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Hands-on With the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Tablet

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 19 comments

Is this Ice Cream Sandwich-flavored slate just another "me-too" device with a stylus? We take a closer look at the newest and biggest Note in the family.

After selling over 10 million "phablet" Samsung Galaxy Note smartphones in just nine months around the world, the Korean company is bringing the new and improved S Pen to the 10-inch tablet form factor with the Galaxy Note 10.1 (not to be confused with the recently refreshed Galaxy Tab 2 10.1). Geared for creatives, business professionals and students  who want more productivity and intuitive interaction with touch devices, will the Note 10.1 be another hit for Samsung?

Priced at $499 for the 16GB and $549 for the 32GB Wi-Fi only models, Samsung is practically matching the more popular 16GB iPad's price, while charging more than double that of the 7-inch Jelly Bean-filled Nexus 7.  Is the Note 10.1 just a gimmicky supersized PDA punching above its weight, or a worthy challenger of the new iPad or Nexus 7? Read on for our thoughts.   

Design & Form Factor

The Note 10.1 shares the same rounded corners, smooth shape, metallic details where the front-facing dual speakers are embedded, and plastic back as its cousin the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 tablet. Available in both white and dark grey for the 16GB (the 32GB only comes in dark grey), the Note 10.1 is thinner and lighter than the new iPad, but has a slightly more elongated shape than the iOS device due to its larger 10-inch display (0.35" x 7.1" x 10.3" at 1.31 lbs for the Note; 0.37" x 7.31" x 9.5" at 1.44 lbs for the iPad).


Don't be fooled by its glossy plastic exterior though; the slate feels solid enough in-hand without giving the user's arm a workout. Landscape mode is this slate's natural state, with the headphone jack, microSD slot, IR blaster, power and volume buttons all along the top edge, and the proprietary power connector at the bottom. Like its little brother, the Note 10.1 also has a built-in slot for its S Pen, located by the bottom right corner. Sliding the S Pen from its home triggers a vertical menu that shows all the apps that are geared for the tool.

S Pen for Note 10.1

Though the S Pen for Note 10.1 looks and feels like a simple plastic stick, it's actually packed full of advanced technologies and new tricks that help make the Note 10.1 more user-friendly. It's smart enough to ignore the user's palm when it rest or drags on the screen thanks to Palm Rejection, hover over and expand drop down menus on websites to make tablet web surfing less frustrating, require no batteries as the screen powers the pen, and recognize over 1000 different levels of sensitivity so artists can create more precise work on the Note 10.1.  

Apps for S Pen

The best part about the Note 10.1 is the expanded software support for the new and improved S Pen, beyond the apps native to the Note smartphone: S Note, S Memo and the imaginative mobile game Crayola Physics.


With the Note 10.1, the user can now use the S Pen in everything from Polaris Office to Photoshop Touch, which is preloaded and enhanced by Adobe to work on this specific device. Using the S Pen to draw clipping paths around images to crop out of photos is so ridiculously easy that we want a Note 10.1 just for this very function.

Students and professionals who need to jot down lots of diagrams, charts and formulae will appreciate the improved S Note, which can convert handwriting to text, doodled shapes to digital ones (Shape Match), and even compute formulae the user inputs (Formula Match). The Kno e-textbook app is also included to make it easy for students to annotate their readings with the S Pen, as well as access the interactive elements like animations and hyperlinks.  

Multi screen Multitasking

Rather than force users to toggle between various apps where only one is visible at a time, the Note 10.1 can truly help users multitask by splitting the screen into two regions so they can use and see both apps at the same time. To activate this useful feature, simply tap on the multiscreen option on the top toolbar to select one of these compatible apps: S Note, web browser, Polaris Office, video player, gallery and email. Like Samsung's flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S III, the Note 10.1 also supports Pop Up Play so videos can play on top of any other opened apps, which comes in handy when a student needs to take notes while watching a video lecture.


With a quad-core 1.4-GHz Exynos processor and 2 GB RAM running the Note 10.1, the slate did not show any lag in multiscreen mode, even while running Photoshop Touch and Polaris Office. Though the 10-inch, 1280 x 800 WXGA display is not the most high-res screen on the market right now,  it is sharp enough for artists to draw caricatures of the launch event attendees right on the device. We only got a chance to take a couple of shots with the rear 5 MP camera; there was next to no lag waiting for the photos to save and being able to access them in another app.


The Note 10.1 comes preloaded with a lightly modified version of Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0) but Samsung has promised to roll out an upgrade to 4.1 Jelly Bean by the end of this year.



Samsung showed off a number of accessories for the Note 10.1 at its New York City launch, including an Universal Desk Dock in black and white that has a line-out to connect to speakers, a keyboard that doubles as a stand for the tablet, as well as various sleeves and covers.

What the Note 10.1 Lacks

For a 10-inch tablet in the $500 price range, the Note 10.1 should offer a higher resolution display to compete with the Retina iPad and Asus Transformer Pad Infinity [TF700]. We are also surprised the slate does not have a micro-USB or a HDMI-out but features a proprietary connector instead, which means don't leave this charger at home.

Final Thoughts

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is not the tablet to give to your granny unless she is ready for a relatively steep learning curve.  It's still a bit rough around the edges (it can be quirky to find the buttons to convert handwriting to text, for example), but the integration of the S Pen with powerful software, like Photoshop Touch and multiscreen multitasking, makes this device well worth the time and investment to get to know. Our gut tells us the Note 10.1 is really in a class all its own and makes other tablets look like toys. Let's see how it holds up in a more in-depth review.

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Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    freggo , August 17, 2012 11:54 PM
    "rounded corners"...

    I can smell a lawsuit coming :-)
Other Comments
  • 7 Hide
    tntom , August 17, 2012 11:50 PM
    It amazes me how many people think it uses stylus input only and lacks finger input.
    On most of the reviews of this device the comments at the bottom are always filled with people hating on the Note because it has a stylus! Saying a stylus is useless and that finger input is superior.
    I think Samsung needs to educate the public about this. Many of there ads feature only stylus input and people are getting the wrong impression. I really wish this was a Full HD AMOLED display. I will wait for the next revision with the Exynos5 CPU and retina display.
  • 2 Hide
    nikorr , August 17, 2012 11:53 PM
    Not bad at all.
  • Display all 19 comments.
  • 10 Hide
    freggo , August 17, 2012 11:54 PM
    "rounded corners"...

    I can smell a lawsuit coming :-)
  • 4 Hide
    livebriand , August 18, 2012 1:09 AM
    What's with the proprietary connectors? Just for that, next...
  • -4 Hide
    mayankleoboy1 , August 18, 2012 4:14 AM
    if i am OK with proprietary connectors, i would buy crApple then.
    Why would anyone suffer proprietary connectors and Samsung?
  • 6 Hide
    invlem , August 18, 2012 5:56 AM
    With the most powerful CPU in a tablet this generation I was hoping they would atleast bump the resolution up to 1920x1200...

    If Asus can push that resolution with the Tegra 3, why can't Samsung do it with the more powerful Exynos quad core?
  • 1 Hide
    balev , August 18, 2012 12:05 PM
    Almost everything's great but I will be choosing a different tablet simply because of the proprietary connectors.
  • 1 Hide
    Hellbound , August 18, 2012 4:10 PM
    The tablet had me until I read about the proprietary connector...
  • 3 Hide
    bigdragon , August 18, 2012 8:16 PM
    I bought one and had it overnighted so I could play with it this weekend. I'm very happy with it. I'm a digital artist and love to draw on the go. I have been using a Motion Computing LE1700 for my portable art needs. That thing gets horrible battery life never exceeding 1 hour. It runs hot, sometimes bogs down badly and screws up pen strokes, but has a great resolution and drawing surface. The screen is awful though. The first thing I noticed with the Galaxy Note 10.1 is how crisp and clear the screen is. It's very colorful although the resolution could be better. The S Pen acts very much like the LE1700's pen without the annoying lag that crops up from time to time. Battery life appears to be at least 6 hours although I don't know the exact amount yet so it's probably higher. The whole Android OS has been very responsive and a pleasure to use. The palm block sometimes fails to work though. I wish I could just turn off touch input while in Photoshop Touch or other art apps.

    The screen surface feels like it's made out of arcylic or some sort of plastic. It doesn't feel quite as thick or smooth as the LE1700's. The Note 10.1 gives a bit of spongy feel in comparison with the advantage of getting the pen point closer to the actual pixels. The spongy thing is very subtle. Artists drawing on a Intuos 4 probably won't notice, but going from an LE1700 or Intuos 3 makes the difference obvious. Photoshop Touch uses the stylus pen pressure, but defaults to really making you press down to get larger strokes. I'm looking for other drawing apps at the moment. Sketchbook Pro, Markers, and LayerPaint are all on my list to try.

    I'm really happy with this tablet so far. Definitely a good buy for digital artists! The LE1700 is always a hit when I meet up with other artists, but now the Note 10.1 will steal the show since it won't die in the middle of arts!
  • -4 Hide
    getreal , August 18, 2012 11:33 PM
    Wow, thought it was an iPad from the pictures! SAMEsuck really needs to hire a design team rather than copy every single thing Apple does.

    Thankfully, this joke of a product will flop, as no one buys android tablets. Now that Apppe is moving to new suppliers, SAMEsh1t can't steal from Apple r and d as fast anymore.
  • 0 Hide
    house70 , August 19, 2012 12:35 AM
    Looks like Samsung got a winner here, probably the next iteration will upgrade the screen. It's very good as it is (thanks bigdragon for your input, actually first review I get to read that comes from an artist), given the technology behind it.

    Apple is definitely cursing the day they did NOT think to add stylus functionality to their little toys, now they're always be second (that is, if Samsung lets them have the patent to this, somehow I doubt it). To the trolls that claim they can't tell the difference between this and an iPad, they really need to have their eyes AND their IQ checked. Fact is, they're just green with envy. Example given: the troll above, getreal, the most foul-mouthed Apple troll on this forum. He got so enraged by the fact that Samsung came up with something Apple didn't even think of, he even forgot how to spell in his rush to spew his half-baked childish immature name-calling stuff he calls a "post". He even owns himself by stating that nobody buys Android tablets, when everyone knows nexus 7(to give just an example) is selling like hot cakes. Typical Apple kiddie logic (rather, lack thereof). QOD.
    I rest my case.
  • 1 Hide
    house70 , August 19, 2012 12:37 AM
    invlemWith the most powerful CPU in a tablet this generation I was hoping they would atleast bump the resolution up to 1920x1200...If Asus can push that resolution with the Tegra 3, why can't Samsung do it with the more powerful Exynos quad core?

    likely issues with the digitizer, don't forget the tech behind the screen is new. I am sure the next gen will have that bumped up, now that they know it works well and people can use it nicely.
  • -3 Hide
    getreal , August 19, 2012 5:55 AM
    SameSuck incorporates a stylus, something from 20 years ago, and somehow that is revolutionary? It can't even match the screen resolution and quality of the iPad that came out 6 months ago LOL. PATHETICl.

    Companies like Apple are the real innovators, bringing robust touch to new products. This same sh1t is a dud and will be lucky if it sells 100,000 units in the US. We don't want this substandard crap here.
  • -3 Hide
    eddieroolz , August 19, 2012 12:12 PM
    If I'm paying $550 for a tablet, I'd at least want some good looking tablet, not some cheaper glossy one. I can't believe so many manufacturers keep missing this point.

    Also: real artists use a Wacom tablet. Enough said.
  • 7 Hide
    house70 , August 19, 2012 1:02 PM
    I have to apologize in advance for the wall of test here, feel free to jump to the last paragraph.
    LOL. A little troll-feeding (read "getreal feeding"):

    Your argument that Android tablets don't sell seems to be contradicted by facts. According to the same logic, hot cakes don't sell either, because Nexus 7 (to give just an example) is selling like that.
    You bring up numbers in terms of Android units (and this particular Tab), giving us your "invaluable" estimate of sales. You seem to conveniently forget that there are more than one model out there, giving people a real choice in terms of purchase, and I will put this on the fact that you, as a Apple user, can not really understand what "choice" means, because you don't have one when you buy your tablet/phone. You also seem to forget the fact that Android is still number one mobile OS in the world, and are completely oblivious to the fact that it is so simply because it is a superior OS with unmatched flexibility, giving users a choice (again that "cursed" word) regarding how their devices should operate and feel. Fact is, you can not stand the fact that not everyone has your preference in terms of technology, and the simple fact that others might actually enjoy their choice (and the fact that they have a choice) drives you insane.
    You bring up the fact that a digitizer and stylus is "old technology". There have been no new technology since the invention of the wheel (so to speak), and your precious iPad was stolen from Gene R., the father of Star Trek. According to your same logic, iPad, which is merely a tablet, is not revolutionary, either, because tablets have been invented a long time ago, they all deploy screens and just a bump in resolution is not something to brag about. Applying double standards to your assessments only proves that writing while intoxicated with rage is always going to give you away as a troll, and that is rather sooner than later.
    Before you start ranting about how Android buyers are only able to purchase subsidized devices, may I remind you that everybody that buys an iPhone is buying it with a wireless plan, hence at subsidized price. If you were to walk in an Apple store and purchase one at a FULL price you would likely have to go back to your mother and ask for your 10-year allowance in advance. I say there is nothing wrong with people purchasing phones at subsidized prices (albeit there is something wrong with the whole subsidy sale model, as people can not get discounted plans for bringing their own phones, but that's entirely another story), because purchasing power has nothing to do with being a decent human being, although I have seen you shamelessly claim on this forum that you are better than others because you can afford to buy an iPhone. I hope you're enjoying your subsidized (read: cheap) device and I welcome you in the "inferior" people's ranks; just make sure you don't mention who you are to them, they might not take it too lightly. LOL.
    Last, but not least, name-calling and looking down one's nose at others is not only uncivilized, but also childish and grotesque and does not belong in a technical forum. If you like posting this much, why don't you join the ranks of helpers in the Forums, with your vast knowledge in iTechnology you might be able to steer a few people that are having issues with their Apple-issued tech (gasp, I know, incredible, isn't it?) and help them fix their problems. While this is a reasonable suggestion, the overall tendency of your posts leads me to believe that your people skills are very poorly developed.

    I would like to stick around and teach you a thing or two about class, but this is something you can't teach; you either have it, or you don't. Obviously, you don't belong to the first category. Reading your posts brings a vivid image of an enraged nerd foaming at the mouth spewing curses, mixed with the tale of the "sour grapes". If you don't know what I am referring to, read it up. Reading is good for you, opens up your mind and enables you to make better choices in life (sorry, I had to use the c-word again).
    If the above is too much for your reading, let me translate it for you: you owned yourself in almost each and every post on this forum, showing a complete lack of education and knowledge. I didn't have to do a thing; last piece of advice - it's better to shut up and let people think you are dumb than open your mouth are remove all doubt about it.
    It's a nice day out there, even if Samsung came up with something new today; get out of the basement and take a deep breath, you might like it.

    Have to end the feeding, got better things to do with my life. Adios.
  • 4 Hide
    house70 , August 19, 2012 1:12 PM
    eddieroolzIf I'm paying $550 for a tablet, I'd at least want some good looking tablet, not some cheaper glossy one. I can't believe so many manufacturers keep missing this point.Also: real artists use a Wacom tablet. Enough said.

    Hmmm. You either are a real artist, or know pretty much all of them, kudos in each case.
    Also, you seem to think that bigdragon (
    bigdragonI bought one and had it overnighted so I could play with it this weekend. I'm very happy with it. I'm a digital artist and love to draw on the go...

    is not a real artist, since he seems to like this tablet. Care to elaborate about that?
  • 2 Hide
    bigdragon , August 19, 2012 4:57 PM
    I did try some other apps in addition to Photoshop Touch. Sketchbook Pro has a great minimum and maximum radius option on their tools allowing me to tweak the behavior of the Note 10.1's pressure sensitivity. LayerPaint was also a strong option because of its user-specified canvas sizes and excellent ability to palm block. LayerPaint seemed to pick up even the slightest stylus activity compared to the others. I also tried a program called Markers but did not like the inability to zoom, pan, and otherwise manipulate the canvas. If I get some time to draw later maybe I'll post what I draw with the tablet.

    eddieroolzIf I'm paying $550 for a tablet, I'd at least want some good looking tablet, not some cheaper glossy one. I can't believe so many manufacturers keep missing this point.Also: real artists use a Wacom tablet. Enough said.

    The day I got my Motion Computing LE1700 is the day I stopped using my Wacom Intuos 3. The LE1700 has a Wacom digitizer built in. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has the same technology although it doesn't say Wacom. Anyone can make a Wacom device these days because some of their patents got invalidated a couple years ago.

    It's time to drop the Wacom-only dogma. Anyone still spewing that needs to try the Note 10.1 or an LE1700 or some other tablet with an active, Wacom-like digitizer. It's liberating not to be chained to a desk with an immobile Cintiq sitting atop it and its mess of wires on the other side. It's great to be able to draw right on the screen in real time anywhere. You can go to a park, a convention, the beach, or anywhere and draw right there. No more sketchbooks. While this is not practical for artists who are paid to sit in an office to come up with commercial stuff it is practical for freelancers, hobbyists, or idea people.
  • 0 Hide
    romuh , October 21, 2012 10:28 PM
    why this nonsense 30-pin plug? With all devices that I have, one charger for all on micro USB this one with Apple-copy 30 pin plug is a failure!
  • 0 Hide
    halcyon , November 2, 2012 1:20 AM
    The proprietaty connector may be to support things like keyboard docks.