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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

If readable fonts ever become available, the ability in the Note 10.1 to change the system font should be welcome; for now, stick with the default Helvetica S. But the crisp screen, pleasing color palettes, and clean application chrome all make the Note 10.1 a pleasure to use. A great example of this is the S Planner calendar app Samsung provides: In the Note phablet, it's hard to read, in garish colors, but in the Note tablet, it's beautifully readable with paperlike backgrounds and a clean color palette.

Even more, S Planner is a better calendar app than the stock Android version, providing more sophisticated repeating events (also not available on the iPad) and a year view. On the Note 10.1, you'll enjoy working in your calendar.

The Note 10.1 also uses Samsung's prior UI enhancement of a hiding app dock at the bottom of the screen -- clearly inspired by the Dock in OS X, but still welcome. Finally, it supports solid security and management capabilities, using the Android 4 capabilities augmented with Samsung's SAFE extensions. It should meet most businesses' security standards.

Then there are the other recent Samsung innovations introduced in the Galaxy Tab 2 tablet and Note phablet. One is the tracking ability that uses the front camera to search for your eyes, so the screen doesn't go to sleep when you're reading but otherwise not interacting with the device. Another is the use of an internal gyroscope to detect tilt, pan, and rotation of the device, which is then used for actions such as scrolling -- you'll like it in action and flying games.

The rest of the UI is Android 4, with its useful widgets, multifunctional notifications tray (where you can change network and other hardware settings, as well as see notifications such as new emails), handy app tray with live thumbnails, and solid array of accessibility options for the disabled.

A pleasing physical design that doesn't look like an iPad

On the physical side, the Note 10.1 has a well-designed bezel with a distinct look and feel -- not an iPad copy as the Galaxy Tab clearly was. You get the usual upper-end hardware: 1.4GHz ARM processor, 5-megapixel rear camera, 1.9-megapixel front camera, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, speakers, and audio jack. You get a few extras, such as an IR port to control Samsung TVs and an SD card slot that supports 64GB cards. A docking stand is included as well.

What you don't get is HDMI output to mirror your display to a monitor or projector. Don't expect to give presentations on stage with the Note 10.1. Too bad -- its pen-based annotation capability would be perfect for such presentations.

 

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