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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) Review: S Pen sort of enhances the tablet

Samsung's Note 10.1 offered an inking experience over the Apple iPad and the 2014 Edition improves upon that S Pen experience. This new model has a more premium feel with a fabulous high resolution display.

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Topic: Reviews
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1 of 25 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Brilliant 2560 x 1600 10.1 inch display

The last of the three devices I picked up to review last week is the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition). I guess they chose 2014 instead of 2013 in hopes it is forward looking. It is a gorgeous piece of hardware, but for S Pen functionality and price, I would personally go for a .

Hardware

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), just called Note 10.1 from here on out, is an excellent piece of hardware with a thickness of only 0.31-inches, gorgeous high-resolution display, and updated plastic back with a leather look and feel.

I had an original Samsung Tab 7-inch tablet and it is pretty amazing to see how far Samsung has come in terms of hardware design. My Apple iPad still has a higher quality feel, thanks in large part to the metal casing and curves.

The Note 10.1 is dominated by the 2560x1600 pixels 10.1-inch LCD display. It is a great display, but the stark blacks and eye-popping colors on their Super AMOLED displays they use on their smaller Note line is something I personally prefer.

Samsung still has a physical Home button centered on the bottom, but it is placed where landscape is the preferred orientation. There are touch capacitive areas to the left and right for menu and back, respectively. The front facing camera is near the center, to the left of the Samsung logo, above the display.

The microSD card slot, one of the stereo speakers, and S Pen silo are found on the right side (assuming a landscape orientation as the Note 10.1 is optimized for). The microUSB port is on the bottom and strangely it is standard USB 2.0. The Note 3 has a USB 3.0 port and I would have thought the Note 10.1 with the larger battery and more reason for transferring large files would have had this as well.

The headphone jack and other stereo speaker are on the left side. The IR port, volume button, and power button are on the top. I kept messing up the volume since the right (down side in portrait) is volume up and the left (up side in portrait) is volume down. This is completely opposite of intuition and seems like an oversight to me.

The back has the camera centered along the upper top with a LED flash below the lense. The back has the same leather feel with grip seen on the Note 3, but it is actually just a nice coating on the plastic. The fake stitching is present around the edge too.

Software

I recommend you check out my for details on the Air Command and S Pen capabilities. The same functions on the Note 3 are found in the Note 10.1.

The Note 10.1 is essentially the same as the Note 3, but on a bigger screen. The swipe up for My Magazine, powered by Flipboard, is pretty slick on the Note 10.1 and the S Note application is just as great.

A few times, more than I would have liked, the device seemed to hang and pause between selected actions. I have not noticed this on the Note 3 and given the internal hardware this device should not be acting like this either.

The multi-window functionality is great and very useful on a device with such a large display and if you are a multi-tasker then you may like the Note 10.1. Video playback was fantastic and I could use the Note 10.1 as my media consumption device if I didn't like the better media applications on my iPad.

Usage and experiences

While the Note 10.1 is pretty sleek for a large tablet, I still did not find it as ergonomically friendly for S Pen usage as the smaller Note 8.0 or Note 3. You are paying a $100 premium (32GB to 32GB) to have the S Pen functionality in this tablet when compared to the Nexus 10, but I don't see it being as useful for most people on such a large tablet.

Unlike the Galaxy Gear and Note 3 I was also checking out, I never had a feeling of wanting to pick up and use the Note 10.1 on my own. I used it as much as I could for my review and impressions, but it wasn't a device I sought after and I would personally choose my iPad over the Note 10.1.

Pros and Cons

To summarize my experiences with the Galaxy Note 10.1, here are my pros and cons.

Pros

  • Large display in sleek form factor
  • Beautiful display resolution, nice jump over last year's model
  • Improved quality design

Cons

  • Not optimized for S Pen usage
  • Rather high price
  • Occasional performance issues
  • Opposite control volume button design
  • Decent battery life, but less than the iPad

Pricing and availability

You can purchase the WiFi only Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) now in 2013 for $549.99 for 16GB model and $599.99 for 32GB model. Samsung went with 32GB and 64GB for the Note 3 and I find it odd again they scaled down the larger tablet device.

While there are some oddities that bug me and I doubt I would ever personally buy a Note 10.1, Samsung is offering perks with a value over $600 when you buy and register the Note 10.1 2014 Edition. As stated on the Samsung site, these perks include:

Get a $50 credit for Samsung Hub and a $25 credit for Google Play™. New Hulu Plus users get a 3-month membership and new Boingo users get mobile Wi-Fi access for 12 months. Also, new SiriusXM and Audible users get a 3-month membership and new Zinio members get a 2-month subscription to 3 digital magazines. All that, plus up to 50GB of Dropbox™ storage—yours for 2 years from the time you set up the app.

The competition

Google has the Nexus 10 tablet and Apple has the iPad. These are both great competitors, neither of which off the S Pen functionality of the Galaxy Note 10.1. If you won't be using the handwriting or inking functionality, then the competition has the Note 10.1 beat.

Specifications

  • Android 4.3 Jelly Bean OS
  • Samsung Exynos 1.9 GHz quad processor
  • 3GB RAM and 16/32GB flash storage memory
  • 801.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • 10.1-inch 2560x1600 TFT display
  • 8 megapixel rear camera
  • 2 megapixel front facing camera
  • 8,220 mAh non-removable battery
  • Dimensions of 9.6 x 6.8 x 0.3-inches and 19.05 ounces

Conclusion

The Apple iPad remains my top large display tablet choice and with my mobile needs, the fills the gap between a watch and tablet. The Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) is a solid tablet and if you need to use two apps at once or have a desire for drawing and sketching on a large display then you might want to consider it.

The Galaxy Note 8.0 is the Android tablet I would buy instead of the Note 10.1. It performs very well and the smaller size means it is more likely to be carried along with you.

The Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) experienced slowdowns from time-to-time and I suspect it is Samsung's TouchWiz UI that is causing the hiccups. I never felt there was anything super compelling in the Note 10.1 and Samsung may want to stay focused on the smartwatch, smartphone, phablet, and small tablet categories. They set the bar with the original Tab and have done well with the smaller sized tablets.

Contributor's rating: 6.5 out of 10

Further reading

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Center hardware button with two backlit areas

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IR port on the top of the Note 10.1

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MicroSD card slot on the right side

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S Pen silo and faux stitched back cover

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White back cover feels good to the touch

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Camera and flash centered on the upper back

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Headphone jack and volume button on the upper left

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Galaxy Gear, Note 3, and Note 10.1

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Samsung Galaxy trio work well together

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Home screen on the Note 10.1

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Apps on the Note 10.1

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Samsung folder contents

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Launching Scrapbook on the Note 10.1

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Help shows all the great S Pen uses

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You can do a lot with the S Pen and S Note

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Air Command is an improved S Pen function

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Samsung branded widgets

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My Magazine home screen widget

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Reading articles in My Magazine, a swipe up from the bottom

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S Pen control settings

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Language settings

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Smart screen settings

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Things you can do with S Voice on the Note 10.1

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Note 10.1 notification area with feature toggles

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