Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Samsung delivers a solid and well-performing tablet in the Note 10.1, but it is far from the best device available. The screen falls short of its competitors' screens, battery life could be better and Samsung is charging top dollar.


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CNET Rating
8.9
User Rating

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Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon


Design

It may be Samsung's latest tablet, but the Galaxy Note 10.1 doesn't stray too far from Samsung's previous efforts in terms of looks and feel. If you sat it next to last year's Galaxy Tab 10.1, you'd probably notice the distinct aluminium frame around the bezel of the newer Note 10.1; but without it, old and newer are virtually identical.

We were disappointed to discover that the same can be said for the tablet's 1280x800-pixel screen. Samsung chose PLS screen tech for this display, and, while it is perfectly serviceable, there is nothing extraordinary to set it apart from the pack. Apple has its Retina display in the new iPad and Asus has a full-HD IPS screen in the Transformer Infinity. As Samsung's best tablet release for the year, we'd have thought that the Koreans would bring out the big guns.

We've read in other reviews that some members of our industry feel that the Note 10.1 is cheaply built. We don't see it the same way. The tablet is built out of plastic, but it feels solid enough for the kind of punishment that it's likely to receive as a portable device. We also like that the plastic helps make the unit lighter, and although the Note 10.1 is slightly heavier than the Galaxy Tab, it is quite a bit lighter than this year's iPad.

As it is with nearly all tablets, the internals of the Note 10.1 are not user accessible, so you can't swap out the battery. Its 16GB of internal memory is expandable via a microSD card slot on top of the tablet. One of the design features we like most is the tablet's front-facing speakers. Almost all other tablets we've seen position the speakers on the rear or the base of the device, so that the speaker grilles are covered by your hands when you are using it.

Being a Note-branded product, the tablet comes with a Samsung S Pen stylus, which slips snugly into a groove along the bottom right. The pen itself feels a bit cheap, but it works as advertised, which is the most important thing, we suppose.

There is also an IR blaster on top of the tablet, meaning that you can download a third-party TV-control app and use the tablet to change the channels or adjust the volume instead of hunting around for the dedicated TV remote. This is a feature that we've only seen on a handful of tablets, and although it is completely secondary to the task that the tablet is designed to perform, it is a perfect fit on a device which most people say they use while curled up in front of their TVs.

Samsung's smarts

If you see any of the promotional material around the new Note 10.1, chances are that you're already aware of some of the tablet's unique features and capabilities. While Apple's iPad offers a bare-bones experience out of the box — one that you augment by downloading dozens of apps — Samsung attempts to give you a productivity boost with its S Pen and associated apps.

S Memo is a good place to start. As the name suggests, this app is designed to help you create notes beyond simple scribbles. With S Memo, you can have your handwriting converted to text, and your poorly drawn circles, triangles and squares polished into digitally perfect shapes. It can even solve some mathematical equations that you scrawl with the stylus. You can start a new memo by choosing from a number of rich-looking templates, and you can share your creations as easily as any image on the tablet. Better yet, you can cut and paste images from apps, like the web browser, to use in your own documents.

The other high-profile feature is a new multitasking option available in a few of the core apps. When you are in one of these apps, like the email tool, you can hit the Multitask button on the top taskbar to launch a second app and have both displayed side by side. This certainly seems like a great idea; it's just poorly executed, unfortunately.

Multitasking seems like a great idea, but its no more useful than using the standard Android multitasking option.
(Credit: Screenshot CBSi)

For starters, the list of compatible apps is so limiting as to make it kind of pointless. It is a shame that you can't hit "Multitask" and then select any installed app to see them side by side. There's also very little that you can do with the two open apps besides look at them. You can't find a photo in your gallery and drag and drop it into an email, for example. At the end of the day, it's just as easy to use the built-in Android full-screen multitasking option to achieve practically the same result.

The same goes for Samsung's Pop-Up Play, a feature that lets you display a video window over the top of any other application window. We like how it works, we love that you can resize the video window with a pinch-to-zoom gesture and we love how responsive it is, even when playing HD videos. We just can't imagine why we'd we use it. Perhaps we are too boring to appreciate this feature, but it seems like it's there because "they can", not because it's a feature that we'd get much use out of.

Pop-Up Play video works very well, but we're not sure when we'd use it.
(Credit: Screenshot CBSi)

Performance

It may look like last year's tabs, but the Galaxy Note 10.1 is packing far more firepower. Samsung uses its own Exynos quad-core chipset, clocked at 1.4GHz, a Mali 400P graphics processor and 2GB of RAM. The result is a pretty pleasing computing experience. The tablet breezed through the benchmark tests we use for mobile devices, clocking some of the best results for devices in this category for the year.

This also means that it handles apps well, too. Fast-paced games play well, despite the larger screen size. Switching apps is swift, web browsing is smooth and viewing photos and videos works well.

Battery life is OK, but it certainly does match the longevity of Apple's iPad. In a continuous video-playback test, with the screen brightness set to 100 per cent, the Galaxy Note 10.1 stayed active for just over 5 hours and 20 minutes. Your mileage will vary, especially with the screen set to a comfortable viewing level, but it is still a long way off the 10 hours we saw with the same test on the Google Nexus 7, or the 7 hours and 45 minutes of the Asus Transformer 300T.

Camera

Though you'll probably never use it, Samsung opts for a decent 8-megapixel image sensor in the Galaxy Note 10.1, matched with a bunch of the same features you get in a Galaxy S III smartphone. We found that our test images turned out a bit colder than we'd have liked, with the sensor leaning towards a blue/green hue, but the focus is consistent and the shutter is fast. There's no way of using this camera without feeling slightly ridiculous, but at least the results are pretty good.

(Credit: CBSi)

(Credit: CBSi)

Third-party apps

There is a collection of noteworthy third-party apps to shout out to on the Note 10.1. Samsung's content partnerships keep growing in Australia, and, out of the box, users of this tablet can sign up to Quickflix for movies, view Channel 10 catch-up content and sign up for Samsung's Music Hub. The game Crayon Physics is pre-installed, which makes sense, given the stylus, and Samsung also includes the Peel Smart Remote app to take advantage of the IR blaster. We also quite like the Mag Shop app, which gives you access to dozens of digital magazines, like Australian Geographic, Good Food and Cleo.

Overall

As it is with many of the products we review, the question with the Note 10.1 isn't whether it is good, but why it isn't better. For about the same price, you can buy the Asus Transformer 300T with a bundled keyboard dock. For AU$100 cheaper, you can have your pick of a range of 10-inch tablets, with similar specs, comparable screens and the same basic Android experience. The premium you are paying is for Samsung's S Pen and apps, and we're not convinced that these warrant the extra dollars.



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prince1950 posted a comment   
Australia

Hi All, can any one help me have a Samsung Galaxy note 10.1 Wi Fi,3G but i can't get on to the web. I asked optus,my provider

MinxChique
7
Rating
 

"Generally good, Android OS/UI is easy to use, screen is amazing."

MinxChique posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Responsiveness of the screen; S Pen; It's a Samsung Galaxy.

The Bad:Low quality of the camera; Pre-loaded apps that cannot be uninstalled.

My first Note went kaput the second day I owned it. Went online to search for troubleshooting videos/solutions and zilch. Took it to the store where I got it from and had it exchanged. The sale assistant was surprised and she could not get it to turn on either, it was a first that came back to the store.

Apparently there has been a lot of people having trouble with the on/off issue. Most got it fixed by pressing the 'reset sequence' buttons. Mine did not want to turn on at all.

I'm not an Apple product fan, so this Galaxy Note was what I was looking for.

NB: Check out JB Hi-Fi, where I bought mine for AUD460 (catalogue price was AUD498).

bestestimes Facebook
7
Rating
 

"Fun, hours of entertainment"

bestestimes posted a review   
Australia

The Good:S Pen, Free full Photoshop Touch, good video player

The Bad:Camera, No Apps to Micro SD so inbuilt Memory fills fast

Great Tablet, only few things i dont like, the camera is low quality and the lack of ability of being able to send the apps to the micro sd card is bad. Love the s pen and the Photo shop Touch app

 

zoot posted a comment   
Australia

Again, can you txt and make/receive mobile calls with this device??

TIA.

 

bestestimes posted a reply   
Australia

if u buy the 3g version for more $$$

 

zoot posted a comment   
Australia

Hi cneters.

??...possible stupid Q, can you receive/make phone calls/txt messages from these?

I need something that fits between l'top and mobile phone.

Never owned a tablet...sorry.

MichelleW2 Facebook
9
Rating
 

"r"

MichelleW2 posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Android, offers more than iPad. Multi-screen

The Bad:Difficulty charging on alternative sources

Better than an Apple. Having been an iPad user I got a galaxy note 'phablet' so that I had something smaller, lighter but just as portable. As it is smaller than a tablet and not wanting another Apple product I upgraded to this. LOVE IT. Does everything I want it to do and although the screen could be a bit better in resolution and the fact I can't charge in my car with the usb cord like I could with my other devices but that just means I need to buy yet another charger for the car!
Being able to have micro SD to save all my files on is brilliant. Couldn't do that on an Apple.Much more versatile and very happy. I can't understand why CNET have such issues with anything other than Apple products.

dtderek
10
Rating
 

"A very happy customer"

dtderek posted a review   

The Good:Productivity tools, work/play balance, multiscreen and pop-ups

The Bad:Not much that I can find

I already own an ipad 2 which i enjoy using and found it replaced my laptop for most personal purposes but was useless for any productivity/business applications. I thought about the Surface Pro as I was looking for something that would be more useful for work but found that it is probably a bit too early to buy in yet (although i am sure in another year or so that the shortcomings will be addressed). Android was the way to go then. I broke it down to either the note 10.1 or the Nexus 10 for various reasons. I ultimately decided on the note and i am very happy with my decision. Having had the tablet for a week now i would never go back to the iPad because the note offers so much more, especially in terms of proper multitasking and other things the ability to watch a movie while doing anything else at the same time. I have found that most reviews have been extremely unfair to the note as I find it easily the best android tablet available. This is especially true now that you can currently buy it from JB Hifi for AU$494 and it now has Jelly Bean which makes it so much better. Build quality, battery life, and all other points that reviewers want to dock it points for are unfair in my eyes. I highly recommend this tablet.

Sean_____________
10
Rating
 

"The best tablet for business or people wanting to do everything"

Sean_____________ posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Nearly everything about it, sound, screen, speed, design

The Bad:Not being able to replace the battery is the only thing.

The best I have ever had by a long way.

Since we have sold all apple and motorola and cube.

Now only Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and Google Nexus 7 tablets.

This Note is so easy to use, can enter text easy with typing or any type of writting.

LOUD stereo sound.

Memory card slot I have used the same SD card I have had for years just move to next device.

IR blaster is cool.

yadekul
9
Rating
 

"A multi-tasking powerhouse"

yadekul posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Fast performance, solid battery life, S-Pen is truly innovative.

The Bad:Yes, the screen is sooo "last gen"

First up, my thoughts on the Galaxy note 10.1 are based on having upgraded the software myself to the Jelly Bean 4.1.2 version released by Samsung for the German market.

I think CNet should revisit their review when Jelly Bean is released in Australia, because it really transforms this device.

My pet hate about touch screen devices has always been the lack of a hardware keyboard. However, with the S-Pen in hand, (and after a little practice) I'm happily writing away at speeds almost as quick as typing on a full sized PC keyboard. It adds another dimension to the way I use a tablet and this is very much for the better.

The Samsung touchwhiz enhancements added to Android are, for the most part, very welcome here. I particularly enjoy "Air View"; the little pointer that hovers on the screen when using the stylus. It's a great productivity tool, improving pen accuracy, enabling all kinds of great short-cuts, makes scrolling a breeze, and even improves my performance at Angry Birds!

In terms of overall performance, Jelly Bean makes this the "Ipad Killer" I've been waiting for. There's no lag when switching between tasks and applications and it's packed with way more features than I could ever use. So far, I've been more than happy with battery life too, always getting a full days heavy use at work and at home.

The only downside is that screen. It might lack resolution compared with current competitors, but it least it possesses good viewing angles and is easily viewed when outdoors.

So after owning this device for about a month, I've been very happy. I was very much torn between purchasing this and the Google Nexus 10, but the Samsungs use of a proper stylus gives the Galaxy note a massive advantage as a home/work balanced device.

 

RobinS1 posted a comment   

"Why note try Onda V972? Onda V972 is an Apple iPad 4th Generation Alternative. Onda V972 featuers Allwinner A31 Quad Core Chipset,8-Core GPU,the 3rd Generation 9.7 inch IPS 2048X1536 Retina Display,Android 4.1 Operating System,4K-HDMI,2GB DDR3 Ram,16GB Nand Flash and Dual Camera. Onda V972 is just half the price of Apple iPad 4th. In some perspectives,Onda V972 is same excellent as iPad 4;in some other perspective,Onda V972 surpasses iPad 4. It is selling at $249.99 from JSXL Technology.";


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User Reviews / Comments  Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

  • prince1950

    prince1950

    "Hi All, can any one help me have a Samsung Galaxy note 10.1 Wi Fi,3G but i can't get on to the web. I asked optus,my provider"

  • MinxChique

    MinxChique

    Rating7

    "My first Note went kaput the second day I owned it. Went online to search for troubleshooting videos/solutions and zilch. Took it to the store where I got it from and had it exchanged. The sale ass..."

  • bestestimes

    bestestimes

    Rating7

    "Great Tablet, only few things i dont like, the camera is low quality and the lack of ability of being able to send the apps to the micro sd card is bad. Love the s pen and the Photo shop Touch app"

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