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The new iPad is here, and packs many of the features we predicted ahead of its launch. But one thing it doesn't have is a fancy stylus for proper doodling, like that of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. Does that mean that if you're the arty type you should just dismiss the new iPad outright? We take a closer look at the specs to see what’s what.
Design and Build
New iPad – Well, it’s an iPad, isn’t it?
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – Plastic finish, matching front bezel, landscape oriented, comes with a stylus
The new iPad looks and feels just like its predecessor the iPad 2, with an anodised aluminium back, glass front and either a black or white bezel. It's pretty thin, though 0.1mm thicker than its predecessor, though is quite large and heavy (652g), thanks to it 9.7in screen and metal chassis - two-handed holding is generally required. It's an incredibly premium feeling device with exceptional build quality and attention to detail, even if it's not actually the most practical to handle sometimes.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is much the same with a slim profile, glass front and gently curved back - it's a tablet! However, that back is plastic - either plain glossy white or chequered grey. It's nice but not quite as premium feeling as the iPad. It's a similar size, though the screen is 10.1in and arranged in a different aspect ratio, making it slightly longer and thinner. It's all much of a muchness though. At 8.9mm thick and 583g, the Note is thinner and lighter but not enough to really tip the balance.
The Note 10.1 is very definitely meant to be used in landscape orientation, too. It sports far superior stereo speakers that sit either side of the screen when in landscape, and the name on the bezel is this way round too.
When all is said and done they're both fairly typical tablets, though, and the iPad just sneaks it on build quality and design, and the number of cases available to make it further suit your needs.
Stylus or finger?
New iPad – Finger
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – Stylus and finger
Samsung insists you call its digital pen / stylus the S Pen, but what it is a basic version of the professional drawing pens digital artists use. Using Wacom technology, it supports 256 levels of pressure sensitivity, allowing for variation in pen/pencil thickness when drawing. It also has a tiny rubberised nib making it far, far more accurate than a finger and more natural feeling as it glides across the screen's surface.
The pen itself is lightweight, requires no batteries and is exceptionally easy to use - the large expanse of the screen gives you plenty of room to comfortably rest your hand. There isn't, however, anywhere to dock the pen in the tablet so you'll need to be careful not to lose it. Software that support the pressure sensitivity is limited but it is out there so for artists the option is there.
As for the iPad, you're stuck with your finger. This feels much less natural for proper drawing, is far less accurate and offers no pressure sensitivity. It's a a pretty convincing win for the Note, really.
However, the iPad does offer a vastly greater choice of drawing / photo editing apps, some of which have surprisingly powerful tools for getting round the fact you're only using a finger. The new iPhoto software, for instance, lets you change the colour attributes of a block of colour - such as a sky - just by touching that area - the software intuitively works out which bit you're selecting.
All told, though, clever software can only do so much. So if you're the creative type, the Note is the way to go.
New iPad – 2,048 x 1536, IPS display, 9.7in
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – 1,280 x 800, IPS, 10.1in
Well, this is a pretty clear cut win for the iPad - just look at those numbers. The new iPad's screen is stunning, with pixels so small you literally can't see them at normal viewing distances - it's not just hype. The iPad 2's lowly 1,024 x 768 resolution, by comparison, is obvious in its blockiness. Viewing angles and colour saturation have also improved over its predecessor.
The Note betters the iPad 2, with a pixel density of 149ppi vs 132ppi, but the new iPad blows it out the water with 264ppi. Does it matter? Well, arguably no. The Note still has a superb quality screen that is at least better than the iPad 2 - and how people love that screen. But, as with the introduction of the Retina Display on the iPhone 4, once you've seen such a screen this sharp it's difficult to go back.
Another thing to consider is the Note's slightly different aspect ratio. While wider and thinner is better for widescreen video, we tend to think the iPad's more square screen approach is better for more diverse use.
New iPad – A5x with quad-core graphics
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – Dual-core 1.4GHz
Here’s a tricky one. The Apple A5x appears to be a bit like the iPad 2’s A5 dual-core processor, but with a much beefier quad-core GPU. Meanwhile the Galaxy Note's processor is as yet untested. We suspect that day to day tasks will be breezed through by both but the graphics power of the A5X will dominate for games and graphically rich apps. That said, a lot of that graphical power will be used up processing the extra pixels on the new iPad's screen. We'd guess the new iPad will retain its overall slicker, faster feel though not by much.
New iPad – 10hrs, 9hrs with 3G/4G use
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – ~9
Samsung's being a bit cagey about its tablet's battery life claims but it's a reasonable assumption the Note 10.1 will last a similar amount of time to the new iPad, though perhaps just a bit less. The new iPad has had to pack in a bigger battery to make up for its more powerful processor and screen, which is why it's a bit thicker, but Apple has managed to keep battery life the same as on the iPad 2. All told, this ones pretty much a dead heat, and both should provide plenty.
New iPad – 16/32/64GB non-expandable
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – 16/32/64GB, expandable via microSD
Apple has kept the internal memory options of the iPad 2, failing to bring us a gigabyte-tastic 128GB version or a cheapo 8GB version. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 mirrors these choices, with one essential difference - you can expand upon the memory with microSD cards.
Slap a fingernail-size card into the slot and you have up to 32GB extra. Simple. Transferring files is also a lot easier. Running Android 4.0, you can drag and drop files with from your computer at will, without needing any extra software, but with an iPad you're stuck with iTunes. That's fine for some, but an unforgiveable annoyance for others.
New iPad – 5MP, autofocus, no flash, 1080p video
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – 8MP, autofocus, LED flash, 1080p video
Specs-wise, the Galaxy Note's camera thoroughly outperforms the new iPad. It has a higher-resolution sensor and – most importantly – an LED flash. Without one, you’re stuffed once the sun stops shining (unless you carry around studio lights wherever you go).
No flash? No way.
However, there can be more to these things than simply megapixel count, and the new iPad uses the same optics as the iPhone 4S - among the best cameras on a phone. The sample shots we've taken with the new iPad show it can take a decent shot in good light. But, as we live in the gloomy UK, though, the Samsung camera will be much more useful to most people, most of the time.
New iPad – Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n, 3G and 4G LTE options available
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi b/g/n, 3G and 4G
Both these tablets offer excellent wireless connectivity. The most impressive of the lot, 4G LTE, is of pretty much no use to us yet, though. Elsewhere, mobile phone networks have their own LTE networks up-and-running, but in the UK you’ll have to wait at least until next year to try it out. By which time, we’ll all be talking about the “new iPad” again, except it won’t be this one. Why couldn’t Apple just call it iPad 3? Answers on a postcard.
4G is the future, though, offering speeds up to a ridiculous 73Mbps in the new iPad. Of course, you’d never see these sorts of speeds once a small horde of gadget hunters was hogging up all the bandwidth, but any upgrade is an upgrade, right?
In terms of non-wireless connectivity, the Note wins out, though. Although it uses an annoying proprietary socket, rather than a microUSB, there’s a microHDMI video output for easy piping-through of video to a TV. Boy, would we have loved to see one of those on the new iPad - not all of us want to buy Apple TVs!
New iPad – iOS 5.1
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
It’s the eternal question of this mobile tech age – iOS or Android? It’s not an easy one to answer. Android Ice Cream Sandwich is much more flexible, letting you customise the look and add useful widgets to your homescreen. It also looks pretty good – much better than Android 2.x did on the first Android tablets. iOS is less buggy, offers smoother operation and much better apps. There are a staggering 580,000 iPad apps, many of which are excellent, whereas there are far fewer Android apps, and much of them haven't been tablet optimised. Overall, at present, iOS has the edge - although we're sure plenty of people would disagree. Do you? Let us know in the comments.