Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) review
|Review: May 2014|
In a nutshell: The 2014 version of the Galaxy Note 10.1 is a 10 inch tablet with an octa-core processor, split-screen multitasking, strong media capabilities, an S-Pen digital stylus and good battery life. It's one of the highest-spec tablets available.
Technology marches forward inexorably, so Samsung has launched a new version of its Galaxy Note 10.1 for 2014. Despite a name that seems almost intended to cause confusion for consumers, the 2014 Note looks like a great product with a design makeover and some massive upgrades. Let's take a closer look.
Design and construction
The Note 10.1 is a full-sized tablet with a 10 inch screen that's ideal for all kinds of activities such as games, watching HD videos, editing photos and documents and taking notes. The 2014 edition is a millimetre slimmer than the old model and Samsung has managed to shave quite a lot off the bezel surrounding the screen, making for a more compact and sleeker-looking tablet. Nearly 50g of excess weight has been removed too, making it reasonably light for a tablet of its size. The tablet is stylish in design, with a metallic edging to its slimline contours, and backed with Samsung's hardwearing (if slightly tacky-looking) faux leather effect finish. It's not quite as premium as Apple's offerings, but it's smart and practical. It's available in a choice of colours - Jet Black or Classic White.
The display goes beyond Full HD, with a resolution of 1600 x 2560 pixels, which is higher than the iPad Air and a match for the Google Nexus 10. This is the highest resolution on any tablet, and in combination with Samsung's Super Clear LCD technology delivers a knock-out display. Colours are accurate and the display is bright, although it lacks the ultra-high contrast and colour saturation of AMOLED screens.
One feature that differentiates the Note from other tablets is the inclusion of an S-Pen. This is an advanced stylus that uses pressure sensitivity to measure how hard you're pressing. This makes it the perfect tool for handwriting (which the Note can understand), editing photos, working with spreadsheets and any detailed tasks.
Apps that have been optimised for use with the S-Pen allow you to make notes or doodle over photos, just like with pen and paper. You can use Shape Match to turn a rough sketch of a graph into a proper neat graph with straight lines and numbers. There's a formula recognition tool that will turn handwritten mathematical formulae into digital form and even plot graphs. You can also use the S-Pen to draw pictures and edit photos. When not in use, the S-Pen fits neatly into a handy storage slot.
The power of this device has taken a big step forward with the inclusion of an 8-core processor. The processor uses a "Big core, Little core" combination of 4 cores running at 1.9GHz and 4 clocked at 1.3GHz. This enables it to use the right processing power for the job while conserving battery life. An enormous 3GB of RAM is available too (the iPad Air has just 1GB). It's an extraordinary leap forward in number-crunching and graphics power, making the new Note an obvious choice for any power user. It's certainly fast enough to support multitasking, and the Multi Window feature on the 10 inch screen easily caters for this.
The tablet is available in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions, with the 16GB memory version being the most commonly available. Fear not, however, because the Note also includes a microSD memory card slot, enabling you to add up to 64GB of cheap extra storage capacity.
The old Note was looking quite dated with version 4.0 of Android, so it's good to see this new version shipping with Android 4.3 installed. With Android you can access Google Play for apps, music, videos and other media. Samsung's music, video and games hubs come pre-installed on the tablet too. The new Note also features a magazine-style user layout that lets you pin apps, photos, folders and shortcuts to your screen. An update to Android 4.4 KitKat is expected later this year.
Audio quality is reasonable, thanks to the side stereo speakers.
8 megapixel camera
The camera has been upgraded to an 8 megapixel BSI sensor with flash and autofocus. There's support for HD video recording, and of course you can view Full 1080p HD video on that incredible high definition display.
This is probably as good as it gets in the world of tablet photography, with a high quality snapper that can match a lot of high-end smartphones, but it won't stop us sniggering if we find you using your tablet to take photos when on holiday.
More sensibly, a front-facing 2 megapixel camera allows you to take selfies and do video chat in HD.
The version we're reviewing here is Wi-Fi only, with no 3G or 4G cellular network connection. However SGPS and GLONASS location tracking services are present. The Wi-Fi is dual channel for double-speed data access and Wi-Fi Direct is supported. The Note also supports Bluetooth 4.0 and infrared for connecting to other tablets and phones as well as a microUSB 2.0 connection and a 3.5mm headphone jack. It's compatible with DLNA and MHL 2.0. There's no HDMI output, but the tablet supports screen mirroring with a compatible Samsung TV.
The battery has been upgraded to 8220mAh, giving this one of the largest battery capacities on any Android device. But there's a lot of equipment to power, and that high-resolution LCD screen is hungry for every drop of energy it can get, so intensive use will drain the battery within 12 hours.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 is expensive by tablet standards. At £450 for the basic 16GB version, it's even more expensive than the iPad Air and doesn't offer quite the same premium design. However, this is justified by what you get for your money. This really is the top tablet for power-hungry users.
The 2014 version is substantially smaller and lighter than the previous model, despite keeping the same 10.1 inch screen. This screen is fabulous, and so is the octa-core processor at the heart of the device. When you combine this with the vast array of features and functionality available here - S-Pen, plenty of memory, multiwindow and multitasking - we really think that it's worth the cost.
The original Galaxy Note 10.1 can be picked up now for quite a lot less money, but it's more bulky, uses an old version of Android and offers a lot less power.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) features include:
- Operating system: Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean)
- Display: 10.1 inch Super Clear LCD touchscreen with 1600 x 2560 pixels, 16 million colours
- 8 megapixel camera with autofocus and flash
- HD video recording
- Secondary 2 megapixel camera for HD video calling
- Music player / media player
- Internet: Web browser, BBC iPlayer, YouTube
- Office document editor, S Note, S Memo, World Clock, Calculator, Task Manager
- Mobile Printing
- Offline flight mode
- Processor: Big Core 1.9GHz Quad + Little core 1.3GHz Quad
- Memory: 16GB, 32GB or 64GB plus 3GB RAM and microSD card slot
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.0, Infrared, USB 2.0, 3.5mm headphone jack, DLNA, MHL 2.0
- SGPS, GLONASS location services
- Size: 171.4 x 243.1 x 7.9 mm
- Weight: 540g
- Battery: 8220mAh
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