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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review

Introduction:

Perfection is something that most manufacturers strive to achieve with their products, and as we all know too well, Samsung isn't a stranger when it comes to delivering the goods. Has it really been 6 months since we first feasted our eyes on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 back at Mobile World Congress? Yes, and during the time, the note-taking focused tablet has received its redesign to better have it ready to take on the competition head on.

For a second though, it makes anyone wonder why they would even unveil something that wasn't up to the expectations of being a viable competitor. Whatever is the case, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is here in the flesh – freshly packing some upgraded internals, while presenting itself as the premier paper and pen replacement. Donning a $500 starting price point, it's sure to fit in nicely with the existing crop, but in a world where novel features are perceived to be tertiary things with consumers, it's going to take more for the Galaxy Note 10.1 to establish itself in the same premier class as its rivals.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review 

 The package contains:

  • USB cable
  • Wall Charger
  • Start Guide
  • Health & Safety and Warranty Guide

Design:

You'd think this "high-end" tablet would brandish an equally "high-end" design to reel in prying eyes. Instead, it's more ordinary than anything else, as it sports the all typical Samsung design; it's an all-plastic affair once again. Strangely, there's a great deal of weight (21.16 oz) and size (0.35" thick) attached to the tablet, which makes it rather cumbersome when compared to Samsung's previous efforts with the Galaxy Tab series. When first impressions make a whole lot of difference, the conventional look of this tablet might prove fatal, as consumers might seemingly overlook it in favor of something else more attractive.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 sports the all typical Samsung design - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 sports the all typical Samsung design - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 sports the all typical Samsung design - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 sports the all typical Samsung design

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review

Since the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 shares many of the design elements of the Galaxy Tab series, it doesn't surprise us that most of its buttons are found towards the top edge. Specifically, these include the power button, volume control, microSD slot, 3.5mm headset jack, and IR blaster. With the latter, it's been increasingly commonplace with Samsung's line of tablets of late, which essentially turns it into a universal remote – a great addition to find, of course.

Finally, the bottom side of the tablet is home to the microphone and proprietary dock port, which allows for data/charging connectivity. However, you'll need to purchase an optional adapter or dock accessory to gain video-out functionality.

The sides of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The sides of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The sides of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The sides of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Perched above the display, a 2-megapixel camera sits ready and waiting to shoot self-portraits and the occasional video chatting session. Along the sides, the tablet's two speakers are directed towards us – allowing for better dispersion of audio.

Front - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Front camera - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Speaker on the side - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Front
Front camera
Speaker on the side
Flipping it over, the 5-megapixel auto-focus camera with flash is smacked directly towards the middle top-side of the tablet. When 1080p recording is becoming the standard, some might be flabbergasted to know that this is pacing 720p recording.

Back - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Rear camera - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Back
Rear camera

Display:

Considering that this tablet targets individuals who are big into photo-editing, it's unfortunate to find its display flaunting WXGA 1280 x 800 resolution – underwhelming to say the least. Nevertheless, it's adequate enough for most case uses, such as being able to distinguish fine details with no problems. Furthermore, the 10.1" Super PLS LCD display has enough pleasing visuals, such as a high contrast and a natural looking color production, to make it pleasing enough to look at – though, its viewing angles are a bit weak. Essentially, we notice it washing out when tilted, and when you combine that with outdoor viewing with the sun present, it still requires some shielding for proper viewing.

Viewing angles of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Viewing angles of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Viewing angles of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Viewing angles of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1


S-Pen:

Just like the Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone, the standout feature of the Galaxy Note 10.1 is none other than the included S-Pen. Employing Wacom technology, which enables the tablet to distinguish various degrees of pressure sensitivity, it's undeniably the most precise and accurate thing for touch input. Simply put it, the S-Pen dishes up the most natural process for handwriting and drawing. Depending on how much pressure is applied, you can obtain faint or dark strokes – thus, giving us complete and utter control with our movement.

The S-Pen - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The S-Pen - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The S-Pen - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The S-Pen

In its attempt to emulate the pencil and paper experience, the S-Pen is fashioned so that it has the distinct look of an actual pencil. Therefore, our fingers comfortably wrap around the S-Pen with little fatigue or irritation after prolonged usage. With the redesign of the tablet, there's now a slot in the rear to accommodate the S-Pen when it's not in use.

Interface:

Looking beyond the usefulness surrounding the Galaxy Note 10.1's S-Pen features, the software experience isn't particularly new, as it's running the company's tailor-made TouchWiz UX interface on top of Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. Honestly, it doesn't depart in the visual front from previous TouchWiz efforts that we've seen, however, it carries some noteworthy additions. Before we expand on them, the actual core Android experience is soundly intact – meaning, it coughs up the personalization elements we're accustomed to seeing.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich

Employing software features such as Smart Stay, Share Shot, Buddy Photo Share, all of which have been key items found with the Galaxy S III, it lacks the useful S-Beam feature – mainly because the tablet lacks NFC. As a whole, the interface is simply enough to navigate and comprehend, but its visual presentation is on the cartoony side. For those wondering, Samsung plans to have Jelly Bean ready sometime before the end of the year.

Once again, the Mini Apps tray makes an appearance, which offers some multitasking elements to the mix. Obviously, it's great that they are overlaid on top of whatever we're doing, but its limited selection is by far its biggest disadvantage. Sure, it's great we can browse the web while checking out email simultaneously, but how often are we going to be using the alarm clock, calculator, or task manager?

Mini Apps tray - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Multitasking - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Mini Apps tray
Multitasking
Similarly, there's the new Multiscreen feature that's available to select applications – these include the web browser, Polaris Office, S Note, Video Player, Gallery, and Email. To tell you the truth, it's basically having the Microsoft Windows experience on the tablet, seeing that the screen splits into two, which allows us to interact with two specific apps simultaneously. Again, there are practical uses for this, but it tends to bog down the tablet's performance. Even more, the limited apps compatible to work with the Multiscreen feature prevents it from truly being a sought out must-have feature. Then again, it's still nice seeing it.

Functionality:

Looking through the usual barrage of organizer apps on board with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, like the Alarm, Calculator, S Planner, or Email apps, there's nothing terribly new found with any of them. Indeed, they're all optimized for tablet usage, as they employ typical paneled layouts that better increases productivity.

Organizer apps - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Organizer apps - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Organizer apps - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Organizer apps

Interestingly, Samsung has opted to provide us with more options with the tablet's on-screen keyboard. Even though buttons may be a bit tiny in size with the full-screen option, we do appreciate its responsiveness and the extra row for numbers – though, we would've liked to see some additional punctuation thrown in with the main layout. Alternatively, we're also given the option to use either the floating or split style keyboards. Between the two, we find the split type to be more practical, as our fingers don't have to stretch as much to reach something.

On-screen keyboard of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
On-screen keyboard of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
On-screen keyboard of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
On-screen keyboard of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
On-screen keyboard of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
On-screen keyboard of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
On-screen keyboard of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1


S-Pen Software:

To no surprise, the S Note application comes pre-installed on the Galaxy Note 10.1. After spending quite some time with the app, we can confidently conclude that is a versatile piece of software that is good for note-taking, but can actually come in handy in a much wider range of scenarios.

In addition to all the basic necessities like multiple brushes, color palette, and a variety of backgrounds, there is also a whole bunch of templates that can be used, depending on whether you are making a presentation, writing down cooking recipes, taking notes in math class, or just drawing random scribbles. Graphics can be imported from the image library or from the web by capturing a screenshot and cropping the image you need.

To make your work look even better, the app supports shape recognition, which can automatically detect hand-drawn lines or geometrical shapes and straighten them out. The feature can be quite useful when drawing tables and charts, or visualizing math problems. Speaking of math, there's also the formula recognition feature that does exactly what you'd imagine. The Wolfram Alpha database is easily accessible should you need a particular formula that you can't remember, kind of like a built-in cheat sheet. It goes without saying that S Note is a pleasure to use with the S Pen. Thankfully, the app is smart enough to ignore when your wrist is resting against the display.

The S Note application - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The S Note application - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The S Note application - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The S Note application - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The S Note application - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The S Note application - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The S Note application

With Adobe Photoshop Touch, which comes pre-loaded on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, one can manipulate images in a way similar to what the desktop version of the popular application allows. Sure, the capabilities of the software are limited, but for an app that comes bundled with the tablet's purchase, it gets the job done well. Most importantly, the added precision of the S Pen facilitates the process of photo editing. If you want to know more about the application, check out our Photoshop Touch review.

Adobe Photoshop Touch app - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Adobe Photoshop Touch app - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Adobe Photoshop Touch app - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Adobe Photoshop Touch app - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Adobe Photoshop Touch app


Processor and Memory:

Part of the tablet's delay is primarily due to Samsung's choice to outfit the Note 10.1 with a quad-core 1.4GHz Exynos processor coupled with a whopping 2GB of RAM – whereas it was initially slated to offer a dual-core CPU. Although it pumps out some respectable benchmark scores, which are tops in many categories, we're still finding instances of it being choppy with its performance. Particularly, it's evident when navigating the homescreen in portrait or when we use the Multiscreen feature. Seriously, there's no arguing that it has enough horsepower under the hood, but we're once again wondering if TouchWiz is the culprit behind its less than desirable inconsistencies.


Quadrant Standard AnTuTu NenaMark 2
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 5479 12722 58,9
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) 2711 4995 18,7
Asus Transformer Pad 300 3872 9551 47,1
Asus PadFone 5017 6327 60,6

We can't complain that the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is available in 16GB and 32GB capacities, especially when we know it's also packing along a microSD card slot to supplement its storage.


Internet and Connectivity:

Of all the tablets out there, the significant thing that makes web browsing such a pleasure to experience on the Galaxy Note 10.1, is the fact that the S-Pen mimics a cursor. You know what we're talking about – such as being able to hover over drop down elements, without having the tablet registering it as an actual selection. Beyond that, the experience is naturally sound and sweet, since it maintains a high-level performance with even the most demanding of web sites.

Web browsing - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Web browsing - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Web browsing - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Web browsing

For now, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is available in 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi only form; HSPA+ and LTE versions are expected to launched later in the year. Although it packs other modern connectivity features such as aGPS and Bluetooth 4.0, it actually lacks NFC. In Samsung's defense, they mention that it would interfere with the radios used by the Wacom technology.

Camera:

You can take photos and HD videos using the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and its 5-megapixel auto-focus camera. There is even an LED flash for the times when the ambient lighting is simply not enough. The camera interface comes loaded with several handy features, such as panorama mode and various color effects. Overall though, there's nothing particularly new with its layout, since it's pretty much unmodified from previous efforts.

Camera interface - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Camera interface - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Camera interface - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Camera interface - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Camera interface - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Camera interface - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Camera interface - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Camera interface - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Camera interface

Tablets and cameras, we have yet to come across a slate that manages to produce worthy looking images we'd confidently share on social networks. Well people, we can continue searching on because the images coughed up by the Galaxy Note 10.1's 5-megapixel snapper are mediocre. Not only are details muddy and colors lacking substance with outdoor sunny shots, it fails miserably in low lighting with its grainy quality.

Samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Samples taken with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Strong - Darkness with flashIndoor samples - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Medium - Darkness with flashIndoor samples - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Low light - Darkness with flashIndoor samples - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Strong
Medium
Low light
3ft - Darkness with flashIndoor samples - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
5ft - Darkness with flashIndoor samples - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
7ft - Darkness with flashIndoor samples - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
3ft
5ft
7ft
Darkness with flash
Indoor samples
Likewise, there's no love found whatsoever with the tablet's 720p video recording quality. Actually, the smooth capture rate and clear audio recording are the only acceptable things found with it. Aside from that, everything else is simply too unbearable to look at. And this is what they call 720p quality!?

Multimedia:

Although it isn't anything special, we are satisfied with the TouchWiz music player on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. It covers all the basic features a music player should have and has its own homescreen widget. Alternatively, Google's Play Music app is on board as well. With its stereo speakers projecting audio towards us, we're content with the pleasant tones emitted by them, which don't strain or crackle at the loudest volume. Furthermore, there are various equalizer setting available to fine tune its quality.

Music player of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Music player of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Music player of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Music player of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Music player of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Watching videos on the Galaxy Note 10.1 is a pleasure for a number of reasons. Not only that the 10.1-inch screen with aspect ratio of 16:10 provides plenty of display real estate, but the stock video player supports a wide variety of codecs and resolutions. Our MPEG4, DivX and XviD video samples played back smoothly even at 1080p, with seamless rewinding and fast forwarding and without dropping a frame. On top of that, the pop-out play feature is available as well, which keeps the video playing in a separate and resizable window.

Video playback - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Video playback - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Video playback

Yes, video-out functionality is available with the tablet, but you'll need to purchase the appropriate optional accessories to gain the feature. Nonetheless, the tablet packs DLNA functionality for the alternative way of streaming multimedia content wirelessly to compatible devices.

Assisting couch potatoes around the world, the tablet's built-in IR blaster is an appreciated addition. Combined with the preloaded Peel Smart Remote app, you'll never miss a beat with your favorite shows. To tell you the truth, we have to applaud Samsung for continuing to add in this useful item with its tablets.

The Peel Smart Remote app - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Peel Smart Remote app - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Peel Smart Remote app - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Peel Smart Remote app - Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
The Peel Smart Remote ap

Battery:


Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review
Stuffing a 7,000 mAh battery into its body, we're able to get by a good day out of the tablet with normal usage. However, if you're more demanding, it's something that'll more than likely require a nightly charge to keep it at a sufficient capacity for the next working day.


Conclusion:

Before we get down to the meat and potatoes, let's be frank here folks! The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is targeting a very specific demographic, such as graphics designers and artists. For them, this should no doubt be high on their tablet must-have list, since its S-Pen features and functionality are vastly ahead of the curve against the horde of other tablets on the market right now.

However, once you take away that, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 under the surface is your ordinary middle of the road kind of tablet. Specifically, its design doesn't scream genius, the display isn't high-res, nor does the TouchWiz UX experience greatly differentiate from past offerings. Yeah, we can appreciate that it has been updated with a quad-core processor and all, but when instances of slowdown persist with various operations, it kinda knocks away from its high-end status.

At $500, it's sure to get some quick glances from prospective buyers, but it's really going to be tough considering it's in the same price category as the new iPad and Asus Transformer Prime with a 1080p display. Somehow, if people are able to grasp the full extent of what its S-Pen features can accomplish, the $500 spent on it will undeniably be worth every single penny.

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