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Home > Android Tablet Reviews > Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (GT-N8013)


Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: N/A, WiFi only
Manufacturer: Samsung
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What's hot: Cutting edge fast CPU, S Pen, quality components, good speakers, AV remote.

What's not: Standard resolution display.


Reviewed August 20, 2012 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Editor's note: Also read our Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 Review if you're interested in a more portable tablet. Read our review of the 2014 Edition Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 that replaces this model.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is finally here, 6 months after its announcement at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. And who'd guess that a stalwart Samsung product could be so polarizing? Some reviewers like it while others dismiss it. Spoiler: we really like it. It's no secret that I'm the "pen lady", the person who understands and appreciates the use of an active digitizer and pen (be it Wacom or N-Trig) for drawing and note taking. I love to draw and paint; it's in my blood: my mother is a painter. But for those of you who aren't so artistically inclined and love to take good old fashioned meeting notes by hand rather than on-screen keyboard and like to annotate PDFs and Office documents, the Galaxy Note 10.1 has a decided appeal. For those who aren't sure if the pen is a gimmick or a blessing, there's enough to move the Note 10.1 to the top of the tablet heap: the Samsung is one of the fastest Android tablets on the market, its quality is up to Samsung's usual high standards and there are plenty of other features like the AV remote, pop-up video player and easy content sharing with the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Other Pen Tablet Competitors

Only a handful of tablets come with active digitizers and digital pens that offer pressure sensitivity and more precise input than capacitive styli for Android and the iPad. These include the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, the HTC Flyer and Jetstream running Android along with Windows 7 tablets that cost twice as much and have weaker touch optimization. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 brings the pen to a relatively affordable $499 tablet that Samsung hopes will be as successful as the Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone that's sold 10 million units to date.


The tablet has a lot going for it beyond the S pen: a very fast quad core 1.4GHz Exynos CPU, 2 gigs of RAM and 16 or 32 gigs of storage. It has dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 and a GPS with Glonass along with a front 1.9MP camera and rear 5MP camera with LED flash. It's slim at 0.35" and light at 1.3 pounds. Like other recent Samsung tablets, the Note 10.1 has an IR blaster and the Peel AV remote and TV programming guide so you can control your home theater gear.

The tablet runs Android OS 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich with Samsung's TouchWiz UI and enhancements and it has several custom apps including the attractive S Planner calendar, a capable music player and a side-by-side app option for key apps like the web browser, video player, Polaris Office (an MS Office compatible suite) and Samsung's S Note application so you can work in these apps simultaneously as you would with a desktop OS like Windows 7 or Mac OS X.

Design and Ergonomics

The Galaxy Note 10.1 sports the same revised design as the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 (terrible name), and that means it's not a dead ringer for the iPad and has design improvements like front-facing stereo speakers that are fairly loud and full. Available in white or deep gray plastic, it's not the paragon of high class materials, but the white model has a clean and appealing look while the gray version has a faux brushed metal back.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

The standard Samsung dock connector is on the bottom, and it's compatible with Samsung's existing line of tablet accessories like the USB adapter, HDMI adapter and chargers. All controls are on the top edge (when held in landscape mode). These include power, a volume rocker, microSD card slot under a plastic door, the IR window and 3.5mm audio jack. The active pen silo is on the bottom right corner. When you remove the pen from its silo, an app launcher of pen-centric apps pops up on the display's right side. You can customize this to do nothing instead, or launch your preferred pen app (S Note, Adobe Photoshop Touch and more). Nice. You can also tell the tablet to save a little power and disable the active digitizer unless the pen is removed from the silo.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

As has shown, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is a thing of beauty inside: nearly every major component is replaceable, including the glass over the LCD. Most tablets have components soldered to the motherboard and the top glass is often fused to the LCD and digitizer, making repairs more expensive and difficult. We applaud Samsung's clean and repairable design that some other manufacturers avoid because it increases costs. We also appreciate the name brand components inside, including Samsung flash memory (Samsung makes very fast flash storage), a Wolfson Audio controller and a name brand dual band WiFi chip.


The Gorilla Glass-clad PLS display is bright and has plenty of color saturation, as you'd expect from Samsung. Is it a wild leap forward from the very good Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1? Not so much, but at 1280 x 800 resolution with rich colors and plenty of contrast, it doesn't send us running back to our 1920 x 1200 Asus Transformer Pad infinity TF700. If you look closely, you'll notice the fonts on the Samsung aren't as finely wrought compared to the Asus, and images lack that exquisite level of 1080+ detail, but it's still very nice. Given the work Samsung had to do in order to make a tablet with a Wacom digitizer under Android and the fact that Wacom and N-Trig digitizers haven't yet been paired with super-high resolution displays, we're not surprised at the tablet's standard resolution. And the standard resolution helps keep the price affordable. If you find the S pen useful, it will likely be worth the trade off.

The display is better than the budget oriented Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 display, and it's a tad sharper and less cartoony colorful than the original Tab 10.1. The tablet has three color saturation settings and the default setting is pleasing in terms of color saturation. The display is quite bright, as Samsung's PLS (their answer to IPS) displays usually are, though it can't compete with the insanely bright Asus Transformer Prime and Infinity Super IPS Plus displays, which are the brightest tablet displays on the market. The Asus super bright option is serious overkill for indoor use, but it shines when outdoors in sunlight. That said, today's glossy tablets are hard to see outdoors in direct sunlight because they fade a bit and because glare obscures what's on screen. We could make out what was on screen when outdoors under sunshine with the Samsung, but it's not something you'd want to do for extended periods of time.


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Performance and Horsepower

Samsung's Exynos processors have serious geek cred for being extremely fast. Last year's dual core Exynos CPUs with Mali graphics were some of the fastest on the market, and we're glad Samsung waited for the quad core Exynos 4412 to roll out the Note 10.1. This is a very fast CPU with very strong Mali 400 graphics. The 1.4GHz quad core CPU with 2 gigs vs. the usual 1 gig of RAM plowed through every demanding 3D game we tested including Tegra Zone games. You'll miss out on graphical enhancements for Nvidia Tegra 3 devices, but so far those have been minor eye candy like water splashing effects on the screen vs. more serious gaming improvements.

The quad core Exynos does extremely well on synthetic benchmarks and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 scored an all time high in Quadrant, AnTuTu and Sunspider benchmarks for stock tablets (no overclocking or tweaks). Samsung's unique side-by-side window function, floating video player and multitasking enhancements really show off the power of the hardware and Samsung's software optimizations. The tablet is one of the fastest and most fluid Android tablets we've tested (and we review them all). Better yet, it stays fast and stable with several apps running. We've yet to see any wait/force close error messages that are common on Asus tablets, and Samsung's fast flash storage likely helps with this. Is the Galaxy Note 10.1 perfect? No, like all Android tablets, it benefits from an occasional reboot to clear out memory. But it holds its own against the New iPad that has copious UI software enhancements to make the tablet feel more responsive. I can't wait to see what the Note 10.1 is like with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and its "Project Butter" speed improvements. Samsung has stated the Galaxy Note 10.1 will get Jelly Bean this year. Thanks to Samsung's less than speedy OS update track record, I don't expect to see it appear very quickly though. Asus still wins for fast OS updates, though as of this writing only 1 model (the Transformer TF300) has gotten Jelly Bean. Given Asus' history and the fact that they made the Nexus 7 for Google (the first device to ship with Jelly Bean) I'd expect the TF700 and Transformer Prime TF201 updates will follow soon.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is available with 16 or 32 gigs of storage (currently the white model is available only with 16 gigs) and it has a microSD card slot that's compatible with SDXC cards up to 64 gigs. Note that SDXC cards often come formatted ExFAT, and the Samsung released a small bug fix firmware Aug. 23, 2012 that also added ExFAT support.

The tablet supports USB host using Samsung's $20 dongle adapter that plugs into the sync port. There are third party USB host (also called USB OTG) adapters on the market as well. We tested the tablet with the Samsung adapter and it worked with USB flash drives and portable hard drives formatted FAT32, USB keyboards and game controllers. Android lacks support for USB 3G modems.


  Quadrant GLBenchmark 2.1Egypt Offscreen AnTuTu Sunspider JavaScript Test
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 5349 101 fps 12,777 1206
Google Nexus 10 4959 89 fps (GLBenchmark 2.5) 13,658 1308
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 7054 18 fps (GLBech 2.7, harder test) 16,214 1024
Sony Xperia Tablet S 4561 67 fps 11,557 1838
Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 4915 74 fps 12,229 1903
Toshiba Excite 10 4143 63 fps 11,056 1935
Acer Iconia Tab A700 3646 58 fps 10,536 1958
Asus Transformer Pad TF300 3425 69 fps 9559 2257

S Pen and Apps for the Pen

The Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone's S Pen works with the tablet, and the tablet's pen works with the phone, though they won't fit in each other's silos. My Wacom pens for the Intuos didn't work but my generic Windows tablet Wacom pen worked (Wacom Bamboo compatible), though it occasionally skipped. The included S Pen lives in a silo at the bottom right corner. It's beefier than the skinny pen included with the Note phone and is easier and more comfortable to hold and use for extended drawing and writing sessions.

Pen applications on Android are still in their infancy. Unlike Windows tablets that excel at pen input while often faltering with capacitive touch (there are some exceptions like the excellent Samsung Series 9 Tablet), Android does better with touch. There's a strong handful of active pen aware apps, from Alias Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop Touch, LectureNotes, Papyrus, Infinite Painter and A Note HD that are pen aware and some even offer decent palm rejection. Samsung bundles Photoshop Touch that normally sells for $9.99 on the Google Play Store and Textbooks. And there's Samsung's own S Note, also found on the Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone.

S Note is your one stop note-taking and basic drawing application that offers ink notes as well as handwriting recognition and formula recognition. The app isn't perfect. The UI is quirky and controls aren't as intuitive as we'd like, but once you learn them, you'll be using recognition, ink, embedded voice notes and images easily. Formula recognition and solving was impressive in our tests and requires an Internet connection since the feature uses Wolfram Alpha's servers to do the heavy lifting. Handwriting recognition, even with my terrible left-handed scrawl worked well as long as I wrote a sentence at a time. If you pause after each word, the app will join words together without spaces, which is odd and not what most users want. If you write a paragraph extremely quickly, it might not keep up. It's not as good as Windows 7's mature and impressive handwriting recognition, but it's a very good and usable start. Sadly, there's no handwriting recognition for previously inked notes: you must put the app in handwriting recognition mode before you begin writing if you want conversion.

Though S Note is geared toward rich note creation, it's also a decent sketching app for drawings and digital paintings with several tools, line width and color selection features. I was able to create fairly good art using S Note, though it can't come close to competing with Corel Painter in Windows. Like the Note phone, there's a shape smoothing feature so your circles and squares look perfect.

For those who wish to takes notes while viewing a web page, email or video, Samsung's side-by-side app mode is handy. You can have two apps running side-by-side and the tablet offers this feature for S Note, the standard Android web browser, Samsung's video player, Polaris Office, email and Gallery.

The pen works everywhere as a pointing device (talk about precision in Angry Birds!) since Android 4.0 has pen support. Inking isn't universal however. Pen oriented apps like the third party art and note taking apps support inking, as does Polaris Office for annotation and Adobe Reader allows you to annotate and sign PDFs.

Samsung Software, Goodies from the Samsung Galaxy S III

Samsung created a lot of custom software for the Galaxy S III smartphone, and we're happy to see it's on the Note 10.1 too. We have the floating video player than can play an HD video in a small resizeable window anywhere. The Exynos really shines here and the tablet doesn't bog down when we had a video playing in a window on top of the desktop, web browser or email.

SmartStay uses the camera to watch for a face so the display won't turn off if you're looking at the tablet. It works well, and if you turn your head away the tablet will turn off (you really need to look directly at the tablet). Buddy Photo Share uses facial recognition to identify friends and it can send them photos of themselves that you've taken automatically.

Samsung's Media Hub (rent or buy movies and TV shows), Samsung App Store (great for finding pen-centric apps), My Files file manager and Video Maker are here as well. Samsung adds quite a few codecs to support popular video formats like DivX, WMV, AVI, MKV and FLV formats up to 1080p resolution.

Peel AV Remote

Samsung includes an IR blaster and the Peel AV Remote app in their recent tablets, and it's here on the Note 10.1 as well. The IR in combination with Peel can control your TV, AV Receiver and cable TV box. Setup is straightforward and simple, and we had it controlling our Samsung HD TV (older model), Sony AV receiver and Motorola/Time Warner cable box in minutes. Peel is a content discovery oriented app that highlights programming in your preferred categories that's on now. It lacks the more pedestrian TV Guide style grid, and we missed that feature. Should you discover a show that you want to watch, tap on it and Peel will switch your inputs and channel to bring up the TV show.

Battery Life

The Galaxy Note 10.1 has a 7,000 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. That's a high capacity battery, but we haven't gotten exceptionally long runtimes. That said, after a few charging cycles, the Samsung managed runtimes that are comparable to Tegra 3 tablets that have a low power fifth companion core that reduces battery consumption. Runtimes rivaled that of our Asus Transformer Pad TF700 tablet (not with the optional keyboard dock that houses a secondary battery) and the Tegra 3 powered Toshiba Excite 10. Given the New iPad's lack of runtime improvement over the iPad 2 due to increased backlight consumption, runtimes on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 have been competitive with Apple's flagship tablet. We managed 7 hours of Netflix streaming video playback with the Note 10.1, and mixed productivity use has been solid at 8+ hours. For most folks, that will translate into 3 days of mixed productivity use.

Standby times are particularly impressive, as with other Galaxy Tablets. Overnight on standby, the tablet used just 1 to 2 percent power.


Samsung hasn't disappointed us with their new flagship tablet. The Galaxy Note 10.1 has everything we wish for in a tablet except a full HD display: a bright and sharp display, active pen input, an excellent software bundle with customizations that improve usability, dual band WiFi, an AV remote and more. Though the casing is plastic, fit, finish and quality (including the internal hardware design) are excellent. The tablet is very fast, the multi-tasking features make the Note 10.1 stand out among the sea of Android tablets and even the iPad. Unless you've got your heart set on a full HD display or need the laptop-style keyboard dock, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is an excellent choice.

Price: $499 for 16 gigs, $549 for 32 gigs



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Toshiba Excite 10 Review

Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet Review


Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Matched set: the Galaxy Note 10.1 and Samsung Galaxy S III.


Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.



Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1



Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1



Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1



Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1


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Display: 10.1" capacitive PLS screen with Wacom active digitizer and pen. Resolution: 1280 x 800, supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer. Has ambient light sensor and Smart Stay.

Battery: 7,000 mAh Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is sealed inside.

Performance: 1.4GHz Samsung Exynos 4412 quad core CPU. 2 gigs DDR3 RAM and 16 or 32 gigs internal storage.

Size: 7.1 x 10.3 x 0.35 inches. Weight: 1.31 pounds.

Camera: 1.9MP front camera and 5MP rear camera with LED flash. Can shoot 720p video.

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

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


Software: Android OS 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich with Samsung TouchWiz software. S Pen Optimized Apps: Crayon Physics, S Note, Adobe Photoshop Touch and Kno Textbooks. Google Play Store, Books, Movies, and Music Preloaded: Contacts, Alarm/Clock, S Planner, Camera, Gallery, Google Talk, Dropbox, Netflix, Gmail, YouTube, Web Browser, My Files, Email, Google Search, Latitude, Video Player, Media Hub, Game Hub, Calculator, Music Player, Smart Remote, Settings, ChatON, Samsung Apps, Polaris Office, S Suggest, Google Maps, Google+, Music Hub, Navigation, Places, Video Maker, World Clock, Barnes & Noble Nook and AllShare Play dLNA.

Expansion: 1 SDXC microSD card slot compatible with cards up to 64 gigs (must be formated FAT32).


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