Look And Feel
Samsung chose the design used in its smaller Galaxy Note 3 to help unify the family's look. Gone are the glossy backs of previous Galaxy tablets. Instead, we have the faux-leather, plastic-molded back—fake stitching and all. Similar to the Note 3, this is a huge improvement over the HyperGlaze finish of previous Galaxy devices.
Drawing additional inspiration from the phablet, Samsung's Note 10.1 2014 sports the same ridged, faux-metal sides, which somewhat resemble the pages of a closed book.
As with any tablet, the device's weight and thickness are of utmost importance. At 540 grams (1.2 pounds) and 7.9 mm (0.3 inches) thick, the Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) Wi-Fi is a fairly slim, light package that's great for content consumption.
The iPad Air, in comparison, is a meager 469 grams (1.03 pounds) for the Wi-Fi version and 478 grams (1.05 pounds) for the LTE version. Both are a slender 7.5 mm (0.3 inches) thin.
On the top of the Galaxy, you find a power button and volume rocker toward the left edge, along with an IR Blaster in the center.
As with most Android tablets, the Note 10.1 is designed for use in landscape mode. Bezels are thinner on the sides than on the top and bottom. That's a bit odd; if you have wider thumbs, it becomes easier to mistakenly trigger the touch screen. The 16:10 aspect ratio makes it awkward to use the Note 10.1 2014 in portrait mode.
One of the stereo speakers and a 3.5-mm headset jack occupy the left side, transitioning from front-firing drivers to less-than-ideal side-firing speakers. But we'll have more on that later in the review.
The right side of the Galaxy Note 10.1 holds the S Pen dock, the other stereo speaker and the microSD card slot.
The faux-leather back dominates the device's back side, and is surrounded by faux stitching. Samsung's branding is also back there, along with an 8-megapixel camera and an LED flash.
The bottom of the unit hosts a pinhole mic and a micro-USB port, which doubles as the power plug.
While we personally prefer the 7- to 8-inch form factor, enthusiasts looking for a 10-inch Android-powered tablet will have a hard time finding something thinner or lighter than the 540-gram (1.19 pounds) Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) Wi-Fi or 547-gram (1.20 pounds) Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) LTE. Then again, if mobility is of primary importance to you, and you're not averse to iOS, you might prefer the lighter 469-gram (1.03 pounds) iPad Air.
In the end, we're pretty happy with the Note 10.1 2014's overall build, and its looks are more refined than previous Galaxy tablets'. Although the bezels could use some refinement, the fact that the Note is thinner and lighter than a lot of other Android tablets makes it easier to handle over prolonged periods.