables and now they need to be replaced. It is a fact of technology life for all of us, but your condescending approach:
      "Hmm.. At my company it's easier to find a iPad connector then a mini usb connector" makes you look foolish now. Sorry.
      bbonacci@...
  • Handwriting module in the keyboard

    “However, we'd like to see more emphasis on handwriting recognition — for example, the ability to write emails onto the screen and a handwriting module in the keyboard”

    The keyboard already has this feature. To activate it, you need to do a long press on the parameter button on the keyboard (between the SYM and the space bar).
    Fred_Wroste
  • Prices are wrong on the bottom...

    9.0

    I picked mine up from Best Buy for $499 USD -- not the $724 noted in the bottom of the article. I believe this is due to cost of sale and currency conversion?
    teeroddesigns
  • Lenovo Thinkpad tablet much better than this

    I am using Lenovo think pad tablet nearly one year and it has all the futures plus much more like full usb support, full size sd card, mini hdmi ohh not to mention pen support. And has a various application for pen input
    cagdasayata
  • Samsung's brilliance

    7.0

    I just hope it comes with Jelly bean asap.. I am pretty sure Apple will gear up for the launch of iPad mini now.
    Atharton_CB
  • Um... It does do handwriting recognition.

    3.0

    Sounds like the reviewer failed to find the handwriting recognition mode built into the keyboard app. It works brilliantly and yes, the quad-core CPU handles it well.

    It can recognise either in a letter-by-letter mode or (amazingly) recognise long handwritten cursive text as you write. And as it's built into the keyboard app, it works in any app.
    thomasrutter