Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (video)
A Californian court may have ruled that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab was a little too close to the iPad, but with the Galaxy Note 10.1 the South Korean manufacturer has hit on something much more unique.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 was released in Ireland just 10 days ago, featuring the 10.1-inch display indicated in its name, a 1.4GHz Exynos quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, a 5MP rear camera with LED flash, a 1.9MP front-facing camera, and HD video recording and playback.
Though I’d love to start seeing more devices running Jelly Bean, it appears I’ll have to wait for the autumn launches, and the Galaxy Note 10.1 runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
With a glossy white casing and chrome-finish frame, the Samsung tablet is slimmer and lighter than the iPad and looks just as good, while the bright and vivid 10.1-inch screen is great for watching video or viewing images.
The S Pen
There are two things that set the Note 10.1 apart from the iPad, though, and one of those is the 6.5mm S Pen – which is appearing with more and more Samsung devices. Embedded into the bottom right-hand side of the device, the stylus slides out to give users an alternative to using their fingers to interact with the device.
Users can adjust the settings of the S Pen so that a specific app is launched as soon as it’s removed, or a number of apps compatible with the pen, like S Planner and Polaris Office, can be presented.
The S Pen is both useful and fun to use with a variety of apps, whether you’re creating documents, editing images or playing a game like Crayon Physics (which is quite like Rovio’s Amazing Alex).
The tablet also comes with Adobe Photoshop Touch, which is a great image-editing app that lets users manipulate images using either touch controls or the stylus. For apps like this, the S Pen really comes into its own, allowing users to work with precision. With the default pen settings, a pointer appears on-screen when you hold it close to the device, which is of great help when trying to be exact.
The S Pen is also great to use with S Note, which I admittedly never use on my smartphone. The added functionality for the stylus/tablet combination made this my go-to app for the Note 10.1. Users can create notes using templates of lined or graph paper, or something more complex in a magazine format. The app can record your notes for playback and supports a variety of input methods.
I was really impressed with the handwriting-to-text recognition in this app, as even my scrawl was legible to the technology. It can also recognise shapes and digitise those, and can even read and calculate handwritten mathematical formulas.
Unique multi-tasking features
Which brings me to the Galaxy Note 10.1’s second unique selling point: multi-tasking. A number of apps (including S Note, Gallery, Browser, Video Player, Polaris Office and Email) support the tablet’s multi-screen feature, which basically divides the screen in two with one app on either side. So if you’re browsing the web, you can grab images and text from a web page and put them in a note. Or you can watch a video while writing an email.
There’s also a variety of widgets that can be overlaid on other apps: Calculator, Email, Music Player, S Note, S Planner, Task Manager, World Clock, Alarm. These open in a pop-out as you need them, and a pop-out video player is also supported.
The pop-out video player feature is common to the Samsung Galaxy S III, as is Smart Stay technology (which keeps the screen on as long as you’re looking at it) and AllShare Play (which makes sharing content with other devices quick and easy).
While I see most tablets as glorified media players, the Galaxy Note 10.1 was also practical and useful thanks to the S Pen and the multi-tasking feature. While mobile devices aren’t ideal for anything more than basic productivity, I feel that this tablet is capable of that little bit more that could make all the difference. Users can even configure the keypad to whatever layout suits them best – whether locked across the base of the screen, floating and moveable or even split in two to easily let your thumbs do the typing – which, when I had to type, was a welcome feature.
With the inclusion of Adobe Photoshop Touch and the creative possibilities presented by the S Pen, I can see this tablet being particularly popular with artistic types. The battery performance was impressive, lasting for days with my intermittent use, but if I had one quibble it would be that the cord for the charger is quite short. However, the detachable plug tells me extensions will be available for purchase.
All I can say is, if the Galaxy Note 10.1 is good enough for James Franco, it’s good enough for me. And if you want one of your very own it will cost you from €479. Not cheap, but not a far cry from the cost of an iPad for something I found far more useful.
Please note: Learning Hub is not yet available in Ireland.