By: John Hanlon
The Note 10.1 is a great addition to Samsung’s Galaxy series of Android devices. Unique hardware and software such as the S Pen stylus make it the perfect tablet for students or the rushing businessman. It’s running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and I found navigation and overall speed to be excellent.
Similar to the other Galaxy devices, Samsung sticks to the virtually all-plastic design. If you’re used to an iPad or iPhone, this tablet will feel odd at first. I actually prefer Samsung’s plastic over Apple’s metallic design. I found the Note 10.1 to have a lighter but more durable feel compared to the iPad. A case is not a must-have for the Note 10.1 like it is for the iPad. If you do end up buying a case, consider one with a kickstand to prop up the tablet.
Battery: Under medium to heavy use, the Note 10.1 battery lasts easily an entire day. Under light use and screen brightness set to auto, I could see the tablet going a couple days before needing charged. I got around three hours battery life when playing a YouTube video full screen with screen brightness all the way up.
Next to the volume rocker and power button on the top is a micro SD card slot followed by an IR transmitter (more on this later), headphone jack and SIM card tray.
The front-facing speakers on the Note 10.1 sound great. Turned all the way up, they produce minimal distortion and I was very pleased with the volume level. The speakers are split right and left on the front ensuring an even sound.
Samsung’s S Pen stylus is perhaps the most unique feature of the tablet. If you find yourself wanting to store handwritten notes digitally or just prefer pin-point accuracy over a finger tip, this was made for you. Samsung has a variety of applications that are designed specifically for stylus use. Many people might find the S Pen impractical, but it’s there and easily accessible in the corner whenever you need it.
Samsung apps: Peel Remote is a very handy free app that allows the user to control a TV and DVR via IR (same thing a normal TV remote uses). The setup is fairly straightforward and the app has a great user interface. Functions are limited to changing the channel and volume unless connected to a DVR/set top box. See video below for more info.
Screen: I found the screen sharp and never had a time when it was disappointing. It has a resolution of 1280 x 800 and 149 ppi.
On-screen keyboard: For some reason, the stock touch keyboard does not autocorrect any spelling or grammar mistakes. This is a major hassle, especially since typing on a tablet is much more difficult than on a smaller device like a smartphone. On the upside, the keyboard does have a split feature that makes for easy two-handed thumb typing.
Camera: The Note 10.1’s 5 megapixel back-facing camera is not great. It performs very poorly in low light and doesn’t produce a sharp image even outside in daylight. The front-facing 1.9 megapixel camera is almost useless. All the photos seen in this article were taken with the Note 10.1 back-facing camera except for the one with my face which used the front-facing camera.
Adobe Photoshop Touch is the only silver lining to the underwhelming cameras. The app comes preinstalled on the Note 10.1 and is very easy to use. It features a wide variety of effects and basic tools all designed for mobile editing.
The Note 10.1 has Multiview (also called Multiscreen) software that turns on a split screen mode. You can pick from a select number of Samsung apps and the selection will open alongside whatever app is currently being used. When I heard about this mode, I was excited to try it out but unfortunately I was disappointed. It’s an excellent idea but I found it confusing and clunky to use. The few Samsung apps that it works with also limit functionality. Hopefully, Samsung will continue to expand and perfect this feature in future updates.
I found the small power button on the top to be annoying. It’s positioned right next to the volume rocker and I frequently mistakenly turned the tablet off when I tried to change the volume. It’s not a deal breaker, but I don’t see why the two buttons weren’t separated more since they are similar in size.
On the bottom edge is Samsung’s proprietary charging port. If you own other devices that use micro USB ports, the Samsung-only cable you’re forced to use might be frustrating. In my uses, I didn’t find this to be a problem.