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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating starrating star
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Manufacturer: Samsung
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What's Hot: Superb high resolution display, S Pen digital pen, fast CPU, expandable storage, AV remote control, Samsung's Multi Window multitasking.

What's Not: So much software and UI customization can be overwhelming to the user and the machine. Expensive, though price is by no means unfair given the features.

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Reviewed October 15, 2013 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

There are upgrades and there are upgrades. We really liked the original Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, but the mediocre resolution really hurt and the slippery casing was a chore to handle and keep clean. Heck, that shiny plastic back wasn't exactly classy either. The 2014 Edition Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 improves everything that bothered us about the original, and it's quickly become one of our favorite Android 10" tablets. That goodness comes at a price though: the Note 10.1 2014 Edition costs $50 more than the outgoing model. The WiFi 16 gig is $550 and the 32 gig is $600.

2014 Samsung Galaxy Note 10

Other goodies include the new faux leather back in your choice of white or black, dual band WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, a GPS, a consumer IR blaster and Samsung WatchOn for AV remote control of home theatre gear, a front 2MP camera and rear 8MP camera with LED flash and HDR. Samsung's usual TouchWiz is on board on top of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and you get that Samsung software army including Multi Window, Air View, S Voice, KNOX security (look out, those of you who flash custom ROMs, KNOX may tattle on you), S Translator, S Note and Samsung's own video, music and app stores. All the standard Google apps are here too: email, Gmail, Chrome and the old webkit web browser, Maps, Google Play Store and related Google Play apps and Gallery. Though the tablet runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, Samsung removed multi-user support. So if you were planning on setting up a sandboxed user account for your child or visitor, sorry but you can't.

2014 Samsung Galaxy Note 10

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0, 2014 Galaxy Note 10.1 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Design and Ergonomics

We've given Samsung a hard time for their thin, uber-glossy plastics and faux metal trim. We still get a healthy dose of very unconvincing faux chrome trim along the edges, but the rest is much improved. As with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Android smartphone, Samsung went with your choice of white or black faux leather for the back, complete with imitation stitching around the edges. That might sound a little tacky, but it actually looks nice, particularly in black (which is also more grippy). The tablet is no longer a fingerprint loving, slippery mess; in fact it looks nice. Maybe not as stealth modern as the slightly thinner Sony Xperia Tablet Z, or hunky metal like the iPad, but it's pleasant to hold and behold. Since the back is actually made of injection molded plastic, it won't get stained or distressed like leather.

Controls are sensibly located with the micro USB 2.0 port (not 3.0 like the Galaxy Note 3) on the bottom, power and volume controls up top and a microSD card slot that's compatible with SDXC cards under a door on the side. The pen lives in a silo on the right side so you won't lose it in transit (and it's a snug fit). The speakers that flanked the display, facing at you are gone here in the interest of making the tablet less wide (when held in landscape mode). I like it: the tablet feels considerably more compact and unlike some 10" tablets, it doesn't feel ungainly when using it for extended periods of time. It's quite nimble and compact, and the very adequate speakers fire from the sides. They're located near the top (again, when in landscape mode), so your hands won't block them.

Display

The Note 10.1 2014 Edition has a stunning 2560 x 1600 display that's bright and colorful with good contrast. This isn't a Super AMOLED display (they don't come this large at such high resolutions), so colors are more balanced and natural. Yet colors are more vibrant and pleasing than on the venerable Nexus 10 (also made by Samsung) and it gives the excellent 2013 Nexus 7's display serious competition. This is one of the nicest tablet displays on the market in terms of colors, brightness and contrast and it holds up perfectly well against the Retina iPad.

2014 Samsung Galaxy Note 10

Samsung provides a few color balance options or you can go with auto (it detects whether you're watching a video, reading or looking at a photo and changes the color profile). There's reading mode that softens the background to what some consider a more eye-restful slight pink tone, and if you prefer your whites to be white, when the very ample brightness is set above 70% you'll get white. As always with Samsung tablets, smartphones and laptops, auto-brightness is awfully dim, so I go with manual brightness control.

 

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition Video Review

 

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition Comparison Smackdown Video

S Pen Digital Pen: the Darling of Note Takers and Artists

This wouldn't be a Galaxy Note if there wasn't an S Pen, so the new Note has the S Pen that uses Wacom technology. The pen is interchangeable with other Galaxy Note pens, and the tablet works with Wacom's Tablet PC pens too. The pen is a precise digital pen, not to be confused with a capacitive stylus that's fat and inaccurate. It supports over 1,000 levels of pressure sensitivity, which makes for more natural writing and is a must for sketching and painting. Samsung includes their nicely evolved S Note application for note taking with handwriting and formula recognition, and you can doodle too. We suggest third party programs like Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro and Infinite Painter for artists if you wish to sketch and paint seriously. The Galaxy Note 10.1 has no competition among current Android and iOS tablets: if you want the digital pen, it's the Note. Lenovo and HTC dabbled in digital pens using competing N-Trig technology, but those models are long discontinued. Windows 8 tablets are your only alternative if you want a Wacom or N-Trig digital pen.

Performance and Horsepower

As ever, CPUs and graphics get faster with every new product release, and though we didn't find our original Note 10.1 slow, we have an even faster 1.9GHz Exynos Octa 5420 quad core CPU with MALI T-628 graphics. Despite the Octa name, the CPU doesn't run 8 cores at once. Rather it has a quad core 1.9GHz ARM A15 set and a quad core 1.3GHz A7 arrangement: the faster cores run for demanding tasks and the slower quad core A7s run for less demanding tasks. The idea is not unlike the Tegra 3 and Tegra 4 companion low power core architecture. Note that the LTE 4G version will run on the quad core Snapdragon 800 platform, which is comparable in terms of performance, if not slightly faster.

We received a software update upon first boot and it addressed bugs and performance issues. Apparently, it did the trick because the tablet has been responsive with little of the traditional TouchWiz-induced lag we've seen in some prior Samsung Galaxy products. It certainly helps that the Note 10.1 2014 Edition has 3 gigs of RAM, just like the Galaxy Note 3. Today's higher end Android phones and tablets have 2 gigs of RAM and 1 gig was the norm less than a year ago, so the Note has ample RAM to run all of Samsung's software plus your apps.

The tablet is available with 16 or 32 gigs of storage and there's an SDXC microSD card slot should you need to expand storage. Though Android 4.x removed the ability to install apps to SD cards, Samsung hacked the OS to bring that feature back. Most apps aren't that big, but cutting edge 3D games like NOVA 3 and Bard's Tale are 2 to 3 gigs, and that's when you might be tempted to put apps on a card. The tablet also supports USB host so you can use USB keyboards, mice, game controllers and USB flash drives and portable hard drives (NTFS isn't supported unless you root and add support for that file system). You'll need a micro USB to USB OTG host adapter to make use of this feature.

Benchmarks

  Quadrant GFXBench 2.7 Egypt Offscreen AnTuTu 3D Mark Ice Storm test Sunspider JavaScript Test
2014 Galaxy Note 10.1 17,914 66 fps 33,838 35.9 fps (unlimited) 605
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 (Exynos) 15,337 n/a 34,890 13,785 (unlimited) 528
Sony Xperia Tablet Z 7450 31 fps 20,517 10,101 (standard) 1501
Google Nexus 10 4959 28 fps 13,658 37.1 fps (standard) 1308
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 7054 18 fps 16,214 3299 1024
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 first gen 5349 101 fps (GLBench 2.1, easier test) 12,777 n/a 1206
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (phone) 22,006 69 fps 35,825 15,092 (unlimited) 587

GeekBench 3: 938 single core /2536 multi-core´╗┐

 

Cameras

The rear 8MP camera with LED flash and HDR is certainly better than average for a tablet. That said, it's equivalent to a last generation higher end smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy S III, so it's not going to compete well with the Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, LG G2 or iPhone 5s. Still, it takes pleasing shots and decent 1080p video, but highlights in bright outdoor shots are blown out and dim shots show noise and loss of detail. Overall, it does a reasonably good job for those who don't mind waving a 10" tablet around when taking photos and video. As with other recent Samsung Galaxy products, you can shoot from front and rear cameras simultaneously.

The front 2MP camera is above average, and the same is true of the better Android phones on the market. Video chats are relatively well illuminated and not terribly blocky.

Battery Life

Samsung increased battery capacity from the 7,000 mAh first gen Note 10.1 to 8,220mAh but the higher resolution and faster CPU take their toll, so battery life isn't improved. We averaged 7.5 to 8.5 hours of actual use time in a mix of web browsing, streaming HD video for 2 hours via YouTube and Netflix, checking and responding to emails, social networking and working on Word documents using the included Polaris Office 5 suite. The battery takes forever to charge, just like the Samsung-made Nexus 10 tablet, so be prepared to charge it overnight when the battery is nearly depleted.

The Competition

Among Android tablets, the Google Nexus 10 with matching resolution and a lesser but still capable Exynos CPU is a clear competitor. It's a bit less expensive and you get a pure Google experience for those who hate manufacturer UI customization or Samsung's TouchWiz. However, you lose the S Pen, microSD card slot and it takes a little extra work to get USB host working for mass storage on the Nexus 10.

The Sony Xperia Tablet Z is a strong competitor and it's even a tad thinner. It too has USB host, a microSD card slot and an IR blaster with AV Remote. The display resolution is lower at 1920 x 1200, but it's still full HD and very, very sharp. This one comes down to whether you need the S Pen, brand preference and how you feel about Sony's more minimal UI vs. TouchWiz.

The iPad with Retina Display is the obvious competitor from Apple, with a super high resolution display and Apple's fast CPU and graphics inside. We'll have to wait a few weeks longer to see what Apple has in store for the iPad 5, but the differences still come down to your preferred OS and ecosystem and whether you want the digital pen. Surprisingly, the latest generation iPad is $50 cheaper for the 16 gig model and priced the same for the 32 gig model.

And then there are Windows tablets, generally 10.1" to 11.6" models running Windows 8 32 bit on Intel Atom CPUs that compete in this price and size range. They too have long battery life and silent (fanless) designs. Atom is fast enough to run Windows decently, though you'll notice some lag. In return you get full Windows experience with access to MS Office, Adobe Photoshop and other staples of the Windows PC world. Really, Windows tablets are the most direct competitors since several are available with digital pens, including the lovely ThinkPad Tablet 2. The question is do you want full Windows and the upkeep that requires, or do you want a nimble, low maintenance mobile OS that can't run your Windows programs? For serious artists, Windows tablets are a better choice simply because the art program ecosystem is much more evolved and advanced compared to Android. For casual artists who stick mostly to pencil sketching and note takers, Android will work just fine.

Conclusion

The 2014 Edition Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is a top tablet pick if you're in the market for a mobile OS tablet rather than a Windows tablet. In fact, it's the cream of the Android crop too, but you'll pay the price since it's one of the most expensive. In return you get a stunning 2560 x 1600 display with lovely colors and clarity, the S Pen for precise writing and drawing, Samsung's excellent Multi Window split window multitasking, good S Pen support from third party notes and drawing apps, a fast CPU, expandable storage and USB host. Heck, even the rear camera takes decent shots and video and has a few added goodies like an LED flash and HDR.

Price: $549 for 16 gig model, $599 for 32 gig model (both WiFi only, no LTE 4G pricing available yet)

Website: www.samsung.com

Related:

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 Review

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Comparison Smackdown

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 Review

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 First Generation Review

Google Nexus 10 Review

Sony Xperia Tablet Z

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 Review

iPad Air Review

Nokia Lumia 2520 Review

 

2014 Samsung Galaxy Note 10

 

2014 Samsung Galaxy Note 10

 

2014 Samsung Galaxy Note 10

 

2014 Samsung Galaxy Note 10

 

2014 Samsung Galaxy Note 10

 

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

Directly above: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 on top of the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2.

 

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Specs:

Display: 10.1" TFT capacitive touch screen. Resolution: 2560 x 1600. Has ambient light sensor, accelerometer and proximity sensor.

Battery: 8220 mAh Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable.

Performance: 1.9GHz Samsung Exynos Octa 5420 quad core processor. (ARM A15) plus 1.3GHz quad core companion ARM A7 processors for lower power tasks. MALI T-628 graphics. 3 gigs RAM. 16 or 32 gigs internal storage. LTE 4G model with have Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad core CPU with Adreno 330 graphics.

Size: 9.6 x 6.8 x 0.3 inches. Weight: 19.5 ounces (1 lb. 3.5 ounces).

GPS: Has GPS with aGPS.

Camera: 2MP front camera and 8MP rear camera with LED, HDR mode. Can shoot 1080p video.

Audio: Built in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard combo mic-headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0.

Software: Android OS 4.3 Jelly Bean and Samsung TouchWiz software. Standard suite of Google Android applications including webkit web browser, Chrome web browser, email, gmail, YouTube, Maps, Navigation, Search and the Google Play Store. S Pen Optimized Apps: S Note and Air View apps. My Files, Media Hub, ChatON, Samsung Apps, Polaris Office 5, and AllShare Play dLNA.

Expansion: 1 SDXC microSD card slot compatible with cards up to 64 gigs.

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