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Review: The first Android tablet that could replace an iPad

Galen Gruman | Aug. 16, 2012
Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 offers significant ease-of-use improvements, plus pen computing the iPad can't match

Handwriting recognition is passable, not great, though a menu of options appears that you can tap to hone the accuracy as you write. For most people, the Note 10.1 won't be for handwriting recognition but for drawing and annotating. This is where the Note 10.1 really shines, but only in apps designed to support the pen.

So far, only a few third-party apps support the stylus, mainly games and art titles. The Note 10.1 does come with several programs, including Adobe Photoshop Touch for photo editing and painting and Samsung's S Note for notetaking. They offer a solid glimpse of what's possible.

The handwriting "keyboard" on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.

The multiscreen capability debuting in the Note 10.1 is also intriguing. In a compatible pen-based app such as S Note, tap the Multiscreen button to get a menu of apps that can split the screen -- for example, the browser, Video Player, Polaris Office, and Email. The app opens on one side of the screen, with S Note (or other pen app) on the other. You can swap the screens if desired.

What you get is the ability to jot notes while referring to the contents of that other app. You can capture the screen, then crop the image in the Gallery app and paste it into other apps. The process is not smooth, but it's possible to add drawings and artwork to documents and so on.

The multiscreen view on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.

Clearly, the pen capabilities are for specialty needs, but the beauty is that they're there when you need them and out of the way when you don't.

A nicer, much friendlier interface

Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" has made it easier to set up your tablet, with a cleaner user interface and more intuitive settings that provide more context and explanation than before. It really helps get your Android tablet the way you want it. The Galaxy Note adds a few more bells and whistles, resulting in an even smoother overall experience. For example, you can add Dropbox and other accounts in the same settings area where you add your email, Google, and Samsung accounts. The Galaxy Note also breaks out LDAP and Exchange ActiveSync as their own options, so users can more easily find and use them.

I also like Samsung's subtle way to change the keyboard in the Note 10.1: Use the pinch gesture to switch keyboards among the fixed, floating, and split views -- though be careful you don't actually tap some keys while doing so. You can also access the clipboard from the keyboard, such as to paste screenshots and other Gallery images into a presentation or document.


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