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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review

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For its latest tablet Samsung decided to combine its Galaxy Tab 10.1 with the success of the Galaxy Note. The result, while promising on paper, ultimately falls flat.

Like the Samsung Galaxy Note and the upcoming Galaxy Note 2, the Galaxy Note 10.1 has a built-in S Pen. The S Pen is a stylus that uses Wacom technology for taking notes and sketching. It’s a better answer than a capacitive stylus on other tablets, but not by much.

Ultimately the stylus is not enough to save the Galaxy Note 10.1 from a low resolution screen and middling performance.

Pros

  • Long battery life
  • S Pen is OK for sketching
  • Built-in IR for Peel app
Cons

  • S Pen feels cheap, doesn’t work well
  • Multiscreen apps are slow
  • Multiscreen limited to a few Samsung apps
  • Low-resolution screen

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review 1

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 | $499

Galaxy Note 10.1 Review Guide
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Buy the Galaxy Note 10.1

Design

The design of the Galaxy Note 10.1 says that Samsung wanted to do everything it could to distance itself from the iPad. The front of the device has a two-tone design with a light gray plastic surrounding the black bezel, and two speakers embedded in the gray plastic.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review 11

The Galaxy Note 10.1 design is uninspired.

That light gray plastic outlines the sides of the device, and extends to encompass the back camera of the tablet. The back is just like every other recent Samsung tablet: made entirely of plastic that feels cheap and flimsy.

Display

After tablets like the new iPad and the Asus Infinity we expect to see a great screen on any flagship tablet. Simply put, the Galaxy Note 10.1′s screen isn’t very good at all.

The screen uses a 1280×800 resolution, which gives it only a few pixels more than the Galaxy S III which has a smaller screen.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review 3

The Galaxy Note 10.1 Display is OK, but doesn’t stand out.

The screen isn’t terrible, the viewing angles are wide enough for two or more people to watch a video on it, but the low screen resolution is very distracting.

Samsung also needs to work on the auto brightness. I had to turn it off after only a few hours because the brightness changed so often, and was often far too heavy-handed in its changes.

S Pen

The main attraction of this tablet, the S Pen stylus is hidden in the bottom right corner. The S Pen feels cheap, mostly because the Wacom technology in the tablet means the tablet handles everything, the plastic nub is the only important part of the S Pen.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review 8

The Galaxy Note 10.1 includes an S Pen stylus.

There is a button on the stylus, but it doesn’t do anything aside from make the stylus not work correctly. The button is supposed to make it easy to take screenshots, but holding the button just makes the stylus not work at all. The only function the button has that I found, is that holding the it down and double tapping the screen brings up an S Note mini app that floats on top of whatever app is running. That’s somewhat useful for quick notes, but not much else.

The S Pen has tremendous promise, and it works better than a capacitive stylus on the iPad, but it still doesn’t work that well. Samsung claims the stylus has 1024 points of pressure, but in my testing it was hard to see many variations in line thickness. That could be the fault of the apps on the device, or the tablet hardware, it’s hard to say which.

Performance, Software and Apps

The software on the Galaxy Note 10.1 also leaves much to be desired. Starting at the top, this iteration of TouchWiz has lag when moving between home screens. That could be because the device currently runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and doesn’t have Project Butter from Jelly Bean, but why bother with a skin at all if it’s still going to produce lag. Samsung’s TouchWiz widgets seem to cause a lot of this lag. Any screen with a TouchWiz widget is slow to move into or out of view, while other widgets like the large Nook widget that Samsung pre-installs on one home screen produces much less lag.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review 2

The Galaxy Note 10.1 ships with a collection of S Pen apps.

The lag in multiscreen might be acceptable if any app worked with the feature, but Samsung only used its own apps in the feature. It’s sad because the best use I can think of for the mode is running Netflix next to a Twitter client, but the Galaxy Note 10.1 doesn’t support that feature. I doubt Samsung will open the mode to other developers, or that other developers would even care to take advantage of it.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 multiscreen

The big software draw, the multiscreen apps aren’t much better. Only a few Samsung apps can run in multiscreen mode, and they don’t even run well. While the apps are technically side-by-side on the screen at the same time, only one is active at a time. Tapping the other app switches focus, but that switch takes a few seconds. During those few seconds the app still reads every input. That means any notes written in S Note in those first few moments don’t appear at first, so I had to make sure I was extra careful with my handwriting. That also means the browser might scroll far past the point I wanted, often scrolling all the way down to the bottom of the page.

Other software complaints include all the annoying sounds TouchWiz makes everything anything happens, the inability to put actual apps in the mini dock in the status bar, and the inability to change the apps in the dock that appears when the S Pen is removed from its slot.

There is some good news for the software, however. On the top of the device Samsung included an IR sensor which works with the include Peel remote app. With the app users can control their HDTV and cable box with the Note 10.1 I tested it with a Vizio and Samsung TV, and it worked well with both. The app works as a remote and a TV guide. It’s just a shame the best and most interesting app pre-installed on the device doesn’t even come from Samsung.

Battery Life

If there is one great thing in the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 its the battery inside it. In my testing I was unable to run the battery down to nothing. The first night it dropped from 35 percent to zero, but after that I could spend a few hours browsing the web, reading Twitter in Plume, playing Temple Run, and reading books in the Kindle app without fear of the battery dying.

Cameras

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has a rear-facing 5MP camera and a front-facing 1.9MP camera. Neither can take very good photos, and should only be used for video chat.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review 9

Don’t plan on taking many photos with the Galaxy Note 10.1.

After all, who really wants to hold a giant widescreen tablet in front of their face to take a photo when they can use an actual camera or a smartphone?

Is the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Worth It?

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review 4

The Galaxy Note 10.1 Display is OK, but doesn’t stand out.

Overall, I see no reason to purchase the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 over an iPad, or any other Android tablet. The stylus is an interesting idea, but the execution just isn’t very good.

I wanted to like the Note 10.1, but after I had it in my hands, it was hard to find a reason to use it instead of my iPad, or even the iPhone or Galaxy S III. When a user would rather use a smartphone instead of the tablet, that’s not a good sign.

Gallery

Shawn is a tech junkie who spends most of his time reading and writing about it. You can follow him on Twitter, @shawn_i.

30 Comments

  1. Peter Allen

    08/24/2012 at 7:51 am

    Gottabemobile and Shawn, really disappointed in what you are calling a review.

    First off I do not know how you can call this a review. This is more of a casual observation and should be stated as an observation. If this were a true review you would have done more testing of the options and power of this tablet. Engadget, Android Central and Android Police did a real review and I respect them for it, even though I do not agree with their review. You are doing a disservice to your site and those who read your site by putting out an article that is an observation and call it a review.

    Second, (I have bias as I own and love my Note 10.1) understand the purpose of the Note 10.1 and the audience it is for or opens up to. I can tell you that I have spent hours and money try to find a capacitive stylus that I could really use to take notes in meetings on my ASUS Transformer. I have tried at least 10 apps and about 15 styluses with no real luck. Once I got the Note 10.1 and used the S Pen, I was able to take my notes all on my tablet. The palm rejection and handwriting translation work great! The S Pen feature is worth every penny. So know the purpose of the gadget you are reviewing and REALLY test those new features, like the S Pen and don’t gloss over them. Or be honest and say this review does not provide an in-depth analysis of the S Pen.

    I hope to see some in-depth, well tested and thoughtful reviews in the future from you all.

    • Kevin Conley

      08/24/2012 at 8:53 am

      I agree… this tablet has changed my life… and yes, i own the ipad 2… which has the same screen resolution… Not to mention, this doesn’t use a stylus – it’s a S Pen…BIG DIFFERENCE!!!

    • Fernando

      08/25/2012 at 5:52 am

      Great reply. I would add that I (as you) have spent countless hours (and $) testing capacitive styli and apps on the iPad, and nothing comes close to what the Note 10.1 (yes, it can be improved too) can do right now! The “reviewer” seems to miss the point that the key feature of this tablet is the pen implementation.

    • Ken Wooley

      10/04/2012 at 8:23 pm

      totally agree. very superficial review. the galaxy note offers the same functionality as the Ipad and then some !!
      your review feels like someone who will always stand in line for hours for the next iphone and never gives android devices a second chance.

  2. Hoshang

    08/24/2012 at 8:53 am

    Believe me Peter this is not a review and is written by an apple fanoid! I have read some very good reviews about this Note and will continue to check more features. It seems to me to be the best tablet for academic use and university life especially.

  3. twospirits

    08/24/2012 at 9:41 am

    Well to be perfectly honest here, at least this review did not have stupid headlines, or comments about the device causing cancer and a pic of it in the trash like another site did.
    its a review from his point of view. The only problem I have is that most of these reviews and writers, is that they want us to think that they are the definitive source of what a reviewer is and in fact alot of them do not know the technology nor the main reason a device is made for or its intended audience.

    its funny how the similarities between the 10.1 reviews are to the 5.5″ reviewers. most did not like it and yet, it gained an audience to garner a 2nd generation.

    To compare the Note 10.1 to an iPad or a Transformer is ironic. Both are good devices but catered to different folks. The Note 10.1 has a Wiacom digitizer and anyone that has used one or knows about them should know that there isn’t any over that resolution found in the Note 10.1. Having Samsung provide such a digitizer at such a low price of $500 when compared to a Wiacom digitizer is amazing in itself.

    The S-pen is good and unlike the stylus/pen on the Lenovo Thinkpad tablet, it does not click or clack when using it on the screen. It can also be used throughout the OS.

    Multiview is an amazing idea, although originally I saw something similar on the Notion Ink Adam tablet with its Eden UI leaves. Still it will be not as perfect as some want but that fault lies on Google. For Android tablets to compete against Windows or any OS for that matter, it should have multiview or side by side apps, but Google does not have that embeded in the code as of yet. Samsung found a way around it, be it simulating two apps running side by side when in reality only one is one, is at least, a step in the right direction.

    The device also has something called textbooks which allows a student to download texts for school and actually be able to write notes on them. Not one reviewer has touch this.

    All in all, reviews come and go and some are favorable and some are not to the person reading them, but at least review a device for its intended audience (which in this case is a student, artist, note taker, etc) and then maybe see it as what it is without having to give it a grade by comparing it to other devices that surely can’t do the same thing or intended to be..

    Regardless, anyone interested in any device should go check it out themselves and see if it truly is what your read.

    TS

    • SamsungIsTheBest

      10/28/2012 at 10:47 pm

      You mean Android Police? Yeah, I saw that site too

  4. foolnote

    08/24/2012 at 8:36 pm

    I just glance the ads and the simple outline, and it seems to me that this new tablet is better than the “next ipad”, just without an “retina display”. As a daily ipad 2 user, I believe this tablet is the correct response to user demand and offer good value for money when compared with ipad, and totally different from the previous model which is pure money sucking.

    Regarding the overwhelmingly negative comment in the first page of Google search, it force me to wonder are the writers really an 10.1 inch tablet user or they just put all they money into the share of Apple.

  5. G'Note 10.1

    08/24/2012 at 9:55 pm

    Sorry to say, the need a new editor at GBM. Apparently the editor of this review never used the Galaxy Note 10.1 maybe not more than a few hours like most reviewers , yet they post bad and misleading information.about the Galaxy Note. I have used or tried to use my iPad with so called stylus but never could get the best notes out of it. It worked but compared to the Note 10.1, there is no comparison. Now I haven’t used my iPad for the last 3 week’s since getting my 3G Note .

    In the future I won’t be reading post from this editor, really is not a tech user. Check other sites and do your home work.

  6. Mike5

    08/25/2012 at 11:14 am

    Unfortunately, this site like many others, now thinks only Apple products should be used. I used to use the site regularly, as an excelent source of information for Tablet PCs. Back then, the reviewers could not praise the Wacom stylus enough. Now, with Apple’s anti stylus stance, they take a very different view.

  7. Bill Coughlin

    08/26/2012 at 11:34 pm

    Yet to try it but for document signing the ipad is useless… I do look foward to testing the s pen… I am a Realtor… Are there no other tablet designs for a wacom pen?
    Even the hp tc1100 was pretty good many years ago

  8. Leo

    08/27/2012 at 5:39 pm

    I noticed that this is the fourth “review” praising Apple and underrating Galaxy 10.1., from what read today. Well, Apple knows what marketing is, but are we that blind?

    This product is way better than ipad3, and this is not my opinion only. Ipad is a restricted, useless toy. Just as their retina display most of the time. The last’s great indeed but incompatible with most of current apps. Not to mention that Samsung is a much more powerful tablet and you get 32gb with only 550$ + you can add micro sd slot for an additional storage. Not to mention SIM card slot,pen (superb one), processor, usability etc. Though if you upgrade ipad, it’ll cost you 800$ or something… Could buy a laptop instead.
    I think people should really stop whining about resolution, there are so many other benefits … Besides, Samsung provides the best color quality, no one’s gonna die of comparably low resolution. Who needs those specs when there is no proper built in software to work in. This is just a GREAT innovation. People! Don’t pay attention to those “reviews”. Best tablet yet along with Asus one.

  9. peter

    09/03/2012 at 9:22 pm

    Did you write the low resolution is distracting? You best not touch an ipad 2. I know … i know … blasphamy. Please correct me spelling… dare ya

  10. Bill Mitchell

    09/07/2012 at 4:31 pm

    Excuse me, the s-pen doesn’t work well? Are you seriously on drugs? The s-pen on this tablet is perfection. I can write in the smallest letters possible and it takes them in instantly.

    Worst review ever.

    Look at Amazon and Bestbuy. This tablet is 4 1/2 to 5 stars everywhere.

    ** Please stop comparing this to the iPad3 which doesn’t have 1/4 the functionality or a wacom pen. Sure the Ipad3 has a better screen. Looking at stuff on it is all you can do.

  11. Molan James

    09/16/2012 at 3:50 am

    Samsung made made a breakthrough with widget design when they integrated resizeable widgets in their TouchWiz interface on the Galaxy S II. Lucky for us Galaxy Note users, we have some exclusive resizeable widgets as well! This is a great feature for the Note because of it’s increased display resolution, which adds an extra column’s worth of room to the homescreen.

  12. Nyaka Tech

    09/18/2012 at 3:14 pm

    I am not as experienced with the tablet, other than the iPad2 which I have enjoyed mainly because of the ease of use of iTunes. I just purchased the Samsung Note 10.1 for use in Uganda and am enjoying getting to know this operating system. The main issues I’ve encountered so far are the lack of a good case. I purchased the Samsung one with it and have not liked it at all. It slips when I try to set it up on a glass-top table and this happens at the most inopportune times when playing games. (This will be given to a school for Primary Level so I have to load and understand games and books, etc.).

    The power cord slips into the bottom which makes it even harder to use because the case only fits one way…this is a poor design but not huge.

    Also, to avoid using a credit card to purchase games, I had to chase down where the Google Play gift cards were for sale and initially they advertised as being available at Target, but were not there, so a separate trip to Game Stop was necessary.

    I haven’t figured out yet if the Google Play Books that are free can be downloaded or must be read online, but this will help to keep down the costs for our students. I am stil sorting out the FB, Skype and other options. On iPad, I don’t use the apps, I just access from i/net browser, but this doesn’t work the same on Android…

    I think it is a very tablet and that the students will appreciate the ease of use for sketching.

  13. ericksonooi

    09/19/2012 at 4:46 pm

    LOL, is this considered as a review? i think you are jz a typical apple fanboy.

  14. Jack Sprat

    10/13/2012 at 4:50 am

    The problem is that ipad lovers can never see an advantage in an android product

  15. Jack Bauer

    10/15/2012 at 5:55 pm

    This is not even a professional review! Wasted my time reading this.

  16. Emmy

    10/16/2012 at 11:47 pm

    I’m shocked and disappointed with your review. Your bias is showing big-time, especially when you talk about the s pen and the functionality of the tablet.. Have you ever tried to draw on the iPad, you have to keep your hand in the air because if it touches the screen you either make additional marks, shut down the program, cause the “paper” to jiggle or lose your drawing, and writing notes on it is ridiculous. The s pen worked great for me, it captured every stroke, was easy to get lines to match up and I didn’t have any problems with lag, I found it to be as responsive to hand-touches as the iPad and the responsiveness with a stylus was better than with the iPad.

  17. madina

    10/23/2012 at 3:27 am

    well well, that is yo view, u r an apple person n a dont think u are the kind that can come out of your comfort zone. i have an ipad 3, its good, amazing BUT, i dont know y i keep borrowing my husband’s samsung tablet 10.0. am an apple person but at times, u have to know when someone has beaten u. that was not a review.

  18. Allan

    10/27/2012 at 10:39 pm

    I just wasted 15min of my life reading this review

  19. Kiotu

    10/29/2012 at 11:05 am

    What a dumb review, I own one, i actually use one and i love this tablet, been using my father’s ipad3 long enough to know this tablet better suit me. Even my father was willing to trade his ipad3 with mine just for the voice call and messaging ability, and off course I rejected, can’t make a detail enough sketch for my design projects using the ipad. As far as the lag described in this review I can assure that it was overly stated, and since I’ve been using this custom rom based on leaked jelly bean official release I can say it’s as smooth as silk. For the screen resolution, hell it’s a lot better than common notebook, so why the complain? And yeah, I think reviews should be made by those who actually use the product and not just sightseeing it and pretend to know everything.

  20. fuk shawn

    11/03/2012 at 2:01 am

    shawn is a faggot who doesnt know shit about technology

    • Joe

      11/08/2012 at 8:07 pm

      Shawn dear,it’s time to go to bed because you have school in the morning and you know how cranky you get without enough sleep. Love, Mom…

  21. Dwight Schrute

    11/12/2012 at 7:33 am

    Own a Note 10.1 for about 3 weeks now. Had an iPad. Got tired of having to carry a pad a paper with the iPad going to meetings and doing basic business tasks. The last two weeks I do all note taking, emails, etc. on the Note 10.1. Many of my iPad co-workers are dumping their iPad for the Note 10.1. The iPad is for consuming information which is does well in a non-business environment. The Note 10.1 is for producing information and is great in a business environment. The stylus and had writing recoginition is fantastic. The multi-screen capability is great, too. Appreciate the inclusion of Polaris office and other S-Pen apps. People who criticize the Note 10.1 because of the stylus and lack of a “retina” display are just Apple drones and don’t understand that a tablet should replace about 90% of your need for a computer.

    • Niel

      01/10/2013 at 11:43 am

      I agree with all the users of Note 10.1!
      I have been using my Note 10.1 (N8000, wifi 3G) for about 4 months now and since I have upgraded from ICS to Jelly Bean, whoa!… even better performance, multitasking for up to 8 apps altogether plus watching re-sizable movie clips, better animated video thumbnails and picture thumbnail flowing presentations…and it goes on and on, over and above iPad’s capabilities.

      An iPad is surely a great gadget for the casual to serious gamers out there, even other media buffs who are into photos and videos… but whatever resolution battles the Note 10.1 may have lost over an iPad, has surely been compensated by TONS of stuff you can do with a Note 10.1 in terms of leisure and business.

      The reviewer doesn’t seem to have a full grasp of the Note 10.1′s capabilities. I’m pretty sure he has not been stuck in a meeting, needing a notepad app that can key-in text and hand write/scribble stuff, record discussions and attach it to the note, attach photo files, include locations in map, whip it, zip it, and send it as an email all at the same time in one app :)

      And for the S-Pen? Well, since the reviewer is posting stuff on the web, better check YouTube at least on how the S-Pen has become a formidable included accessory coz not only can it perform as a mouse for the Note 10.1, calls out neat previews for photos and videos (previews with sound) with the pen merely hovering on top of the screen, as well as command the device to perform actions from custom defined pen strokes, not to mention touch sensitivity of up to 1,024 variations, probably more sensitive than the old “pen to paper”, so to speak.

      To the reviewer, read up and try spending quality time with the gadgets you review to get a better grasp of what is and what’s not.

      Cheers!

  22. julie taylor

    01/24/2013 at 8:39 am

    I am very disappointed that Samsung galaxy note10.1 does not enable me to use sky go I find this quiet unbelievable as other tablets can receive it. How long before I can get it. ?

    • Niel

      01/24/2013 at 10:42 am

      HI jullie,

      I understand your frustration regarding apps like “Sky Go” is still not compatible with the Note 10.1 as well as other apps related to entertainment and such. But really, in my honest opinion, this is more of the “third party apps’ developers issue and does not have anything to do with the device. I’m sure if you’d request the app developer and point out this issue, they probably more than happy to update their software/apps and expand their compatibility up to our Note 10.1′s. You could probably try “SPB TV” or something as a temporary alternative. I hear that works on our Note 10.1′s.

      All in all, just to say, after the upgrades from ICS to Jelly Bean, there are alot of stuff that has pumped up the formidable Note 10.1 anther notch! Still the best tablet to date ;)

      Cheers!

  23. Iphone review

    10/22/2013 at 11:57 pm

    My Galaxy note 10 never lasted more than 5months, But now i have a new tab :)

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