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. 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: 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.
The Note 10.1 2014 Edition has a stunning 2560 x 1600 display that's bright, colorful and it has 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 wouldn't be a Galaxy Note is 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 or Layer Paint for artists if you wish to sketch and paint seriously.
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 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.
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 front 2MP camera and rear 8MP camera with LED flash and HDR mode. 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.
Here's our Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2104 Edition video review. Our full written review will follow soon.