What Is It? The 2014 Edition of Samsung’s pen enabled tablet, the Galaxy Note 10.1 brings some noteworthy improvements to last year’s version, especially in the use of its signature “S” pen. When you take out the new “S” pen stylus and hover over the screen, the Air Command software initiates a pop up semi-circular menu. That allows you to begin scribbling notes that you an turn into text memos, or bring into your contacts, or even convert an address into a mapping program. Even when using the virtual keyboard, I find that using the stylus dramatically improves my accuracy and therefore my overall speed. The 10.1″ diagonal tablet is not quite as thin as some of its competitors such as the Sony Xperia Z tablet. And the Samsung’s all plastic case doesn’t have the quality feel of the new Apple iPad Air. Screen for screen, though, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is one of the best in the market. It has more pixels than the iPad, though it’s not quite as bright.
The Note has some capabilities that are impressive, including the ability to multitask using more than one screen. You can even use multiple screens of the same program if the software supports it. This can be a real convenience, especially if you need some office style productivity.
The primary orientation of the tablet is in landscape mode, as opposed to portrait mode for the iPad. That’s how the buttons and speakers are positioned. The speakers produce surprisingly good sound, even though you’re still much better off using headphones. While the screen is dramatically sharp, the colors may be slightly over saturated, but not to the point of being a distraction. The tablet ran our Netflix streaming test well, but not perfectly, pausing a couple of times to do some buffering while using the home wi-fi network.
Battery life is decent, though not best in class. You can count on just shy of ten hours for some power intensive tasks such as video playback and web browsing. Unlike the iPad, the Note does have an available micro SD card, which I find very helpful.
Is it Boomer Friendly? – The “S” pen stylus and attendant software make this attractive to those of us who are still more comfortable writing than using a virtual keyboard, and while not flawless, the ability of the software to convert handwriting to text was consistently good. And the ability to capture those handwritten notes as memos, annotations, contacts, or directions makes the stylus more than a novelty. The bright screen is easy to read from almost any angle.
Frustration Factor? – As usual with an Android device, this was easy to set up with my Google account. I’m still a bit puzzled as to why some of my Google Play Store apps are automatically repopulated while others aren’t. I found the new software integration for the “S” pen much easier to use than on the first Note 10.1.
Is It Worth The Money? – This is an expensive tablet. Samsung’s price for the wi-fi only 16 GB model is about $550. The $32 GB model is just shy of $600. We’ve seen a variety of prices both higher and lower online for both models. As to whether you should buy this? My feeling is that if you are more comfortable writing than typing, this is the best execution of a pen based tablet that I’ve seen. The other bells and whistles, like multi-tasking make it even better. I’d say that if you’re looking for a premium tablet, this one is, pardon the pun, write-on.