In a world where Apple's iPad is the dominant force, the tablet space is evolving differently than the smartphone market, despite similar origins. For the Note 10.1 2014, Samsung clearly puts forward a compelling alternative. Whether it's the insanely beautiful 2560x1600 display, S Pen functionality, dual stereo speakers, or other TouchWiz features like Multi Window, there is plenty to sway potential buyers away from the Apple camp.
On paper, the Exynos 5 Octa 5420 should be an absolute beast, but we experienced more than our fair share of odd hiccups while navigating the TouchWiz interface. While we don't believe this is indicative of the hardware's capabilities, it's a little concerning since Android is mature enough that mid-range phones like the Moto G run the operating system more smoothly. Rather, we suspect the performance issues come from a combination of a 2560x1600 resolution and Samsung's much-maligned TouchWiz interface. Despite random frame drops, the Note 10.1 is still quite capable in Web browsing, gaming, media consumption, multitasking, and S Pen utilization.
When it comes to our benchmark suite, including raw CPU, GPU, and battery performance, we have to give the edge to the Snapdragon 800-equipped Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) LTE. It consistently has good, if not better, performance than the Exynos 5 Octa-equipped Wi-Fi model.
But is that enough to warrant a price premium and the service fees related to an LTE subscription? That's entirely situational, and probably more tied to your need for Internet access away from hotspots than the performance of any given SoC. You'll pay for the LTE model if you want a cellular modem. You won't pay more for it just to get Qualcomm's more capable architecture. If Wi-Fi support is as fancy as you get, then the Exynos-based model will be your natural choice.
Fortunately, Web-oriented benchmarks are a boon for the Wi-Fi version of the Note 10.1 (2014 Edition); it outperforms the LTE version in just about every test. However, both models still fall behind the iPad Air almost universally, reinforcing the idea that there is plenty of room to improve the responsiveness of Android-based tablet. We've seen Intel do a lot of work on this front, and we're eager to see how the company's engineering resources might go into user experience improvements now that it's involved in more Android-based hardware.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) Wi-Fi
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) LTE
Displays on both Note 10.1 models are the same, so the results are fairly close with small variations attributed to physically different panels. The luxurious QHD screen is very good, and is probably a selling point for anyone interested in purchasing the Galaxy Note.
Overall, major wins include the great display and improved S Pen integration. The stereo speakers and overall build quality could use some work, though. We'd like to see front-facing speakers and more premium materials (or better finishes for polycarbonate). Finally, aspects that definitely need improvement are software optimization and the reduction of bloatware. This should be addressed similar to the way HTC streamlined the latest versions of Sense UI, and possibly by leveraging the Samsung App Store for those who want extra software.
The only thing really stopping us from recommending the Note 10.1 2014 over the iPad Air, or even Google's Nexus 10, is the higher cost of $550. Apple has the iPad Air selling for $500 and the aging Nexus 10 is priced at just $400. Both are arguably better values. Not to mention, odd performance hiccups shouldn't be happening at this point in the tablet game.
If you're looking for the best overall tablet in the $500 to $600 price range, the Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) is a tough sell. And unless the S Pen functionality really entices you to try the Note line, the situation probably won't change until Samsung irons out its software's performance kinks or blows us away with innovative, must-have features we haven't experienced yet.
- Samsung's S Pen Attack On The Full-Size Tablet Market
- Look And Feel
- Camera, Display, And Speakers
- TouchWiz: Samsung's Take On Android
- Samsung's Galaxy Note Enhancements
- Benchmark Suite And Test System Specs
- Results: CPU Core Benchmarks
- Results: GPU Core Benchmarks
- Results: Web Benchmarks
- Brightness, Black Level, Contrast Ratio, And Gamma
- Results: Battery Life
- Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) Wi-Fi Or LTE?