Performance Benchmarks, Battery Life and Conclusion
The Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition (LTE) is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.3GHz processor and includes 3GB RAM. For your information, the Wi-Fi variant of the tablet runs on Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5410 (1.9GHz A15 quad-core + 1.3GHz A7 quad-core) processor.
We've in our hands the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 (LTE) edition and we'll pit it against its predecessor to see the performance disparity. In addition, we also want to see how the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 fares against the current competition which include the Nexus 10, the ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T and Toshiba Excite Write.
Both the ASUS and Toshiba tablets run on NVIDIA Tegra 4 processors while the Nexus 10 runs on Samsung Exynos 5250 dual-core 1.7GHz processor. We have articles detailing the different processors used in today's smartphones and tablets, so do check them out for more information:
Quadrant is an Android OS benchmark that evaluates a device's CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performance.
Seeing how well the Snapdragon processor based smartphones perform in this bechmark, it was no surprise that the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 (LTE) topped the Quadrant benchmark. The Tegra 4 processors in the ASUS and Toshiba tablets were simply outclassed by the Snapdragon 800 processor.
Originally developed as a PC benchmarking tool, 3DMark is now expanded to support multiple platforms including Android OS. The Ice Storm benchmark is designed for smartphones, mobile devices and ARM architecture computers.
For an in-depth understanding of 3DMark for Android, do head over to our article, "3DMark - Android Device GPU Performance Review." In a nutshell, 3DMark consists of two test sections:
3DMark Ice Storm is an OpenGL ES 2.0 benchmark test that uses fixed off-screen rendering at 720p then scales the output to fit the native display resolution of your device. Ice Storm includes two graphics tests designed to stress the GPU performance of your device and a physics test to stress its CPU performance.
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited raises the off-screen rendering resolution to 1080p and uses higher quality textures and post-processing effects to create a more demanding load for the latest smartphones and tablets. It also disables vertical sync, display resolution scaling and other operating system factors affecting the result, thus making it ideal for chip-to-chip comparisons of different chipsets.
*Editor's note: We did not have a review unit of the original Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 with us at the point of writing, hence we were unable to run the 3DMark benchmark on the tablet.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 2014's victory margin is not as wide as in the Quadrant benchmark, and since Ice Storm Unlimited compares the processors without the influence of display resolution and OS, it seems that the Tegra 4 and Snapdragon 800 processors are equally matched.
Benchmark numbers are just one part of the equation. Disregarding the benchmark results, we found navigation to be generally smooth although lags and hiccups could be experienced especially when using the Multi-Window feature. App windows will take a second or two to load, close or switch. To be honest, our findings were a little unexpected, especially on a device running on the latest Snapdragon processor and 3GB RAM. We expected a full no-compromise performance at those specs.
Tablets aren't really known for their cameras, but the Galaxy Note 10.1 surprised a little with its above average image quality. It comes with an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera.
Our standard battery test for tablets includes the following parameters:
• Looping a 720p video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
• Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
• Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
With a 8,220mAh, the Galaxy Note 10.1 has the second largest battery capacity of all the tablets compared, behind only by the 9,000mAh capacity of the Nexus 10. However, in our battery life benchmark, it registered a battery mileage of 7 hours and 37 minutes, which is commendable, but loses out to the ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T that lasted close to three hours longer despite its smaller battery capacity. Both have similar screen sizes with the same amount of pixels to power, so why the discrepancy?
If we take a look at the Power Consumption chart, the Samsung slate (or any others in the comparison) has more than double the power consumption of the ASUS tablet. ASUS managed to achieve this low level of power consumption because it uses an IPS screen that's based on an IGZO-TFT manufacturing technology. We reported ASUS using this display technology in a recent news piece. The other comparison tablets still use conventional display technologies and thus you can see most of them sip power at a similar level. Of course, we won't rule out the fact that there are more software features running in the background for the Galaxy Note 10.1 that further contributed to the relatively shorter battery life.
Despite ASUS seemingly having the overall advantage in general portability, when we did the math in our Portability Index - where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage against its size and mass - the Galaxy Note 10.1 is 2014 (LTE) is able to take the top spot by a small margin. This is because the new Samsung tablet is the thinnest and lightest 10.1-inch tablet of the lot, and combined with a reasonably long battery life, it managed to come up on top.
Without a doubt, Samsung has made notable improvements in the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, but it still has some room for advancement before presenting itself as a serious threat to Apple's dominance in the tablet space.
We like the new design direction that Samsung has taken with the tablet and its Note 3 counterpart. It's a notch ahead from the plasticky rear of yesteryear although we hope Samsung continues to better its design as its competitors (Apple, ASUS and Sony) are leading in this area.
Samsung also finally caught up with Apple and some of its competitors in offering a top-notch display on its tablet devices. With the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, Samsung is among the few Android tablet makers that can proudly claim its display to be superior to that of the Apple iPads although it is wrong to assume its higher pixel density means a better multimedia viewing experience.
The suite of software features has finally matured and does offer practical use for consumers who want to go beyond just media consumption on their tablets. In fact, we feel the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition is inching closer to being the perfect productivity tablet if not for its occasional sluggish performance. With the latest quad-core processor, 3GB RAM and Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, we found it unacceptable to still see instances of the device lagging. Samsung either has to spend more time optimizing the hardware and software to work better seamlessly or streamline its TouchWiz interface which may be the culprit for bogging down system resources.
At S$798, the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 (Wi-Fi) is slightly more expensive than the $749 ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T, while the reviewed LTE edition in this article goes for S$998. The Transformer Pad TF701T is a compelling alternative as it comes with a keyboard dock. If you don't know, the keyboard dock also doubles as a battery pack which makes the entire package very appealing to consumers who want to do much more on the go with a tablet device. Even without the dock, it's able to outlast the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 (LTE) by a considerably degree due to its use of a newer screen technology. Additionally, it has USB 3.0 and HDMI output. The only two drawbacks of the ASUS tablet is its lack of cellular connectivity, and a stylus, both of which the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition offers.
The S$988 Sony Xperia Tablet Z (16GB, 4G LTE) is another option if you are looking for a 10.1-inch tablet without an emphasis on productivity. It is easily the thinnest and among the lightest 10-inch tablets you can find in the market. Moreover, it is also a hardy tablet as it is water and dust resistant.