If the comments section is any indication, many of our readers seem to believe that Apple vs Samsung topics are a bit cliche nowadays. However, the fact remains that these two companies make some excellent mobile devices, not to mention that they are the only manufacturers to turn a meaningful profit recently.
Another way to look at it is that in the context of Android vs iOS discussions, a comparison between devices manufactured by Samsung and Apple can legitimately be used to characterize the relationships, similarities and differences between the two biggest mobile ecosystems.
When Samsung officially announced the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, plenty have been disappointed by the manufacturer’s choice to equip it with a 10.1 PLS display running at a 1280 by 800 pixel resolution. Guesses are that Samsung was unable to use a higher resolution and maintain the Wacom digitizer. And you can’t leave that out since the digitizer (alongside the S-Pen of course) is the one thing that makes the 10.1 part of the Note series.
We’ll discuss more about the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1’s usage as a scribe later, but for the sake of the display segment, what you should know is that at a 149 PPI ratio, text, images and video are not as sharp on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 as you might expect them to be from a high-end tablet of 2012.
The Apple iPad 4 uses the same 9.7 inch IPS panel as the iPad 3: 1536 x 2048 pixels at a 264 PPI (Pixel Per Inch) density and a 4:3 aspect ratio.
Apple calls it a Retina display although when the Cupertino manufacturer introduced the term, it appeared that it was relating to pixel densities of 300PPI or higher, with the display placed at 12 inches in front of your eyes. According to some analysts, the PPI ratio at which your eyes cannot distinguish the individual pixels should be just under 500 PPI (also at 12 inches).
Nitpicking left aside, the display of the Apple iPad 4 is still considered the best tablet display around (tie with the display on the Nexus 10), one that shows literally three times as many pixels as that of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.
Build quality and design
From the exterior, it is impossible to tell an Apple iPad 4 apart from an Apple iPad 3 — the same industrial design, aluminum unibody, and scratch resistant glass that make up the iPad design trademark.
As the iPad 3, the Apple iPad 4 measures 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4 mm (9.50 x 7.31 x 0.37 in) and weighs 662 g (1.46 lb).
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is a bit thinner than the iPad 4, and features an interesting curved figure, which some say was designed to protect it from Apple’s battalions of lawyers. Regardless of the reasons, the Note 10.1 is distinctive, and that wide bezel allowed Samsung to fit it with two frontal speakers, which is a nice touch and a boon for media fiends. When it comes to build quality however, the Galaxy Note 10.1 does not feel like a high-end tablet of 2012, although it is priced like one.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 measures 262 x 180 x 8.9 mm (10.31 x 7.09 x 0.35 in) and weighs 600 grams (1.32 lb).
Verdict: Although the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is thinner and lighter, the Apple iPad 4 wins this round thanks to its excellent build quality!
On the only segment where the iPad 4 improves over the iPad 3, the new iPad (a bit confusing, right?) makes use of a custom designed A6X SoC, one that is not very different from what’s powering the iPhone 5. We’re talking about a 1.4 GHz dual-core Swift processor and a quad-core PowerVR SGX554 processor. This is the fastest SoC out there, a fact proven by numerous benchmarks. There’s only 1GB of RAM on the Apple iPad 4, but it should be enough for what iOS requires.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 features the same Exynos 4 SoC (1.4 GHz quad-core A9 processor and a Mali-400MP GPU) that you can find in the international version of the Galaxy S3, and packs 2GB of RAM on the side. This is not a slow combination, although it just isn’t as powerful as what you can find inside the fourth generation iPad.
On to internal storage, both the Apple iPad 4 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 come in 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 versions, but only the Note 10.1 features a microsSD card slot. Both these tablets come in variants with added cellular connectivity, but only the iPad 4 can use LTE networks.
Taking pictures with your tablet is kind of silly, but just in case you need to take a quick shot, the iPad 4 features a 5 MP rear camera alongisde a 1.2 MP video camera for video calling, while the Galaxy Note 10.1 comes equipped with a 5 MP rear facing camera and a 1.9 sensor on the front.
Apple have equipped the iPad 4 with the same 11,560 mAh battery that powers up the iPad 3, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 uses a 7000 mAh battery. The difference in battery capacity between our two contenders might look a bit odd, but overall battery life should not vary by much between the two, since the battery on the iPad 4 has to power three times as much pixels.
Verdict: The Apple iPad 4 wins this round thanks to its better performing processor and GPU
Software and Ecosystem
While the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has been initially released with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich on top, it looks like Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is finally starting to arrive on Samsung’s tablet. We’ll judge this section through the perspective on an updated Galaxy Note 10.1.
Ever since the beginnings of the Android vs iOS battle in the tablet segment, one thing has been constantly plaguing Google’s OS: the lack of a diversified market of tablet-optimised apps. Android is finally beginning to catch up to its rival, in part thanks to the success of the Nexus 7 and the launch of the Nexus 10, but the reality is that there are more great running apps on the iPad 4.
If the Galaxy Note 10.1 were to be a regular Android tablet, the discussion would have stopped there. However, since this is a Note family member we are talking about, the Note 10.1 can take advantage of the ever increasing number of S-Pen optimized apps. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 shares its resolution with the Galaxy Note 10.1, meaning all S-Pen optimized apps (S Memo, Air View, S Note and such) are available on the big brother as well.
This is the unique selling point of the Galaxy Note 10.1: do you want to be able to accurately outline graphs, take notes or go creative from a graphical perspective? The Galaxy Note 10.1 has you covered. Add Samsung’s software tweaks (Multitasking is a real winner), the Galaxy S3-inspired Smart Functions and the various useful features of Jelly Bean and the Note 10.1 seems to be a very potent tablet when it comes to its software capabilities.
Verdict: The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 wins this round thanks to Jelly Bean and an array of S-Pen optimized apps
Pros and Cons
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Pros
– S-Pen apps
– Android 4.1 Jelly Bean
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Cons
– Low resolution display
Apple iPad 4 Pros
– Retina display
– Apple A6X is really fast
– Huge selection of tablet-optimized apps
Apple iPad 4 Cons
– iOS is a walled garden
In the smartphone segment, the Samsung Galaxy S3 has recently overthrown the iPhone 5 as the best selling smartphone in the world (judging by numbers reported for the third quarter). This is the first time that the current iPhone model is not the best selling smartphone. However, Samsung is not likely to repeat this performance in the tablet segment anytime soon.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is an interesting tablet that many could grow fond of, especially if users utilize of the S-Pen. But judging overall, the Apple iPad 4 comes at roughly the same price, but features a superior display, the best SoC on the market, and has access to an unrivaled range of tablet optimized apps.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 lets you hoping for more (pixels), a problem that seems to be plaguing all of Samsung’s tablet line-up for 2012. If you exclude the Nexus 10, none of Samsung’s top-end tabs go beyond 1280 by 800 pixels. Now imagine a successor to the Note 10.1 that features a display of Nexus 10 quality but maintains its S-Pen functions… that would be cool right?