Excellent screen; great photo and illustration apps; quad-core power plus 2GB of RAM futureproof the device for games and films
Really shiny, rather flexible body; S Note is of limited use.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 proves itself a superb media all-rounder offering speedy, smooth performance and plenty of useful – and unusual – features.
It’s hard to beat the specs sported by the Galaxy Note 10.1 – just take a look, it’s got quad-core power, making it ideal for serious gaming, films and even video and graphic work at a professional level. Can you tell that Samsung’s battling up against Apple here? The only thing is that the tablet world has been overwhelmed by Google’s £159 quad-core seven-inch tablet – so is there a space for Samsung’s offering now?
The model we tested was the 16GB Wi-Fi one, which also offers the chance to expand the onboard memory by up to 32GB thanks to the microSD slot. The pricetag on this model is £399 – there are also 32GB and 64GB models, and adding 3G will set you back 100 quid. So cost-wise, we’re in the same ballpark as the iPad – and far away from the Asus Nexus 7, which runs on the latest version of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, and is on offer for a meagre £159.
Samsung devices are easily spotted by their glossy chassis, but it does make the Note 10.1 look a tad on the cheap side. There’s quite a bit of give to the body too – although it’s a better build quality than many of Samsung’s offerings, and has the fantastic screen we expect from Samsung devices.
At first glance, the device looks pretty much like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 (10.1), albeit a little lengthier and a tad slimmer – it measures 262x180x8.9mm. The screen is 10.1 inches of clear, sharp LCD, with a resolution of 1280x800. It’s a little hard to hold in one hand.
There are two snappers on board – the front-facing one is a 1.9-megapixel model, while the other is five-megapixels. They both produced decent, sharp snaps. You’ll see the speaker vents on each side of the display in landscape.
The device is really devised to be used with both hands – witness the longer aspect ratio (rather like the 9.7in iPad). Under the chassis sits a quad-core 1.4GHz Exynos chip and 2G of RAM (twice what you’ll find on any other device at the moment), which means performance is smooth and speedy and multitasking works really well.
Like its forerunner, the Galaxy Note 10.1 has a capacitive stylus, along with loads of apps on board for drawing and writing. The USP of the device is S-Note – a digital notebook which claims to be ideal for formulating complex illustrations from a number of brush and pen types, and taking notes.
The handwriting recognition facility is able to work out your maths questions – write them down and it sends them to the Wolfram Alpha search engine. It may be impressive, but we’re not sure how many people will really find it useful.
The calendar app has been expanded to create S Planner, so not only can it sync with Microsoft Exchange and Google calendars, but you can jot down places and times in S Note.
Where S Note does come into its own is in its offering for design and art professionals – who will find the screen’s responsiveness most impressive. It enables you to achieve a fine level of detail – so if you create a light line or add a small flourish, it picks it up. Okay, it’s probably not going to replace your desktop program, but for working on the go, it’s a great offering.
The operating system of choice here is Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which may well be upgradable in the next few months or so. It’s a great OS for the tablet – clean, minimal and efficient. Samsung has also included a five-row keyboard for inputting long messages – and we found we could get up a pretty good speed.
The OS is controlled with touch icons for Home, Back and Multitasking, which lets you switch between programs, and there are five homescreens, which can be personalised with your choice of widgets and icons.
There are a number of shortcuts on offer too – including four on the lock screen.
But our favourite thing is the ‘real multitasking’ toolbar, which sits at the bottom of the screen. We’ve already seen this on the Galaxy Tab 10.1 – and it lets you fire up a second window. It works with the six apps in the toolbar, calculator, email alarm, music, task manager, S Planner and S Note – and means you could be watching a film and open up your email, for instance.
Samsung has included a whole host of mini features too – for instance there’s Smart stay, which stops the tablet switching off if you’re looking at it.
It’s unsurprising that we’re going to compare the display on the Note 10.1 with the Retina screen of the iPad. They handle colour very differently, for instance we found the iPad’s colours were truer, while the Note’s colours are a little lighter. The difference is quite slight, but if you’re going to use your tablet for design work it’s worth considering.
When it comes to photo editing and semi-pro art work, the Note 10.1 is definitely pitting itself against the iPad. If you buy the iPad you’ll have to pay out extra for iMovie and iPhoto, whereas Samsung has seen fit to include Adobe PhotoShop Touch on its device (it’s a slimmed-down version of the desktop program, and costs £7 if you have to download it from Google Play).
While iPhoto is pretty easy to get to grips with, PS Touch is not aimed at newbies. However, it offers plenty of features and allows you to make fine adjustments and crops, once you do get a handle on it.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1’s display is really clear and offers support for full 1080p HD, so you can enjoy Blu-Ray movies to the full. The screen is really reflective though, so if two of you are enjoying a movie together one of you will be seeing a big blob of light on one part of the screen.
Transferring those films is easy – there’s no messing about with iTunes here – and Samsung has even gone so far as releasing its own Easy Photo Sync app that moves video, photos, and contacts directly from your iTunes library.
Onboard speakers are okay – more than enough for a film – but you won’t want to be playing music with a lot of bass.
Also on board is Smart Remote, which automatically connects to pretty much any TV, using the infrared receiver that sits on top of the device, It let us link to our TV and fully control it – turning power on and off, changing volume and switching channels. You can buy games, video and movies from Google Play, while Samsung also had its own hubs for this kind of content, and there’s also Samsung Apps, which is a collection of more than 100,00. We like the Games Hub too, which offers plenty of graphics-intensive games for that RAM and quad-core power combination to get to work on.
Use the AllShare app to connect the Note 10.1 to Windows 7 PCs or HDTVs in order to share content.
Battery life is excellent – moderate use will get you a good nine hours.
Samsung has produced one of its best devices here – it has powerful specs that make it speedy and smooth, and it has some excellent features, from quirky additions to near-professional photo tools. Okay, it’s not an iPad but it has an excellent screen and features such as handwriting recognition and eye-tracking camera, making it an impressive all-rounder.
|Type of device||Tablet|
|Operating System||Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich|
|Processor speed||1.4GHz quad-core|
|CPU||Exynos 4 Quad|
|Screen size||10.1 inches|
|Display type||16 million colours|
|Memory card slot|
|Secondary camera||1.9 megapixels|
|Special camera features||720p video recording, auto-focus, LED flash|
|Music player||MP3, OGG, WMA, AAC, ACCï¼‹, eAACï¼‹, AMR (NB,WB), MIDI, WAV, AC-3, FLAC|
|FM Radio description|
|Video player||MPEG4, H.263, H.264, VC-1, DivX, WMV7, WMV8, WMV9, VP8|
|Other||Infrared receiver, S Pen, Adobe PS Touch, Music Hub, Game Hub, Video Hub|
|Colors (Standard)||Dark grey, white|
|Handsfree speaker phone|
|What's in the box||tablet, USB cable, charger head|
|Standby||Up to 1,500 hours|
|Talktime||Up to 2,000 minutes|
|Battery life multimedia||N/A|
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