Galaxy Note 10.1 - 2014 edition: tablet review


A view of the new Samsung GALAXY Note 10.1, 2014 Edition during Samsung Unpacked 2013 Episode 2 in Times Square on September 4, 2013 in New York City. (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Samsung)
October 1, 2013

In the ongoing battle for the tablet market, Samsung’s hasn’t had the same luck towering over Apple that it’s had in the smartphone world, despite turning out several solid models that offer features that aren’t in the iPad.

Joining that roster of devices is the Galaxy Note 10.1 - 2014 edition, which includes features such as the ability to run multiple apps at once, a stylus with integrated software and a microSD card slot for expanding your memory. Though it will likely be overshadowed by its other Galaxy siblings, the Note tablet (which we’ll call it, for shorthand’s sake) is a well-made device, and features many of the same software touches that also appear in the Galaxy Note 3 smartphone.

Many of those features, such as multitasking and the pen, work even better on the Note tablet’s larger screen, which has gotten a major upgrade from its tablet predecessor. The screen has a roughly 299 ppi resolution, super-saturated colors and a brighter view for video watching or running multiple apps at once. And while that screen surely eats up a lot of juice, the battery life on this tablet lasts a day of regular use, if not more.

Web browsing is fast, and apps run mostly without stuttering, though some of Samsung’s built-in apps have opening animations that do slow the tablet down. In terms of speed, this Note tablet is probably at or near the top of the market right now.

The real differentiating factor here, of course, is the S-Pen stylus, which fits snugly into the body of the device and lets users take screenshots, search, write notes and pull up tools such as the calculator. The handwriting pickup is fast, nearly as responsive as a real pen, and handwriting recognition allows users to search through their notes quickly. It’s not a bad replacement for writing quick reminders and to-dos, though it still isn’t quite good enough for more intense note-taking.

While sketch artists would probably like the Note, it’s not for photographers (who probably wouldn’t want to take tablet photos, anyway). Shots from its 8 MP camera show up a little grainy, particularly on the tablet’s sharp screen. The pictures are fine for snapshots, but this is hardly going to replace your camera (or smartphone) as your primary way to take pictures.

There’s little to say against the tablet. But there’s not much to say for it, either, when it comes to the competition. The tablet market is a game of content, and Samsung just doesn’t have as much to offer as its main rivals have. The firm does try to sweeten the deal with included subscriptions to a number of online services, including Hulu Plus, SiriusXM, Boingo Hotspot and Dropbox. The tablet also comes with a one-year subscription to Bloomberg Businessweek and a 12-week subscription to the New York Times. But even with access to the Google Play store, the Note tablet still doesn’t hook as seamlessly into content caches as Amazon’s Kindle Fire or even Apple’s iPad. Nor does its integrate with Google services enough to make it as easy to use as, say, Google’s own Nexus tablets.

With that in mind, the price is a big drawback for the Galaxy Note 10.1 - 2014 edition. The 16 GB version of the tablet is $549.99, while the 32 GB will set you back $599.99; that’s about $50 more than the entry-level iPad and just about on par with the 32 GB model.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 - 2014 Edition will be available domestically starting on Oct. 10.

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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