Tablets Guide

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (3G + Wi-Fi) 16GB review

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (3G) - Bringing S Pen to the Tablet

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Launch SRP S$998

Overall rating 7.5/10
Design:
7.5
Features:
9
User-Friendliness:
8.5
Performance:
7.5
Value:
7
THE GOOD
Good implementation of S Pen
Nifty software features
THE BAD
Occasional sluggish performance
Too pricey
Plasticky chassis


Overview, Design and Features

Overview

The Samsung Galaxy Note is the device that managed to bring back the stylus from the brink of extinction in an era of full-touch screen devices. There are other tablet devices that come with styluses such as the HTC Flyer and Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, however none of them came close to matching the success of the Galaxy Note; a whopping 10 million units are sold to date.

It's only a matter of time before the stylus made its appearance on tablets, since these devices provide more room to use a stylus with their larger displays. We first heard rumors and reports of a Galaxy tablet incorporating the stylus (or S Pen) in February this year. Rumors turned to reality when Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 10.1 at Mobile World Congress 2012 (MWC 2012). 

Back then, the Galaxy Note 10.1 prototype had mediocre specs: a dual-core 1.4GHz processor, 3-megapixel rear camera and an S Pen which doesn't sit within the device. In April, a U.S Samsung spokesperson announced that the retail availability of the Galaxy Note 10.1 would be delayed due to hardware and software upgrades. 

The finalized Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 made its official debut on 15th August with new hardware specs such as 2GB RAM, a quad-core 1.4GHz processor and better cameras. Here's quick look at its specs: -

 

  Key highlights of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (3G)

  • Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • 10.1-inch LCD display / 1280 x 800 pixels
  • Exynos 4 Quad 1.4GHz quad-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB internal memory 
  • microSD card support up to 32GB
  • 5-megapixel rear autofocus camera with LED flash 
  • 1.9-megapixel front facing camera
  • 7,000mAh battery
  • 600g
  • 262 x 180 x 8.9mm

  • Price and availability: Available now at S$998


Comparing the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 against the Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1)

Specifications Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) 
Operating System / User Interface
  • Google Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Google Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich
Processor
  • Exynos 4 Quad 1.4GHz quad-core processor
  • TI OMAP 4430 dual-core 1GHz
Built-in Memory
  • 2GB RAM
  • 1GB RAM
Display
  • 10.1-inch display, 1280 x 800 pixels
  • 10.1-inch display, 1280 x 800 pixels 
Camera
  • 1.9MP front and 5MPl rear auto- focus camera
  • VGA front and 3MP rear fixed focus camera
Storage
  • 16GB internal memory 
  • microSD support up to 32GB
  • 16GB internal memory
  • microSD support up to 32GB
Battery
  • 7000mAh
  • 7000mAh
Dimensions
  • 262 x 180 x 8.9mm
  • 256.6 x 175.3 x 9.7mm
Weight
  • 600g
  • 587g

 

Design

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 retains pretty much the same design we've seen from its other 10.1-inch counterpart- the Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1). Besides the color difference in the bezel and frame around the screen, everything else looks similar from the stereo speakers flanking each side of the display, to the plasticky chassis. We guess Samsung took on this distinctive design philosophy to avoid future patent infringement with Apple after its "devastating" loss in the U.S.

We continue to be baffled by Samsung's reluctance to use better materials for its flagship and top tier products. If Google and ASUS are able to come up with the Nexus 7 which has a solid build quality despite its low price point, it makes us wonder why Samsung refused to devote more efforts to improve the build quality of its products.

Compared to its nemesis, the Apple iPad (2012), the Galaxy Note 10.1 clearly is inferior in build quality. However, the plus point is that plastic keeps the weight of the Galaxy Note 10.1 to a decent 600g, making it easy to handle with one or two hands.

At the top side of the Galaxy Note 10.1 are the SIM card slot, 3.5mm audio output jack, an infrared port, microSD card slot, volume controls and Power button. It's user friendly in a sense that these buttons are located at the same place, instead of having to look all over the place for each of the buttons.

 

Features 

The Galaxy Note 10.1 was launched in Singapore on 21st August and yet it shipped with Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. It's quite odd that it did not come with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean even though Google unveiled it nearly three months ago. Samsung confirmed that the Android 4.1 update will be coming to the Galaxy Note 10.1 but provided no time frame as to when it would arrive. Running on top of the stock Android interface is Samsung's latest version of TouchWiz, which has a handful of new features. 

Multi Screen 

 

Multitasking reaches a new level on the Galaxy Note 10.1 with the Multi Screen feature. It allows you to access two apps simultaneously on the same screen. As seen above, you can browse the Internet and take down notes at the same time with S Note.

As cool as the feature seems, it only works with 6 apps at the moment - Internet, Video Player, S Note, Polaris Office and Gallery. It could have been better if Samsung opens up this feature to third party apps like Facebook, so that users can truly maximize the potential of Multi Screen. 

 

Pop-up Play

 

First seen on the Samsung Galaxy S III, the Pop-up Play feature can also be found on the Galaxy Note 10.1 although we feel the large screen estate provided by the tablet increases its utility. Unlike the Multi Screen feature, Pop-up Play allows you to watch a video as a pop-up screen while performing other tasks (e.g. typing a message while watching video). The pop-up video can be resized according to your preferences, and again the 10.1-inch screen provides enough for different sizes of the video.

S Pen / S Note

The starlet of the Galaxy Note 10.1 is no doubt its S Pen, a stylus concept brought back from the brink of extinction by the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note phablet. While it first appeared at MWC 2012, there was no slot in the tablet to keep the S Pen. It's good that Samsung decided to add in a slot for the S Pen as we could not imagine the tablet without one - it could be too easy to lose it.

The S Pen itself is very lightweight yet it feels quite solid. Having said that, the S Pen could have been designed a little longer as it feels a little too short for our liking. Usability wise, it is comfortable to use the S Pen. It is also quite accurate due to its ability to recognize different degrees of pressure. Its companion app is the S Note, which can be accessed in a faster way by taking the S Pen out of its slot. 

  1. Taking the S Pen out of its slot will prompt the tablet to display the shortcuts toolbar on the right of the screen. The menu will display 6 apps (S Note, S Planner, Crayon Physics, PS Touch, Polaris Office and Pen Settings). This is the default setting, but you can customize it to open one of the six apps.
     
  2. Pressing the button on the side of the S Pen and tapping the screen twice.
     
  3. Accessing S Note the traditional way via App List. 

Used together with the S Pen, the S Note allows you to take down notes and sketch drawings. You can select from a variety of pen styles, colors and font size. S Note also has an advanced functionality that recognizes shapes (even if they are badly drawn) and convert them into perfect forms. For students, the S Note even recognizes formulas and calculate formulas. Check out the video below for more information on the features afforded by S Note: 

Overview of Apps and Widgets 

Instead of scrolling from panel to panel searching for apps or widgets, you can get an overview of the apps and widgets via a pinch gesture. This action previously allows you to view the different home screen panels, and we are glad to see it being extended to the app list. It is especially handy when you have a lot of apps or widgets to scan through, and flipping from one panel to another is not actually very user intuitive.