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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review: The pen sets this Android tablet apart

Melissa J. Perenson | Aug. 16, 2012
With the release of Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 Wi-Fi tablet the venerable stylus takes center stage setting this innovative slate apart from the tablet masses. On Wednesday Samsung officially announces this Wi-Fi only 10.1-inch tablet with prices that start at starting at $500 up to $550. The table goes on sale Thursday. For the past few days I've been testing the Galaxy Note 10.1 Wi-Fi. While the tablet has some rough edges and one glaring omission amongst its specs—it lacks a high pixel density display—Samsung has put together a solid performer that has wide-reaching appeal.

The Note 10.1 excelled in our lab tests, setting new high-water marks for graphics performance on Android tablets, and for Web browsing across all tablets. On two core tests from GLBenchmark 2.1.4, the Note 10.1 was far and away the best Android tablet tested to date, logging 99fps on Egypt Offscreen and 125fps on Pro Offscreen. That's a sizable improvement over the next closest Android tablet, the Nvidia Tegra 3-based Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700; that tablet attained 74fps on Egypt Offscreen, and 96fps on Pro Offscreen. The Apple iPad remains at the top of the graphics performance heap, though, with 139fps and 234fps, respectively.

The browser tests include our own custom page load test, in which the Note 10.1 excelled, requiring just 7.6 seconds to load as compared with 11.6 seconds on the Acer Iconia Tab A700. And on SunSpider, the Note 10.1 blasted through the test in 1.2 seconds, as compared with the Google Nexus 7's 1.7 seconds. As with the Google Gallery, the browsing test performance may reflect the tablet's internal guts, or it could be due to the software, in this case Samsung's own Web browser, which is different from the stock Android browser.

Digging into the Display

The Note 10.1's display was both a disappointment and a surprise. The display carries a resolution of 1280 by 800 pixels, the same as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 and the Toshiba Excite 10.1. That means no high-pixel density clarity or detail on text or graphics, as you'd find on the Acer Iconia Tab A700, Apple iPad, and Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700.

However, Samsung has clearly done something with this tablet to boost its display performance. The sharpness and color of images is dramatically better than the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, and my high-resolution images in the Google Gallery had sharpness and detail that came close to what you'd find on the high-pixel density displays. (Another observation: Android tablets typically struggle with skin tones, but the Note 10.1 produced some of the most realistic skin tones I've seen.) Text clarity was better than than on the abysmal Galaxy Tab 2, but it couldn't hold a candle to what you'd get on any of the high-pixel density displays.

Samsung Adds New Custom Apps

Samsung adds tons more new apps of its own creation. Most notable among them: the S Note app that's designed for note taking, sketching, formulas, and handwriting-to-text use with the S Pen. You also get customized music and video players, and a customized version of Google Gallery that adds face-detection tagging (also seen on the Galaxy Siii phone). A bonafide task manager is now integrated into the recently used apps pop-over. And you can easily share content from the tablet with a TV or other tablet users using a new share options.

 

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