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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – S Pen, Performance, and Video Playback

Ardjuna Seghers

By Ardjuna Seghers


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User Score

Review Price £399.00

Read our hands-on of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 S Pen

Now let’s check out the Note 10.1’s trump card: its S Pen. The S Pen is, when you get right down to it, a Wacom stylus and digitizer. Considering Wacom make the best graphics tablets in the world bar none (like the Intuos 5, for one) that’s a very good thing.

Samsung is the first manufacturer to integrate this tech into an Android tablet – both the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet and HTC Flyer used N-Trig pens that were lumpy, required batteries, didn’t offer as many pressure levels and weren’t nearly as responsive, nor did they give you a choice of nibs.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 7

Now for those who might say: “but the iPad has plenty of styli available for it, what makes this special?”, here’s the deal. With one exception, all the styli you can get for the iPad and every other capacitive tablet are only a minor improvement over using your finger. There’s only one capacitive stylus that gives a thin point, and it doesn’t offer pressure sensitivity or palm rejection.

With the S Pen - and other Wacom digitizers as found on the likes of the Samsung Series 7 Slate – you get 1,024 levels of pressure, which lets you draw weighted lines as you would with a real pencil. You get palm/finger rejection, which means you’ll rarely draw an accidental line with your hand. Basically, it’s akin to upgrading from using a chalk to an art pencil.

The S Pen slots into the tablet securely, and when you pull it out, a customisable side-bar with five pen-compatible apps pops in from the right. Unlike on the original Samsung Galaxy Note where the S Pen couldn’t press the physical buttons in its bezel, on the Note 10.1 you can perform every single one of the tablet’s functions using only the stylus and its neatly integrated button.

Business types will love the handwriting recognition, graph-drawing capabilities, and ability to sign documents digitally. For those in the sciences, getting to write down formulas and have the Note turn them into machine-recognisable symbols and characters is very handy. Students, those into photography, designers – you’ll all find much to like here.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 6

But what about artists? S Note is fine for casual drawing, and in fact its feature set can be downright impressive at times, but it’s no true artist’s tool. Photoshop Touch, meanwhile, is aimed more at photo editing. For drawing, the best Android software we’ve found with pressure support is Autodesk SketchBook Pro (not the free version, which lacks that support and as such won’t make the most of the S Pen).

And yes, for artistic types the Galaxy Note 10.1 is a thing of beauty, the closest you can get to a Wacom Cintiq for under £500 (though you can’t, of course, hook this tablet up to your PC). Samsung even sells an optional S Pen with an eraser at its bottom.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Performance

With Samsung’s A9-based, quad-core, 1.4GHz Exynos processor running at its heart backed by 2GB of RAM, there’s little that can match the Galaxy Note 10.1 for sheer power.

In practise everything ran as smoothly as on the best of the rest. Ice Cream Sandwich occasionally suffered from its usual hiccups, but we’re confident that this will be resolved once the new Note gets Jelly Bean. For all that some have complained of TouchWiz slowing things down, we did not find this to be the case here at all.

Where the Galaxy Note 10.1 really shows off its power is when you can resize a video window while the video is playing, and move it about with other apps running in the background. Gaming performance is also impressive, with smooth frame rates in demanding 3D titles.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 9

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Video

Just like Tegra 3-based devices, the quad-core Note chews happily through high-quality and high-definition 1080p video in pretty much any format, though the native video player doesn’t support some common file types like .mov so we would recommend downloading a third-party option such as MX Player.

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February 29, 2012, 7:57 pm

"Most peculiarly, though, the S-Pen is an optional extra, which is very considering being as there's no reason to buy the Note is you're not going to use the pen."

Nice sentence.

David Gilbert

February 29, 2012, 8:09 pm

Thanks for pointing it out. We too spotted this and it has been fixed so should be live on the site soon.

john g

August 16, 2012, 8:09 pm

When you do the full review, please could you explore/explain to what extent the unit can be used as a graphics tablet in conjunction with another computer...
* Can it work in conjunction with Photoshop/Photoshop Elements etc.
* If not, why not and will there be any commitment to develop this capability?
* If it does work, can the tablet show the portion of the image being worked on, or will it just run 'blind' like most other graphics tablets?

If it can't do any of these things, then I wonder how many owners will make good use of the stylus... until there are powerful, fully-featured photo editors and graphics apps available for Android, then will it end up just being something to show to your mates down the pub, but never use - a bit like NFC seems to be at the moment?


stuart 2

August 17, 2012, 2:15 am

Would also be great to see a review of how it performs for document annotation/reviewing with PDFs and Word docs.


August 18, 2012, 2:08 am

Thanks for your comment.

Unfortunately, this is currently impossible.

It makes a lot of sense and I would love to see it happen, but it's not in manufacturers' best interests, and would take a serious redesign on both the software and hardware levels to achieve.

It's like never being able to use laptop screens with other devices. Why can't I plug a PS3 into my 18in laptop's screen? It's a capability that's only now arriving on the market after decades, and only in one brand...

RE photo editors, Photoshop Touch is surprisingly powerful - read our review here: http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

As for drawing/graphics, there's Autodesk's SketchBook Pro and ArtRage.

Hope that all helps :)


August 18, 2012, 2:09 am

Thanks for your comment. I will try this out and let you know.

Arctic Fox

August 18, 2012, 7:15 am

Interestingly enough I think that the Win8 "Surface" (not the RT edition - the x86 version) is equipped with the capacity to be used with a digitiser stylus. I have to say that where we are talking a *proper* stylus of this type we are really talking about a very useful additional way to interact with your kit. Many are not comfortable with more than a line or two using a touch keyboard and it is not always possible or convenient to connect a keyboard to your device. The modern styli of this type and the considerable improvements in voice to text that we have seen in recent times are IMO rather exciting. They hold out the hope that in the relatively near future it will be common/near standard for medium to high end devices to be equipped such that we can interact with them by touching, talking, writing and (where needed) by means of keyboard and mouse. When we regularly get mobile devices that are equipped with *all* these means of interaction as standard it will really "humanise" our devices. The user will be able to develop his/her own mix dependent on capacity, use and context. I for one would be willing to part with some serious money if Samsung release (for example) next year a "Series 8 Slate" (or some such) which in practice can be both my productivity pc at home, my sofa lounger and my mobile pc. At least I will be willing as long as all those interaction choices are of serious quality and an integral part of the kit.


August 22, 2012, 12:43 am

Why didn't the use USB? Is it just to lock people into buying future samsung tablets because they already have the accessories? Really disappointed.


August 22, 2012, 2:01 am

Ardjuna it wouldn't surprise me if GRemote would allow the stylus to control the cursor on a PC; it already allows the touch screen to do so. Worth a try if you get the chance.


August 22, 2012, 2:36 pm

Yep, it's pretty much the 'Apple approach'. At least Samsung still give you a microSD card slot, and at least with its USB adapter, you can actually plug in USB sticks and peripherals (with Apple's one for iPad, you can only connect powered devices like cameras >:( )

Likewise with the disappointment...

Pendejo Sin Nombre

August 22, 2012, 5:45 pm

Are there variants floating around or something? In one corner there's a lacklustre review from The Verge prompted at least in part by it being based on what they call the 'mediocre' Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 plus the review by the Android Police with the title 'An Embarrassing, Lazy, Arrogant Money Grab'

In the other corner there's Trusted Review's.

I'm genuinely not taking sides because I haven't seen or used one but for a specific example of widely differing experiences and reactions how about this from Android Police -

'The build quality. Terrible even by Samsung's low standards. The back is actually squishy, and you can feel it deform while holding it. It's noisy too, the plastic creaks, groans, and grinds when you pick it up.'


'However, build quality is pretty much flawless. The plastics used throughout are very solid, and nowhere is there a hint of flex or creak.'


August 22, 2012, 10:07 pm

@Pendejo Sin Nombre:
You raise a good point and one I want to answer in a little detail, as other readers may be wondering the same.

It's amazing how this tablet seems to have divided professional opinion. On the one hand there's Android Police and The Verge, who both 'pan' it, while Cnet calls it "Samsung's best tablet yet", Pocketlint says it's "simply brilliant", and we're generally positive too.

It's interesting to note that both The Verge and Android Police have black models, while the positive reviews I've seen have white ones. Since the Note 10.1 isn't yet available in black as far as I'm aware, this leads me to suspect - and this is just a guess - that those might be pre-production samples which still had a few issues with build and software...

RE the build quality, maybe I was a little generous as the rear panel does actually flex if you press on it and I was concentrating more on the edges. I have amended the review to reflect this. However, "the plastic creaks, groans, and grinds when you pick it up" is definitively NOT at all the case with our sample.


February 14, 2013, 4:55 pm

Just to clarify, that was in the preview not written by me :P - I have a reputation to protect here ;)

Also, as anyone who's read the review will know, the S-pen is included by default.


February 17, 2013, 7:44 pm

A welcome update, I'm planning on buying one of these this week so it's nice to see a summary of the Jellybean improvements. I've finally lost patience with my convertible HP laptop, the old screen technology means that you have to play 'guess the colour' every time I change my viewing angle. I've become a big fan of Android since I bought a Nexus 7 and this will be an ideal companion piece and electronic sketchbook.

I'm glad that I won you over to Sketchbook Pro, Ardjuna, it's a fantastic program. I just wish it had been around when I did my design degree- it would have saved me a fortune in marker pens.

Andrei Lanuza

February 19, 2013, 10:01 am

I find it odd that the review only squeezed in about 8+ hours of use on the device. Is this reflective of real world use? It almost always takes about 10 hours, give or take, to drain my GN 10.1. This is with wifi constantly on with a mix of watching a couple of movies, occasionally playing a few casual games, using the tablet to draw for hours, and a lot of web browsing and downloading. Power save mode wasn't switched on.


February 23, 2013, 12:35 am

Could you pack any more adverts onto your review pages? The meandering scrolling of the pages led me to give up after page 2.
I suggest you focus a bit more on content and a bit less on revenue production then the pages might actually scroll smoothly.


March 16, 2013, 6:28 am

Thanks for the review , it helped me a lot in making my choice.


August 26, 2013, 9:52 pm

its all 16 gig?


August 26, 2013, 9:52 pm

so there is no 32 gig samsung note?


September 4, 2013, 10:49 am

There is a 32 gig version. I happily own one. :D

flying fish

September 26, 2013, 1:32 pm

The person saying that the samsung 10.1 note is ugly needs to go to specksavers. I have looked at many 10 + " tablets and this one far out smarts others both in looks and performance. Quad core, 2gb memory.

John Willy

September 28, 2013, 5:31 pm

I agree with flying fish. Go to specsavers. The screen and display is first class. I have used Ipads and they don't come near the Note.


October 3, 2013, 8:01 pm

Can I get Skype to work on the Samsung Galaxy Note 16GB 10.1 inch ?


October 13, 2013, 9:19 pm

What does the 8pi or 6pi rating mean in the S pen specs? Which is better for drawing, painting, and photo corrections? Also, do I need to get one to match my 10.1 running android 4.2.2?


October 13, 2013, 9:25 pm

What does 8pi or 6pi mean in the pen specs? Which is better for drawing? Also, what else would be important for compatibility with my 10.1 running android 4.2.2.? My 10.1 didn't come with a pen nor a place to store one.

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