A Layman’s Guide to Samsung GALAXY Note 10.1

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We managed to get our hands on the Samsung GALAXY Note 10.1 and we are going to share with you what’s hot and what’s not so hot about this sexy device.

25 October 2012, Singapore – First impression upon receiving the device is that it is a well designed device with generous 10.1 inch display with a screen ratio to give awesome experience for watching movies, with the godsend front facing speakers. The tablet is enclosed in plastic casing which takes away some of the “elegance” factor from this shiny gadget. In fact, it gives the impression that this tablet is light, when actually, it is just slightly lighter than the iPad 2 (600 g for the GALAXY Note 10.1 versus the 610 g iPad 2 3G model). In terms of how good it feels on your hand, I think the iPad have the upper hand.

Display wise, I was a little disappointed with the tablet’s screen resolution. It is only a slight improvement from iPad 2 of 1280 x 800 (iPad 2 is 1024 x 768) for a much newer device (iPad 2 was released in March 2011 and the Galaxy Note 10.1 was released in August 2012). Without being too particular about it, the screen resolution is decent enough for the usual browsing, work and entertainment usage. But I expected more for a similar device that is released after the iPad 3 (officially known as the new iPad).

The placement of the logo suggests that Samsung intended the tablet to be used in landscape mode as opposed to Apple’s portrait mode. A 40 pin connector similar to iPhone 4 connector is located at the bottom side of the tablet, just under the Samsung logo. At the top, there is the on/off/home button, volume adjustment button, microSD card slot, infrared sensor, earphone jack and a SIM card slot. On the bottom right of the tablet we have the S-pen stylus.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 runs on the Android 4.04 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system. Being my first time exposed to Android OS (I was an Apple fanboy),  it looked really gorgeous with the widgets on the home screen, as opposed to iPad’s squarish apps, like a breath of fresh air. Usability wise, it was pretty much similar to iOS, apps loads seamlessly with a single tap. The Galaxy Note 10.1 came preloaded with apps, more notably the Adobe PS touch, which gives an awesome photo editing experience.

The S-Pen stylus is very responsive and sensitive, which is a joy to use. I had a great time trying out the S Note application, although its user-friendliness have rooms for improvement. I see myself using the S Note a lot for work purpose. Plus, being able to make annotations using the stylus on PDF files (on another application) is a major plus for me. Making handwriting annotations on the iPad is just painful. To date, I have not come across any stylus that comes close to the S-Pen for the iPad. For work purpose (if you do a lot of notes taking like me), I think the Samsung GALAXY Note 10.1 wins hands down. Otherwise, it will be a similar experience to the iPad (if you use word processor on the tablet).

Another feature that I like about this tablet is the multi screen mode. Although at the time of writing, the applications that can be used for this feature is very limited. Watching video while surfing is a plus, and being able to take notes while researching information on the net or pdf documents is a very nice feature as well.

To my surprise, the GALAXY Note 10.1 uses full sized SIM card. I thought I moved back in time. My current mobile uses the micro-SIM and my colleagues mobile uses the nano-SIM. I had to invest in a pre-paid SIM card from the convenience store to test out the device connectivity on-the-go. Of course, there are external factors that will affect the browsing experience. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong telco which provides a sluggish connection. On home Wifi connection, the browsing experience is blazing fast.

Back on the browsing experience, for some reason, the iPad 2 offers a faster and smoother browsing experience on the default safari browser on iOS 6 (with >5 opened tabs). On the other hand, the default Internet browser on the GALAXY Note 10.1 showed a slight lag after each time I zoomed in and out (with 4 opened tabs). The screen freezes for about 1 or 2 seconds before I can scroll up and down. I find this puzzling because the GALAXY Note 10.1 runs on the 1.4GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor with 2 GB of RAM, while the iPad 2 runs on 1 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 with 512 MB of RAM. I expect the GALAXY Note 10.1 to offer better and smoother experience, but this is not the case. I am not an expert in this, but it could be down to the operating system running on the tablets.

Entertainment wise, the GALAXY Note 10.1 gives a good experience. We no longer have to rely on earphones when watching movies outdoors with rather noisy ambient due to the front facing dual speakers. The same with music.

Another plus points of the GALAXY Note 10.1 is that allows us to make phone calls! This is one feature that the iPad does not have, even in the 3G model. It is sometimes handy to be able to receive texts and make phone calls directly from the tablet. Although you need the earphone to make a private phone call. Otherwise it make phone calls on speaker mode, which may be great for conference calls.

Should you buy it?

In my opinion, unless you need to use the stylus applications that badly, you should wait for the refreshed model. The LTE Galaxy Note 10.1 model will be released later this year. If stylus is not what you need, my recommendation is to stick with the iPad. The new iPad 4 (officially known as  iPad with Retina) just announced yesterday is one gorgeous device and will offer a better experience with the high resolution Retina display. However to get your hands on the LTE iPad 4, you probably have to wait until 16 November 2012 (pre-order starts on 26 October 2012 and retails at S$828 for the 16 GB LTE model).  The GALAXY Note 10.1 is available at all Samsung Experience stores, major electronics retailers and major telcos. The 16 GB model retails at S$998 (UPDATE: It appears that some major retailers are slashing the price to the GALAXY Note 10.1. Do check out prices before buying one).

Brief Specifications:

Android 4.0 ICS, 5MP Rear Camera, 1.9MP Front Camera, 1.4GHz Quad Core Processor, 2GB RAM, 10.1 Inch WXGA LCD, Free 50GB DropBox Cloud Storage, Polaris Office for Microsoft Office Documents, SMART STAY, POP-UP Play, Digital Compass, S Pen, S Note, S Planner, Samsung Apps, Dimension: 262 x 180 x 8.9 mm, Weight: 600g.

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