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 reigns 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 the 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, though 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 finish similar to that seen in its most recent phablet version of the Note range. It feels quite nice under the fingers and the fake stitching around the edges looks good at first 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.
While many tablet bezels are clear of buttons Samsung has opted for a physical home button and two touch sensitive ones for back and menu. The buttons are entirely in keeping with Samsung’s current smartphone design ethos though we felt we didn’t really need them. Their positions are only suited for use when hold the tablet in landscape mode, too.
On each short edge of the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 you’ll find 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 microSD card slot too. Notably absent is HDMI, though screen mirroring is supported if you have compatible devices.
The screen is fantastic. Its 2,560 x 1,600 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 allowing you to set up colour depth and tone for different uses. In the Settings area you’ll find 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 and 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 in to a specific 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 based input to stump up.
Review written by Sandra Vogel