The latest device from the South Korean firm is a fantastic tablet with strong specifications, unique usability and some excellent features – but can it rival the latest, third-generation Apple iPad?
When Samsung launched the original Galaxy Note last year, the unique phone/tablet hybrid won us over with its great multimedia abilities. The huge 5.3-inch screen made it quite impractical as a phone, however, so Samsung has ditched phone functionality for its latest device and designed the Galaxy Note 10.1 as a dedicated tablet.
With rivals such as the third-generation Apple iPad and Google Nexus 7 having already raised the bar at both the high- and low-ends of the market, however, Samsung has a lot to measure up to. And while its latest tablet has a lot going for it, it can’t quite match the quality of the best tablets you can currently buy at the same price.
While the design of this 10.1-inch device lacks the high-quality style of the Apple iPad, it’s still a great-looking tablet. A choice of grey or white colour schemes is available and both prove to be suitably eye-catching. The white model is inevitably prone to highlighting dirt, scuffs and scratches, though, so adequate protection is needed if you want to keep it looking its best.
Whichever colour you choose, you can’t fail to compare the plastic chassis to the iPad. And the disparity between the two is all the more noticeable considering they cost the same price. Although the glossy plastics are tough enough to protect against general wear and tear, they can’t come close to matching the iPad’s tough and stylish aluminium and glass chassis.
Measuring just 9mm thin it is slimmer than many rival tablets and even some smartphones, so it is very easy to slip into a bag to carry during the day. At 583g it is also pleasingly light and we found it comfortable to carry and use at home or the move. Even when held in one hand, it never feels like a burden to work with.
Usability is excellent and the interface can be controlled by both the capacitive touchscreen and a stylus – a feature rarely seen now on modern tablets. The stylus harkens right back to the first wave of tablets seen many years ago before the iPad was created and adds a level of precise functionality seen on few touchscreen devices anymore. This will suit creative professionals, in particular.
Control is extremely accurate when using the stylus. With its pin-sharp control it is easy to select options, navigate the Android UI and even write and draw on the 10.1-inch screen. This will be a great feature for anyone who wants to buy a tablet that they can use for complex media creation, as well as the traditional consumption of multimedia content.
Since the screen can also be used with your fingers, the touch-sensitivity automatically deactivates whenever the stylus is near the screen. This means you can rest your hand on the panel to draw or write, without accidentally activating any on-screen options. Then, as soon as the stylus is removed to about an inch away from the screen, the touch-control reactivates.
Control inevitably isn’t quite as precise when you use your fingers, but it still offers good usability to match rival tablets on the market. Navigating the interface is smooth and easy and we noticed no occasions where control was anything less than excellent. Even the three standard on-screen keyboard layouts that are on offer prove both accurate and easy to use.
In terms of image quality the 10.1-inch display is a mixed bag. The panel is both bright and vibrant, and it renders photos and videos with striking impact. But the average 800 x 1,280-pixel resolution is disappointing for this price and can’t hope to match the new Apple iPad’s stunning Retina display for crisp sharpness.
With that said, images are still shown with an adequate level of detail. The screen has a slight amount of haziness, but you’re unlikely to notice it if you’ve never used a higher-resolution tablet display before. And with the stunning brightness and colours it offers, it is still a gorgeous screen to view and work with.
When you want to capture your own photos and videos, or even make online video calls, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is suitably well equipped with both a rear-facing five-megapixel and front-facing 1.9-megapixel camera. Photo quality is disappointingly average, however, and we found images often showed a noticeably hazy quality, even when we viewed them on other devices.
Videos provided similarly average results. You can record 720p high-definition video at 30 frames per second but we’ve seen better results on rival tablets. And while Samsung claims the
Galaxy Note 10.1 offers 1080p Full HD video playback, that’s not entirely accurate, as the screen’s 800-pixel vertical resolution is clearly unable to display video at full 1080p quality.