Samsung revolutionised tablet computing with its Galaxy Note bringing stylus-based input to the smartphone and tablet worlds. The stylus concept has been emulated by some, but for many Samsung still reign supreme. The 10.1-inch tablet-sized, stylus-receptive Note launched in 2012, and this latest edition, with its rather ungainly name of Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition updates the unit.
You do pay a premium for the stylus-based
features with the Wi-Fi-only version we reviewed
starting at £450 and with 4G support added
starting at £599. These are prices for the 16GB
version. Up that to 32GB and prices rise. It’s
expensive not just compared to Android tablets, but
to those on other platforms too.
There are a lot of changes to this latest Galaxy
Note both outside and inside. There’s been a
reduction in overall size thanks in no small part to a
smaller screen bezel. At just 7.9mm thick this is a
delightful tablet to hold, however it is no
featherweight at 540g.
No doubt responding to murmurings about the
plastic build of such an expensive product,
Samsung has given the back of the latest Note
tablet a faux leather fi nish similar to that seen in its
most recent phablet version of the Note range. It
feels quite nice under the fi ngers and the fake
stitching around the edges looks good at fi rst
glance, but after a few seconds you’ll realise that it
is plastic. The silver edging is also plastic. Samsung
hasn’t really moved away from lower grade build
materials, and it’s not something you’d really
expect at such a high-end price point.
On each short edge of the Galaxy Note 10.1
2014 you’ll fi nd a speaker that delivers good quality
sound to a high volume. The speakers are well
positioned for using the tablet in widescreen mode
which is what you’ll most likely do when gaming or
watching video. The top edge has an infrared port.
There’s a micro SD card slot too. Notably absent is
HDMI, though screen mirroring is supported if you
have compatible devices.
The screen is fantastic. Its 2560 x 1600 pixels
make video look sharp, and while it isn’t quite as
vibrant as it might be, it is impressive. Samsung
continues its practice of enabling you to set up
colour depth and tone for different uses. In the
Settings area you’ll fi nd three presets for Dynamic,
Standard and Movie settings. It would have been
nice to be able to edit these and save presents,
but a fourth mode, Adapt, changes the settings for
some other activities such as ebook reading.
The stylus lives in a housing on the edge of the
chassis. When you eject it a little menu pops up
offering access to some of the pen-based apps
that are on board. If the menu disappears, you just
hover the nib over the screen and press the
stylus’s side button and up it pops again. There’s a
lot to like here, with drawing apps and handwriting
recognition particularly impressive. Handily you can
rest your palm on the screen when writing or
drawing without the contact being recognised as a
screen tap. It’s clever stuff.
In addition there are plenty of other tweaks to
Android 4.3. You can open two apps side by side
and you access them by dragging a menu of apps
out from the side of the screen. There’s My
Magazine for viewing news feeds in a printed
magazine-style layout, and Smart Stay, a mainstay
of Samsung’s these days, keeps the screen on
while you are looking at it. Naturally a lot of the
Samsung apps do double up on the stock Android
ones, so the amount of use you get from them may
depend on whether you own a Samsung phone as
well, or whether you don’t want your content to be
tied into a specifi c manufacturer.
It is odd that you get different processors in
different versions of this tablet, but the Wi-Fi only
version which we reviewed has an eight-core
processor, with four lower consumption cores
designed to help save battery life. Performance
was fast and smooth throughout.
Samsung has certainly brought the 10.1-inch
Note on in this new edition and there are lots of
really nice features. Still, this is an expensive tablet
and you are going to have to really want that pen
input to stump up the cash.