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

Launch SRP: S$998

Performance and Conclusion

Performance

Running under the hood of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is its Exynos 4 Quad quad-core 1.4GHz processor supported by 2GB RAM. Yes, you read that right - it is the first tablet to be equipped with 2GB RAM, which is necessary if it is to support all the new features such as multi screen and multi tasking smoothly. 

Samsung's own Exynos processors are considered one of the top mobile processors in the market and we are very eager to see how the quad-core chipset fares against the NVIDIA Tegra 3 counterpart in the ASUS Transformer Pad Prime. We also pit the Galaxy Note 10.1 against its dual-core sibling, the Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) and its arch rival, the Apple iPad (2012).

The following benchmarks were used for raw performance evaluation: 

  • Quadrant evaluates the CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics performance. This is an Android OS based test. 
  • Smartbench 2011 is a multi-core friendly benchmark application that includes both the Productivity and Games indices for a more complete gauge of the overall performance of Android tablets.
  • SunSpider Javascript benchmark measures the browsing performance of the tablet.

How the Tablets Stack up
Device Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (3G) Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1)  ASUS Transformer Pad Prime Apple iPad 2012
CPU Exynos 4 Quad quad-core 1.4GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core 1.3GHz Apple A5X dual-core 1GHz
GPU Mali-400MP PowerVR SGX540 12-core GeForce PowerVR SGX543MP4+
RAM 2GB 1GB 1GB 1GB
OS Google Android 4.0.4 Google Android 4.0.3 Google Android 4.0 Apple iOS 5.1

 

 

From the benchmark results above, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 proved itself to be the best quad-core tablet in the market for the moment. Its Quadrant score is almost double that of the ASUS Transformer Pad Prime, while it is a draw between the two quad-core rivals in Smartbench 2011.

However, the Galaxy Note 10.1 took the lead again in the SunSpider Javascript with an amazing low score of 1217. It even edged out the Android 4.1-powered Google Nexus 7, which registered a score of 1697.

Number crunching aside, the actual user experience was far from what we've seen in these benchmarks. At times, we were frustrated with the sluggish transitions between switching of apps and accessing some apps. For example, there was a noticeable lag when opening and closing the S Note and S Planner. This is quite disappointing considering that the Galaxy Note 10.1 is equipped with top-of-the-line processor, 2GB RAM and runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Hopefully the Android 4.1 update will address this issue.

Multimedia Performance 

AMOLED displays on Samsung tablets remain exclusive to the Galaxy Tab 7.7 as the Galaxy Note 10.1 is equipped with a standard LCD screen. Colors may not be as (over)saturated and vibrant as an AMOLED screen but it provides excellent viewing angles.

With a pixel density of 149ppi, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is no match for the Apple iPad (2012)'s Retina display (264ppi) in terms of sharpness . Here's a quick comparison on how the Galaxy Note 10.1 stands among the competition: 

Moving on, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is equipped with a 5-megapixel rear camera with LED flash and a 1.9-megapixel front facing camera. Besides using it for video calls, the 1.9-megapixel front facing camera has an additional functionality ported over from the Galaxy S III - Smart Stay.  

To recap, Smart Stay uses the front camera to monitor whether you are looking at the screen. If it detects eye activity, it will keep the screen awake so that your viewing experience remains uninterrupted. A small but nifty feature indeed! During our time with Galaxy Note 10.1, we grew to appreciate Smart Stay and it generally worked most of the time, except in the dark (obviously!). 

 

Battery and Portability Performance

The last benchmark is the battery performance section, where we evaluate the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 through our standard battery test which includes:  

  • 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. 
Test Tablets Compared
Specifications/Device Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (3G) Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1) ASUS Transformer Pad Prime  Apple iPad (2012)
Processor
  • Quad-core 1.4GHz
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Quad-core 1.3GHz
  • Dual-core 1GHz
Display Size
  • 10.1-inch
  • 10.1-inch
  • 10.1-inch
  • 9.7-inch
Display Type
  • LCD
  • PLS TFT LCD
  • LED-backlit IPS-LCD
  • LED-backlit IPS TFT
Display Resolution
  • 1280 x 800 pixels
  • 1280 x 800 pixels 
  • 1280 x 800 pixels
  • 2048 x 1536 pixels
Dimensions
  • 262 x 180 x 8.9mm
  • 256.6 x 175.3 x 9.7mm
  • 263 x 180.8 x 8.3mm
  • 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.41mm
Weight
  • 600g
  • 587g
  • 586g
  • 662g

 

 

 

The Galaxy Note 10.1 lasted about five hours and 18 minutes, which is close to two hours shorter than the ASUS Transformer Pad Prime. While both tablets have almost similar battery's Wh ratings, the Transformer Pad Prime was able to last longer even with a smaller battery capacity of 3,300mAh. If you look at the Power Consumption chart, it is evident that the Galaxy Note 10.1 has a higher power consumption which explains its disappointing battery life.

When compared to its 10.1-inch dual-core Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1), the Galaxy Note 10.1 doesn't fare any better due to its lower battery's Wh rating. Generally, a higher Wh rating will mean a longer runtime per charge. Due to its overall weight, volume and battery mileage, the Galaxy Note 10.1 narrowly missed being the last.

Under normal usage conditions, the Galaxy Note 10.1 was able to last a day of normal usage which included occasional web surfing, checking social feeds, engaging in a few games and replying emails. As with every other Samsung tablet, our main gripe in this department with the Galaxy Note 10.1 is the need for a proprietary cable to charge it. If you forget to bring the cable along, you are out of luck as it cannot be charged using a micro-USB cable. 

As our battery benchmark test simulates fairly stressful usage conditions, it is possible that the tablet can last much longer under standard usage scenarios. Do take note that actual battery mileage will vary under different usage conditions.

 

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 may be the most well-equipped Android tablet in the market at the moment with its Exynos 4 Quad processor, 2GB RAM and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but it is far from being the perfect one.

We liked how Samsung integrates the S Pen into its tablet portfolio, a stylus concept which has proven to be a hit with the Galaxy Note. The S Pen effectively transforms the Samsung slate from a media consumption device to one that can actually create content. Moreover, Samsung incorporated some handy features from the Galaxy S III into the Note 10.1 such as the Smart Stay and even throw in enhanced multitasking capability with its Multi-Screen feature.

While it's great to see Samsung focusing more on the software aspects, further work has to be done to polish the suite of apps and services associated with the S Pen. Also, optimizing the Android software to work in sync with its hardware remains to be a key hurdle that Samsung and almost any other Android vendor has to address. Its below average battery life and occasional sluggish performance are two aspects where we issued demerit points for the Galaxy Note 10.1 

It doesn't help that the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (16GB) 3G is retailing at S$998. It is priced several levels above its closest competitors such as the S$698 Apple iPad 2 (16GB) 3G, and the S$899 ASUS Transformer Pad Prime (with keyboard dock). Not only will you save S$100, the Transformer Pad Prime will also offer the additional functionality of a physical keyboard and an extra battery pack.

Even though the iPad 2 may be more than a year old, it is still a viable competitor thanks to its sleek user interface and its access to over 20,000 tablet-optimized apps in the App Store. The third generation iPad (16GB) 3G is also a better buy at S$828 and gives you an eye-popping display to rave about. 

The Note 10.1 has its own unique selling points and will appeal to a selective user group like students and anyone who is keen on its content creativity and multitasking functions, but it comes at a steeper price where you would expect an overall better package. For everyone else, the premium it commands may not be justifiable.

Samsung may enjoy great success with its Galaxy line of Android smartphones but it definitely needs to pull up its socks if it wants to strike gold in the tablet market. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is not the perfect one to do so, but it is a step in the right direction.

7.5
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