Note 10.1 lacks a clear purpose
When Samsung launched its Galaxy Note smartphone - the one with the 5-inch touchscreen - a few months back, it confused a lot of people. "Is this a smartphone - or a mini-tablet?" a few bemused people asked.
It was definitely a smartphone, but with a 5-inch screen it blurred the line between tablet and phone. Now, Samsung has upped the ante with its Note 10.1 tablet, which definitely isn't a smartphone but seems little different from its original Galaxy 10.1 tablet models.
Packed with a 1.4Ghz quad-core CPU, the Note 10.1 zips along when navigating through apps, and with its Wacom S-Pen stylus (which has a dedicated cubbyhole on the Note's underside), doodling on screen is a breeze - as is writing handwritten notes to yourself or your loved one. The pen is fast and responsive, translated my handwritten scribbles accurately and can even determine varying degrees of pressure on the screen.
It's hard not to compare the Note to Samsung's other Galaxy tablet range, and the Note 10.1 is roughly the same size as the 10.1 tablet I have and, in fact, remarkably similar in design, apart from a view visual differences between the two units (for example, the front speakers on the Note 10.1 are bigger and more prominent). I have to say I was a little disappointed in the look and feel of the unit: the plastic back felt cheap.
People familiar with Samsung's Galaxy tablet range of tablets will feel right at home with the Note 10.1 as it's pretty much those tablets bundled with a faster CPU and a great stylus (the review unit came pre-installed with Photoshop Touch, but it's not usually bundled with the tablet). The screen size is the same size and things look nice on it. Samsung has also tweaked the basic Android interface (it's running Android 4.0), applying its TouchWiz interface, and navigating through the various pages and apps is as simple as flicking left and right with a finger or using the S-Pen.
The Note 10.1 was a speedy performer, returning an Antutu benchmarking score of 12,476, - on part in terms of performance and speed as the Galaxy S3 smartphone, but like Gobler from Ricky Gervais' sit-com Extras always says, "I don't get it", given that my Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet can pretty much do most things that the Note 10.1 can do, apart from multi-tasking (meaning you can, say, have Samsung's S-Note software open then hit the "multiscreen" button and open up a web browser) and it doesn't come with a built-in stylus. It appears you can multi-task only with certain Samsung-branded applications.
I note (no pun intended) that the TV ads for the Note 10.1 show a young businessman making fancy presentations involving pie graphs (that self-correct his poor effort) or an artist type getting all funky with a picture of the Mona Lisa, so I get the impression the Note 10.1 is aimed at digital artists and eager business professionals wanting to impress their boss. It doesn't seem to be primarily for Joe Public.
The Note 10.1 is a smart-looking unit, performs well and the stylus is cool, but until someone can convince me it's a must-have, I'm sticking with my Galaxy tab 10.1.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
($799 wi-fi only, $999 wi-fi, 3G)