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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review

Ardjuna Seghers

By

Reviewed:

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 with S Pen
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Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Amazing Wacom S Pen is stylus heaven
  • Mammoth specs = powerhouse
  • Innovative split-screen multi-tasking
  • IR blaster and optional 3G
  • Excellent value

Cons

  • Unattractive design
  • Limited connectivity
  • No mobile keyboard dock (yet)
  • Average screen
  • Average battery life

Key Features

  • 10.1in, 1280 x 800 PLS screen
  • Quad-core Exynos 1.4GHz processor
  • 2GB of RAM, 16-64GB storage
  • Wacom-base S Pen stylus with 1024 pressure levels
  • IR blaster, 3G, MicroSD card slot
  • Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Review Price: £399.00

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

£399 for 16GB Wi-Fi

£499 for 16GB Wi-Fi plus 3G

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has had a rocky road. When we first saw it at the beginning of this year, it was a dual-core tablet with 1GB of RAM running a fairly standard version of Android with TouchWiz. What made it special was its Wacom-based, pressure-sensitive S Pen, a huge draw for creative types and those who still prefer to take hand-written notes.

Since then, the rest of the tablet has received a facelift to become pretty special too. Its processor has been upgraded to the same quad-core affair that powers the mighty Samsung Galaxy S3, and RAM has been upped to a whopping 2GB, pulling the Galaxy Note 10.1 ahead of the Asus Transformer Infinity as the most powerful Android tablet available.

Even the interface has seen some serious tinkering, with the standout being a split-screen multi-tasking ‘window’ arrangement that’s yet another first among Android tabs, and gives the Note 10.1 more of the productivity potential of a Windows slate than most of its rivals. Oh, and there’s a 3G version…

Is it a worthy big brother to the original Samsung Galaxy Note phablet and a serious challenger to the mighty iPad 3?

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Design

Unfortunately, the Galaxy Note 10.1 isn’t the prettiest of tablets. If its design is the result of the legal wrangling with Apple and to avoid iPad-copying accusations, we can only say that the fruity company doesn’t have a patent on minimalism, and tablets like the Asus Transformer Prime have proven it.

Our Note isn’t helped by being white. First off white plastic generally tends to look just a tad more… plasticky than when it comes in black, and second, the black screen, white bezel and silver outer surround add too many disparate layers. So if you’re trying to decide which colour Galaxy Note 10.1 to go for, we’d recommend succumbing to the dark side.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Its speakers add yet another contrasting element, sporting chrome inset covers to either side rather than being subtly integrated – again, we suspect this is to set the Note apart from a certain iDevice. Of course, the mere fact that this tablet has proper stereo speakers puts it in a league of its own where audio is concerned, though we’ll get to that in a bit.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Feel and Build

Again, where feel is concerned, Samsung’s latest tablet just isn’t quite on the ball. Don’t get us wrong, the plastics feel solid and the slightly bulging silver surround helps to provide a decent grip. But the slick, glossy back isn’t particularly pleasant under the fingers and doesn’t give much traction.

As a result, the Galaxy Note 10.1 just doesn’t lie as securely in the hand as other premium all-plastic tablets like the textured Transformer Pad 300, or of course the anodised aluminium back of the new iPad.

However, build quality is pretty good. The plastics used throughout are very solid except for the rear panel which flexes slightly if you press in on it, but nowhere else is there a hint of flex or creak in normal usage. Our only real concern here is that glossy plastics tend to scratch easily, but we found no evidence of this happening on our Note.

At 595g, the Note 10.1 is also very light for a wider-than-most tablet with pen, beating out both the new iPad and lighter iPad 2.

deaniopo

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?

Thanks.

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.

TechVegan

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 :)

TechVegan

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.

piesforyou

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.

Bugblatter

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.

TechVegan

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.'

Vs

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

TechVegan

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.

TechVegan

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.

Designergenes

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.

gonzo.pete

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.

ElijahJeremy

March 16, 2013, 6:28 am

Thanks for the review , it helped me a lot in making my choice.
http://www.coffy.com

ntokozo

August 26, 2013, 9:52 pm

its all 16 gig?

ntokozo

August 26, 2013, 9:52 pm

so there is no 32 gig samsung note?

Ness

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.

Joe

October 3, 2013, 8:01 pm

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

Charley

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?

Charley

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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