Review: Galaxy Note 10.1

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It was inevitable that Samsung would create a full sized Note. The original phablet (phone/tablet) managed to win over millions with its size and innovative S-Pen technology. Now the Korean manufacturer is looking to hit it big again with the Galaxy Note 10.1. Does their new tablet have what it takes to make waves in the local tablet market?

The Galaxy Note 10.1 was first revealed back in February during the Mobile World Congress in Spain. Back then, it pretty much had the same horsepower under the hood as their other tablet announcements, the Galaxy Tab 2 – 1.4GHz dual-core processor and an external stylus. Rumors then swirled that Samsung was replacing the dated hardware with something more modern to compete with other, more powerful tablets at that time. That rumor turned out to be true, as the review unit we received packs a more powerful quad-core processor that’s roughly equivalent to the one in the Galaxy S III.

Most of Samsung’s recent product releases are mostly of a plastic persuasion when it comes to materials used, and the Galaxy Note 10.1 is no exception. The Galaxy Note 10.1 is mostly made out of white plastic, surrounded by a silver plastic trim. The display used is a 10.1-inch capacitive touchscreen that has a native resolution of 800 x 1280 pixels, and an overall pixel density of 149ppi.

Two speaker grills are visible on either side of the panel, which hints at the multimedia capabilities of this particular tablet.

On the top of the device lies the SIM port, volume rocker, power button and microSD slot, along with an IR port.

One of the main design changes of the Galaxy Note 10.1 over the original device shown back in February was the inclusion of a dedicated slot for the S-Pen on the back. The S-Pen now neatly slides into the back of the device, near the lower right portion of the tablet when not in use. There’s a 5-megapixel camera located on the back of the device as well for imaging.

Like we mentioned earlier, the Galaxy Note 10.1 has received a major upgrade in its internals, and now sports a quad-core Exynos 4412 processor pumping out 1.4GHz. That, paired with 2GB of RAM, should give the Galaxy Note 10.1 blistering performance in theory. But as you’ll find out, performance isn’t just based on hardware alone. The Galaxy Note 10.1 is powered by Android 4.0 and has Samsung’s own TouchWiz UI layered on top. Samsung will only be selling the 16GB GSM version of the Galaxy Note 10.1 in the Philippines.

One of the main features of the Galaxy Note 10.1 is its S-Pen, which is Samsung’s fancy way of calling a stylus. The S-Pen, combined with the S-Note app on the Galaxy Note, gives the device content creation abilities.

The S-Note app allows you to write and edit documents, and the S-Pen really thrives in apps like Photoshop, giving users a bigger degree of control when it comes to content creation on the tablet. Handwriting recognition has improved over the original Galaxy Note, and the Galaxy Note 10.1’s accuracy rate has dramatically risen. The Galaxy Note 10.1 can even recognize formulas and chart them out for your using the internet and Wolfram Alpha, which should be a great help for students looking for a leg up in their studies.

As impressive as the S-Pen is, what really blew us away during our review of the Galaxy Note 10.1 is its multimedia capabilities. The Galaxy Note 10.1 is possibly the first and only tablet that we know of that has multi-screen capabilities.

Users can now browse the web and watch a video at the same time, much like how people watch two video feeds via picture-in-picture technology in some TVs. Users can also have two apps running concurrently on the screen – one app, and either one of the six apps that’s been optimized for dual-screen operation: S Note, Gallery, Video, Browser, Polaris Office and Email.

Performance-wise, the Galaxy Note 10.1 did not disappoint when it came to synthetic benchmarks. The Galaxy Note 10.1 bested the Galaxy S III on AnTuTu, racking up 12371 points.

On Quadrant, the Galaxy Note 10.1 bested the similarly quad-core powered HTC One X, racking up 5178 points.

We’re glad to see that the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1’s performance doesn’t come at the expense of battery life. Using the Galaxy Note 10.1 as a WiFi tablet netted us around 8 ½ hours of useful battery life. Using the GSM radio knocked an hour off the operating time at 7 hours.

In practice though, the Galaxy Note 10.1’s performance is a bit hobbled by the very thing that strives to differentiate it from the pack – TouchWiz UI. While Samsung’s UI overlay tries to deliver additional features to the fore, the thick layer sometimes impedes on the tablet’s overall performance. We noticed a bit of sluggish performance when swiping through different screens, and though it’s not really that pronounced, you’ll still notice it from time to time.

Another complaint of ours is the relatively low-resolution screen. For a device that’s supposed to be on the top of the pile when it comes to Android tablets, the 800 x 1280 pixel falls short of what its competitors are offering. It’s not a bad display per se, but we feel Samsung could’ve done better.

So is the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 the Android tablet for you? Well, that depends. While Samsung’s S-Pen and the accompanying apps that make use of that pen is a breath of fresh air and gives creative a way to express themselves, we feel that the Galaxy Note 10.1 will be relegated to a niche market. Priced at Php 32,990, it’s not exactly cheap, and users may opt to get cheaper tablets for that price. In the end it’ll be up to you to decide if the addition of the S-Pen and the accompanying software merits the premium price that the Galaxy Note 10.1 is asking for.

 

What’s Hot:

Quad-core processor

Multi-screen capabilities

S-Pen and S-Note app allow users to create content

Long battery life

 

What’s Not:

Pricey

Performance is sometimes hindered by TouchWiz UI

 

Bottomline:

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 does a lot of things right. The S-Pen, multiscreen capabilities and quad-core processor make it one of the better Android tablets to come out recently.

 

Buymeter: 4

 

Tech Specs

  • Operating System: Android 4.0 (ICS), TouchWiz UI overlay
  • CPU: CPU: Quad-core Exynos 4412 1.4GHz processor
  • LCD size: 10.1-inch PLS TFT screen, 800 x 1280 resolution screen
  • Physical Dimensions: 262 x 180 x 8.9 mm
  • Weight: 600 grams
  • Band: GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100
  •  Internal memory :  16GB memory, expandable through microSD