Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Review: Supersize Me

Does size really matter? Is bigger really better? When the Galaxy Note phablet (eugh) first hit the market, everyone started scratching their heads. 'Whatever will we do with such an enormous, category-straddling device?' 'Wouldn't this S-Pen stylus concept do better in a tablet?', they asked. That's a good question, and now, we have a good answer: the Galaxy Note 10.1 -- a supersized version of the Note phablet. Should you buy it?

Author's note: for every time I use the word phablet in this review, I'm putting a dollar in the tech swear jar.

What Is It?

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: it's a 10.1-inch version of the head-scratch-inducing 5-inch Galaxy Note phablet from last year.

It's got a 1280x800 screen with a pixel density of 149 pixels per inch, and sitting behind it is a quad-core Exynos 1.4Ghz processor, a whopping 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. The one we've gone hands-on with is the 16GB Wi-Fi model, but Samsung have assured us that larger storage variants and 3G models are on their way down under.

In Australia, this slab of tech will set you back $589.

As you run down the list of features, there's a lot to like about the Note 10.1, but it all comes down on itself as you get closer to the end. Let's dive in.

What's Good?

The Note 10.1's party piece is the S-Pen -- a silver-topped stylus that slides out of the bottom right of the device for all your artistic needs. Like the rest of the device, it's got a very plastic feel to it, but it fits into the hand beautifully, and already that's a slam dunk. If the S-Pen were any thinner or any smaller, this tablet would be an insta-fail.

The sensitivity of the S-Pen on the screen is also excellent. It'd really turn off the design crowd if you could only draw on the screen with one pen thickness. Fine swishes of the pen gives you the shading abilities you need to add depth to an image, for example.

Photoshop Touch comes bundled with the device, and it's the full version of the software which is great. No trial versions here. You get an amazingly powerful image creation and editing tool straight out of the box so you can get down to being arty.

Powering all your creative pursuits is the quad-core 1.4Ghz chip and a whopping 2GB of RAM. It's no surprise that these two combined monster the benchmark tests.



Thanks to this quad-core, RAM-loaded lunacy, the Note 10.1 is able to support the same picture-in-picture media streaming that the Galaxy S III can. Basically it means you can float your video in a smaller window in the top right hand corner (or wherever you like, really) and keep doing things in the foreground.

Multi-screen -- the ability to put two apps side by side -- is also amazing. It saves you dropping in and out of the multi-tasking menu if you want to sketch something, for example. More tablets should have these last two features, for sure.

What's Bad?

These positives give way to some pretty glaring negatives, though.

The screen, for example, isn't what it should be for this price point. For $589, you can pick up a third-generation iPad with that crazy Retina display and pick up a Bamboo stylus for under $30 for the graphic design oriented. Sunlight/outdoor performance leaves a lot to be desired, and the visible pixels on the device really put me off. Coupled that with the overly cheap plastic body, it's not winning any style awards any time soon.

There are also a few issues I have when it comes to ports on this device. The button/headphone jack placement on the top of the device (when held horizontally) is also pretty baffling. Either your headphones will get in the way of your screen when watching content, or you run them around the back, shortening them considerably.

The only other port gripe is the proprietary connector. These tablets have been powered by microUSB for years, why change now?

Also, what's with the no Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean? The new Note 2 phablet announced at IFA is coming with it. What's the deal, Samsung?

Should You Buy It?

The Note 10.1 then feels a bit 1.0 at the moment. The Note's S-Pen is a terrific party trick and it draws people in, but ultimately, it's not something the average tablet user is likely to use every time they pick up the device.

Samsung still seems to be throwing every tablet and phone variant it can at the wall to make it stick. At last count, the company had 10 tablets on the market in Australia alone. Samsung knows that the Galaxy line of smartphones is gaining traction around the world -- 20 million Galaxy S III devices don't lie -- so we're seeing some real dedication to that line, but everything else still feels like it's being experimented with.

The Note 10.1 is great for anyone specifically looking for a Samsung tablet, but it's not enough to get people who already have a Samsung, Apple or Asus tablet to drop what they're doing to run out an buy one, nor does it seem enough for the graphic designer crowd to abandon their Wacom gear. The S-Pen is just a party piece and the screen is disappointing.

What would be great is if Samsung folded the best things about the Note 10.1 and the Tab 10.1 into the same device. Right now, the Note 10.1 just feels like a product without a market.


    Alot of the cons reviewers point out are totally personal...can't help but laugh.

      Really? Proprietary port, crappy screen, no jelly bean and a poor quality body. Sounds like legit complaints to me.

        I didn't read anything about a poor quality body, just that it was made of plastic. The main advantage I see in an aluminium body is heat dissipation and plastic allows for all kinds of surfacing options that metal doesn't. e.g. My Focus had a subtle pin-stripe texture on it's plastic back which made it look very classy. It also had a nice shape to it that might not have been economically viable had it been made of metal.


    Could this be the ipad replacement that artists have been after? Up the resolution and you might have a deal.

      Was in the Samsung store next to Myer yesterday. The GUI is laggy to the point of nausea on all the tablets. Unless this one is smoother, Samsung will be hard pressed converting artists over.

      Disclaimer: I'm an Android user, but have been heavily exposed to iDevices due to the company I keep.

    You note (sorry, couldn't help it):
    "the Galaxy Note 10.1 — a supersized version of the Note phablet".

    From that I started picturing people holding a 10.1" screen to their face, using it as a phone.

    Was that the intent? What's the call quality like?

      It's a full size tablet, I wouldn't even call it a "phablet", whatever that is. It's not the first tablet you can make phone calls from either.

    A full review from an Android site:

      Quite a number of a reviews I have read complain about how buggy this device is.

      Thanks johnd - that AndroidPolice review is really quite good.
      Samsung, take note (seriously, no pun intended) of these problems!

    This tablet is legit. The only thing I would agree with its the screen quality could be better. I was reading that they has to step down the resolution to compensate for the SPen. The handwriting recognition is absolutely awesome, using it to type this..err write this. I have pretty bad handwriting and it has no troubles figuring out what I am writing, in fact, I can even change between printing and cursive. The multitasking is awesome works great with cut and and paste with two apps side by side. The back is plastic, it doesn't get hot like the iPad does.and is lighter than the iPad. It's a tablet that actually features content instead of just consuming out like the other tablets. It is far from laggy interface as someone mentioned. It will be receiving the jellybean update before years end.

      Have to agree with intocad... I tried it out and it was pretty dang smooth even without JellyBean. The only user interface complaint I could think to mention was an occasional delay when pinch-zooming, and I don't recall if it was app specific or not. I assumed it was a TouchWiz artifact, likely to be gone with Android update. The S Pen is fantastic, and as already mentioned, handwriting recognition is much improved--Samsung must've heard my loud complaints when I first got my Note 5.3. Plastic case is not nearly as bad as many reviewers have voiced... it didn't give me cancer either. These tablety things are expensive *and* slippery--I wouldn't dream of using one without a case, so who friggin cares if it has a brushed aluminum or titanium back, you know? I liked it enough to put my iPad 3 up for sale.

        Totally agree with your comments, only had this one for a week & still getting used to new features...had Galaxy Tab 8.9 before this. I too use a bookcover/stand.
        Lovely to use. Would never even contemplate an "I" product of any description.....Pity so many people succumb to peer pressure, need one say anymore

    Apple should sue. Oh Wait........ :P

    I'm an artist and I bought an iPad 3 instead of this for three reasons.

    The first is that there are hardly any pro drawing and painting apps for Android. Sketchbook Pro is about it. The second reason is that this tablet has only just become available in Australia, thanks to Samsung's bizarre release schedule. The final reason is that pressure sensitive styluses - JaJa, Jot Touch and Pogo Connect - are starting to become available for iPad.

    That brings me to point out an inaccuracy in your review. You suggest that an iPad with a Bamboo stylus is equivalent to the Galaxy Note with its S Pen. That's false: the Bamboo for iPad is a stick with a bit of rubber on the end, whereas the S Pen is an active stylus. To buy one of the new active styluses for iPad, you'll need an extra $80 - $100.

    I own the note 10.1 ... writing this comment on it. Yes it is plastic but thats OK... thats what i would say is the most dissapointing aspect of this tablet but when you drop it a couple of times like my kids do you'll be glad it's plastic. The screen honestly is not bad I've had my share of tablets and smartphones include the one x and ipad 3 and yes the retina is better but as a tool this tablet by far superior. The multitasking and note taking is great. I read the reviews all over the net myself; the android police review is a joke.... head over to xda and read user reviews or head out to your local store and try it for yourself. This is a great tablet.

    Another underwhelming Android tablet. My patience is wearing thin. I think win 8 tablets are starting to look better and better.

    It is a awesome tablet. Make sure you try it out, and not listen to all of these reviews. These are the same people that said the original note was a epic-fail. I have had 2 IPAD's and a Tab 7.7. If you like to take notes there is no way you can accomplish the same note taking on a IPAD, just can't be done. I highly suggest that you try one before accepting these reviews. Palm rejection (check) try resting your palm on any other tablet while you write, just cant be done. In our meetings, I have the IPad crew constantly staring and trying their best to keep up. 2 have sold their IPads to get the Note. One last thing I have never seen the laggy screen flips but I don't run alot of widgets, either

    Kinda reminds me of movie reviews.

    I am in the market for a note taking tablet/iPad. I have had tablet laptops since 2003 (ACER, toshiba

    See what happens with iPhone! Fat fingers or bad calibration gets in the way! I want a note taking flat panel for work! If the S-pen can be used in more than just a notepad much like the old MS tablet OS then I am for it! I am finance not multi-media graphic design so the full blown retina screen is not necessary. I think the Note at 10.1 will have a market just think the price point is a shade high at the mo!

    Having never owned an android device since they came out, just recently bought a note for work. YES i did some research first do not panic!! its been rrly great so far for what i need it to do and am happy I`m finally getting to experience the Android OS. Getting more used to it every day and not having any weird iDevice withdrawal symptoms. No complaints so far, not even about the screen even if it is not retinadisplay

    I am looking at my options. Choice may all depends on what you want to use a Tablet for. One thing I don't see reviewers talk about at all is the option of additional memory. Obviously price point is a factor but if you can add extra memory later you might swing to the Note rather than the IPad.

      The note 10.1 has 2gb RAM. The other big advantage over the fruit variety is that you can add extra storage via a micro SD card. With the fruit, the storage you buy is al that you get. The availability of this extra storage is a real plus on its own

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