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Galaxy Note 10.1 Review

Could it be that the Samsung Galaxy tab would not exist if it had not been for Apple’s bar-raising and category defining inventiveness? Apple’s iPads have challenged other companies to think outside the tablet’s rectangle and other suggest that the Galaxy 10.1 is living vicariously through Apple’s design finesse. But when Samsung manages to release just the right device at just the right time now wonder they’re the leader in mobile device manufacture.

Weighing in at 600 grams, the Galaxy Tab 10.1 is much lighter than the iPad 2 and it’s slinkier as well thanks to tiny dimensions, giving us the perfect feel in our hand for pick up and play. Samsung opted for minimalism over connectivity so there’s no USB slot, but made provision for a SD media card slots which accepts cards up to 64GB and a 3.5mm audio jack not to spoil the sleek design too much.

We will, however, praise Samsung for adding a metal back and not relying on cheaper plastic instead. The Metal back gives the device a hard, defined look and finish. The only hardware buttons are the on/off button (which also acts as a lock/unlock key) and volume with everything else navigated via the ultra responsive multitouch interface. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 wasn’t exactly all guns ablazin’ from off, taking longer than expected to boot but was instant on from idle.


Rather than hardware connectivity, Samsung has bundled the Galaxy Tab 10.1 with high bandwidth Bluetooth 3.0 and support for WiFi 802.11 (a/b/g/n) so it can handle streaming HD content with ease. Even better as our review device came with 3G.

Though Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich is meant to make multitasking faster, we didn’t notice a speed bump but it does offer the ability to resize widgets and open apps now have a pop up thumbnail. making it easier to navigate

Upgrades from the 2 10.1 include the ambient light sensor for optimum screen brightness, the IR blaster to use the Note 10.1 as a remote control for your TV, the Flashbulb which sits alongside the rear-facing camera and of course the compartment which stores the S-Pen.

The Note 10.1  hass the same 10.1 inch WXGA TFT touch screen 1280 x 800 display as seen on previous iterations of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and invariably is not in the same league in terms of screen quality when you compare it to the Retina display-toting new iPad or the full HD resolution display on the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity.

It boasts a significantly lower 149 PPI compared to the 264PPi of the new iPad and 224 PPI of the Asus Transformer, it also struggles to match the clarity of these two tablet heavyweights but it will still deliver a bright, multimedia-friendly display that is no doubt the same to keep the tablet more affordable, but it’s no less disappointing not to see something more impressive in this department.

Having now had our hands on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 we’re more than familiar with the Android Touchwiz mash-up. Expect the same onscreen buttons, Samsung web browser, desktop app launcher with Samsung applications seemingly pouring from every homescreen orifice.

Although there are some minor tweaks for the S-Pen support, with the new vertical app launcher that appears when you remove the stylus from its compartment revealing the six S-Pen-friendly pre-installed apps. For some reason we now get that same watery sound each time you unlock the tablet which has been unnecessarily carried over from the Samsung Galaxy S3.

Updates to Jelly Beanon the Note 10.1 are said to roll out soon.

Samsung has opted to include an Exynos Quad-core processor and an above tablet average 2GB of RAM on the Galaxy 10.1.

This is particularly useful for Multi-Screen, one of the best features which let’s you have two applications running and the ability to move content like pictures and diagrams into the other application or watch a video in pop-up mode. This undoubtedly has an impact on the Note 10.1’s running prowess but it showed no signs of a struggle.

Undeniably the star of the Samsung tablet show, the advanced smart pen is based around technology used for the Wacom digitizer which is comfortably the best tablet for creative types and the first time that pressure-type stylus technology has been brought to a consumer tablet.

There are six apps already on board that make the most of the S-Pen,S Note, S Planner, Crayon Physics, Photoshop Touch and the excellent Polaris Office. Samsung’s S Suggest application offers suggestions for more S-Pen supported apps but we found better luck simply typing in ‘S-Pen’ in Google Play.

The 10.1 Note hosts a 1.9-front facing camera and a 5-Megapixel rear-facing camera which is up from the 3-Megapixel sensor on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and while the LED flash has been reinstated. But don’t expect much as we were left rather disappointed by the picture results. Photos lacked colour and vibrancy and crucially any great deal of sharpness.

If sound is your thing, you’ll be glad to know that we were impressed by the performance of the internal speakers which offered both loud and rich audio and things got better with the surprisingly decent in-ear headphones included in the box

While the Note 10.1 is on the face of the Tab 2 10.1 but with a S-pen thrown its hard not to be sceptical. But once you spend some time with it, you begin to see the benefits and understand why having a souped-up stylus on a big screen makes more sense than having it on the 5.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Note. It’s the closest we’ve come to a real pen on paper experience on a tablet, but is that enough?

You really have to be in it for the S-Pen because in every other department, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 pales in comparison to the new iPad, Asus Transformer Pad Infinity and even the Google Nexus 7. Maybe the next iteration of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 will deliver the full package because at the moment, it’s not quite there.

The 32GB, WiFi and 3G deep grey model we reviewed has a recommended retail price of R8 499 at time the device was released.


Papi Mabele
Tech enthusiast at heart. Lover of all things digital. Papi is the founder of SA Vibe and has been sharing his love for gadgetry since 2010. Papi sees no need for wearable tech in his busy schedule and considers the Xbox One as non existant. He may come across as bias at times, and still holds a grudge at BlackBerry for creating the 8520.