Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition review

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October 28, 2013
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    The instant you pick the Note 3 up for the first time, it feels like a new device, even if you know its two predecessors very well. The funny thing is the Note 3 isn’t actually that different from the Note 2, but its refreshed design makes it feel like a more radical departure from the past than it actually is.

    The same can be said about the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, Samsung’s latest tablet flagship that recently became available around the world. The new Note 10.1 certainly looks and feels like a new device, but is it any better than the old Note 10.1 at the end of the day?

    More importantly, is the new Note tablet worth its steep price? We take a look at all the things that matter in our Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition review. Let’s dive in.

    Build quality and design

    The Note 10.1 borrows heavily from the Note 3, but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, there’s much to love about the design and build of the Note 10.1 2014 Edition, which is generally a massive improvement over the lackluster original Note 10.1.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 aa (13)

    Gone are the two-tone design, extra wide bezels, and glossy plastic, replaced with a more decisive and sober design that is much more suited for a tablet that people are expected to use in a corporate environment. The biggest change is the texturized back plate, which feels nice in hand and gives the new Note 10.1 a good grip, making it easier to hold. The bezels are straight and relatively narrow and the sides of the tablet are flat, which makes the Note 10.1 feel in hand like a large notepad or a sketchbook. The faux leather and faux stitching going around the sides contribute to that feel, especially for the black version, though we’re sure that some will find them kitschy.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 aa (9)

    On the front, you get Samsung’s well-known button layout, which we have to say it, doesn’t feel at home on a 10-inch tablet, especially if you use it in portrait mode. The capacitive back and menu buttons are at least actionable with the S Pen, saving you from having to switch from stylus to finger whenever you have to use them.

    On the sides of the Note 10.1, you get the speakers, microSD card slot, and the power and volume rocker, which have a nice tactile feedback even though they are a bit thin. Unlike the Note 3, which features a microUSB 3.0 port, the new Note 10.1 comes with a regular microUSB 2.0 port located on the bottom side of the tablet near the home button. Finally, there’s the S Pen slot, which is now symmetrical, so you can insert the stylus in it in either orientation.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 aa (7)

    At 540 grams, the new Note 10.1 is lighter than the previous generation, but it’s still rather hefty, especially if you compare it with its direct competitor, the iPad Air.

    Overall, the Note 10.1 2014 Edition feels solid and well built, and is leaps and bounds better than last years’ Note.

    Display

    Another department where the Note 10.1 2014 Edition leaves the old Note 10.1 in the dust is the display. In fact, with a 2560 x 1600 resolution and 299 ppi pixel density, Samsung’s new tablet outshines most competitors in its class.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 2014 edition aa  (9)

    The AMOLED display is one of the defining features of the Note 3, but unfortunately, the technology is still not mature enough to be used on tablets, so the Note 10.1’s display is still an LCD. It’s a great LCD however, and we found little to complain about in our time with the tablet – games and media are pleasantly colorful, text is as crisp as you’d expect from such a high definition device, and brightness and viewing angles are adequate.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 aa (4)

    An added benefit of the intense colors of the display is the fact that they suit TouchWiz very well. And, with the S Pen at your disposal, it’s a joy to use the Note 10.1 as a large canvas for graphic work, especially with apps like the Autodesk-made Sketchbook, which comes preloaded on the device.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 2014 edition aa  (5)

    Performance and hardware

    Samsung didn’t cut any corners with the hardware of the Galaxy Note 10.1 Edition — you get most of the components powering the Note 3, with the notable exception of some sensors.

    We tested the Exynos 5420 version of the Note 10.1; the 5420 is a refreshed version of the original octa-core processor that debuted on the Galaxy S4, offering higher speeds and an improved GPU in the Mali T-628. With all those pixels to drive, the processor and the 3GB of RAM on the Note 10.1 are generally up to snuff.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 2014 edition aa  (1)

    However, don’t expect to see the buttery smooth functioning you get on the Snapdragon 800 Note 3. While the Note 10.1 obtains a comparable score in benchmarks, in our experience, it didn’t work as fluidly as its smaller sibling. In some games, such as Dead Trigger 2 on high quality settings, the tablet showed a discernible stutter, although it wasn’t bad enough to ruin the gaming experience. You’ll be able to get every task you set your mind to with the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, for sure, but for some reason, smoothness is still not perfect.

    Unlike the Note 3, the new Note 10.1 doesn’t feature a proximity sensor, so you won’t get to preview galleries or messages by hovering your finger close to the tablet’s screen. You’ll still be able to do that, and a bunch of other things, using the S Pen, though.

    Media hoarders should be happy about the microSD card slot that lets you add up to 64GB of space to the 16GB or 32GB of built-in flash memory.

    Speakers

    A surprising highlight of our experience is the dual speaker setup, that outputs better sound that many devices, and definitely than most tablets. The speakers are located on the tablet’s sides, so they’re neither an eyesore, nor susceptible to muffling like it happens with speakers located on a device’s rear. The Note 10.1’s speakers give crisp and quite rich sound, and even let through a bit of direction information, which is useful when you play 3D games and a zombie or what not is creeping behind you.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 aa (11)

    Battery

    Samsung rates the 8220 mAh battery on the Note 10.1 2014 Edition for nine hours of usage. In our experience, about 90 minutes of heavy usage including 45 minutes of Dead Trigger 2 sapped 20 percent of the battery life, which hopefully means that light users will get more than the nine hours that Samsung promised.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 2014 edition aa  (7)

    Camera

    When we review tablets, we generally gloss over cameras, simply because there’s not much good stuff to talk about. The Note 10.1 is a bit of an exception, we’re happy to report, though you shouldn’t set your expectations too high.

    The Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition features an 8MP rear camera with autofocus and LED flash, as well as a 2MP shooter on the front. The camera app itself is pretty basic when compared to the implementations on the Note 3 and S4, but you still get some interesting features such as Drama Shot and Eraser.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 2014 edition aa  (3) samsung galaxy note 10.1 2014 edition aa  (4)

    In terms of picture quality, the Note 10.1 2014 Edition does respectably – colors are vivid and images are crisp, though low-light performance is, as you’d imagine, not that good. For a tablet, quality is quite impressive, and we even joked that it’s almost good enough to make taking pics with tablets less ridiculous. Overall, the image quality on the Note 10.1 is somewhere between the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4, and definitely good enough to serve as a trusty backup shooter.

    Software

    Much ink has been spilled over the pros and cons of TouchWiz, Samsung’s proprietary implementation of Android. With all its flaws, we think that TouchWiz looks best on larger displays, where its over-the-top vibe has room to breathe. If you’re familiar with TouchWiz from other Samsung devices you’ll feel right at home on the Note 10.1 2014 Edition, though Samsung did make some changes here and there. Not all of them are inspired; for instance, the notification shade looks exactly like the shade from smartphones blown-up to the dimension of a tablet. The result is rather awkward.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 2014 edition aa  (8)

    But TouchWiz has its strongpoints, and among them, MultiWindow is probably the most compelling. This multitasking implementation allows users to divide the screen into two parts and open up different apps in each one. Samsung added the ability to share data between the apps by dragging and dropping, as well as to open the same app in the two windows.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 2014 edition aa  (2)

    The new S Pen apps that Samsung baked into the Note 3 also make an appearance on the Note 10.1, starting with the Air Command palette menu, which puts the five most important functions of the S Pen at the tip of your stylus. From them, we were especially impressed with Action Memo, which lets you complete many contextual tasks starting from handwritten notes, and S Finder, a search tool that is able to index your handwritten notes. We take a good look at the S Pen apps on the Note 3 and 10.1 in this Feature Focus post.

    samsung galaxy note 10.1 aa (3)

    Price and final thoughts

    The new Note 10.1 is one of the more expensive Android tablets, with the base model starting from $599. If you’re looking for a high-end, feature-rich tablet with a stylus, the premium may be justified, though with competitors available for far less, the Note 10.1 may be a hard sell for some users.

    Clearly, the S Pen and its apps are the highlight of the Note 10.1, but the device is an excellent Android tablet even without the stylus. It offers high performance, a wonderful screen, great build quality, and an above average camera. It’s a device that can play many roles, for work and for play. It’s not without issues – the UI needs some polish, the button setup is awkward, and functioning isn’t as smooth as it could be – but when you draw the bottom line, the Note 10.1 2014 Edition is still one of the very best Android tablets on the market.

    Comments

    • shamatuu

      Price is way too steep

      • Andrei Lanuza

        Well, if you’re only going to use it as a media consumption device. Then yes, the price is a bit steep. But for people who have genuine use of the SPen and other functions like multi-window (like me) for creative and productivity use, then this device is worth getting and is a significant upgrade from last years model.

    • Note Lover

      Wow, this is beautiful and going to be my first Tablet. I understand it has Wifi but does anyone know which carriers will have it (T-mobile, AT&T, etc)?

      • David Michael Vega Davis

        good choice on the tablet. I think all carriers have it. Just so you know this has a different connector than the first generation, so aside from screen-protectors / sleeves, there really aren’t any accessories for it yet. Its cool that its micro-usb but the old peripherals won’t work. BUT…if you have a WIDI tv/router this does screen mirroring.

        • Note Lover

          Wow, that’s great, thanks for the reply. By chance, have you heard when it will be available in the USA, specifically for T-mobile?

          • David Michael Vega Davis

            well the tablet has been available in the USA for over a week, thats why i got it. However i don’t know when it will be available with wireless carriers. I’d check with T-Mobile to see.

    • David Michael Vega Davis

      I bought it new for $550 last monday. Hands down this is the best tablet i’ve ever owned. As a developer i love it since it has the highest screen resolution to date so i can test that on my games, as well as being able to use the s-pen for on-the-go sketchbook usage. I’d rate this a 9.5/10 personaly, only losing a few points due to lack of the proximity sensor and an initial glitch in the OS before they released the patch.

      The new button placement and especially the S-PEN PLACEMENT is very smart. The fact that all these specs fit in this tablet that is even outperforming the newest ipad is astounding. That and the fact that is supports a 64gb microSD card doesn’t hurt.

      FYI, the price is on the steep side but you get what you pay for. Also you get $25 google play cash, and $50 for the samsung store. Also some other dinker deals i don’t care about.

      • Jusephe

        It looks logical that a thicker heavier tablet (even though with smaller battery) outperforms the iPad Air but I think that it’s not the case here. The iPad sets the benchmark for the next year (remember iPad 4 and it’s untouchable GPU perf.) so maybe 2015 edition of this will outperform 2013 iPad

        • David Michael Vega Davis

          eh. The ipad just doesn’t the functionality i need. Games run fluid on this, its got a better resolution, the textured back is great and its got the pressure sensitive S-Pen. In those respects, this is outperforming the new ipad. Admittedly i hate apple, but I had the ipad recently for testing and I was unimpressed, just seems like a lot of hype and a lack of useful features.

          • John D

            hmmm, the iPad air isn’t out for a few days, so it’s hard to definitively say that this is out performing it :P … I also wouldn’t get too drawn into screen resolution, a higher ppi doesn’t mean a better screen, and if the benchmarks from the 5s are any indication to go on, then the new iPad should be plenty fluid … Although the S-Pen is quite cool and does add a lot of functionality …

            • David Michael Vega Davis

              if the screen of the ipad air is the same as the ipad 4th gen then it still loses to the Note 2014. I’ve used them side by side for about an hour straight and things just look nicer on the Note screen. That being said, I will bow to the fluidity statement about the ipad. The ipad 4 was a massive improvement over the ipad 3 and had plenty of power, so the ipad air will no doubt have the same level of performance.

    • Jack

      This isn’t just “one of the best tablets”.

      It is THE BEST tablet on the market.

      I was almost about to buy the first Note 10.1 about 2 months ago without having a clue that the 2014 edition was going to be released. It’s a happy accident I delayed my purchase, because I got the 2014 edition as soon as I found out about it.

      No regrets, even if the price is a bit steep, but quality comes at a price.

      • raj

        what about Sony Tablet Z ?

        • David Michael Vega Davis

          It doesn’t have the extreme resolution or pressure sensitive pen, however if you don’t care about those then it is a good competitor for this tablet.

          • raj

            Xperia Tablet Z got killer looks

            • Dos Equis

              Meh. It’s not bad, but not great.

      • mustbepbs

        Totally subjective. I find TW to be more than a nuisance, and the lag is unforgivable given the specs. The price is too high as well.

        • Luis

          I have the note 10.1 2014 and have never once lagged.

          The price is worth it. I have played around with S pen and all the features and I absolutely love them. They are not just gimmicks as most people say they are. They really come in handy as a part time worker and full time student. It’s so easy to multi task and get so much stuff done on TW.

          The battery life is awesome. On heavy use I only have to charge it once every 2-3 days. That includes playing games, streaming movies on netflix or from my SD card, doing hw on the browser, writing papers on google docs, etc.

          Best tablet ever. I can’t say how much I love the S pen along with TW.

          Coming from a former ipad mini user.

          • Stocklone

            I have a Note 10.1 2014 and it has lagged countless time. The latest update has helped a lot but it’s still not perfect. The battery life ok. You really have to turn the brightness down to get good battery life out of this. I definitely have to run it at a lower brightness than my previous Note 10.1. The screen is gorgeous though so it’s a reasonable trade-off.

            I’m glad you are enjoying it though. You are the target audience. I love using mine but I wish Samsung would have put a little more thought and effort into the tablet so I didn’t have to mod the crap out of it after rooting it to make it work the way I need it to.

      • nebsif

        and if u thought that multi window is nice (each MW has seperate multi tasking history btw), you can root it and run almost any app in a windows like window (called pen window)

        http://img39.imageshack.us/img39/4213/836l.jpg

      • soypark1

        I think the price tag is way to steep… I do admit that the tablet itself is the best out there, but the price could be prohibitive for many users who are just about to start their first tablet experience..

    • Jusephe

      I think if we copmare it to the iPad Air, which is lighter, a hell a lot faster, has better quality display, battery life etc etc. while (!!!) it’s cheaper and made in 2013…
      So I really don’t think this tablet deserves that “2014″ moniker.

      • David Michael Vega Davis

        better quality display? I’m going to disagree adamantly there. I’ve literally put them side by side, watched movies and surfed the web, ran the same games. There is no performance difference at all the the screen on the Galaxy Note is noticeably superior. Try reading reviews or comparing them for yourself before pulling misinformation out of your hind quarters.

        • Luis

          Agree with Michael 100%. I’ve owned an ipad mini and i can’t tell you how much it lagged when opening a web page with heavy content. Not just the browser lag but also lag in games, opening apps, browsing music, etc. A pain.

          My sister also had this experience with the iPad 4. When I got my galaxy note 10.1 2014 edition. I also ran it alongside the ipad 4 and the note 10.1 blows the ipad out of the water.

          The multitasking, S-Pen, google docs, cloud print, polaris office, and emails are absolutely superior to the ipad 4. So superior that I just sold my sister’s ipad 4 on ebay and got her the new 10.1 tablet.

          Ipads are good for media, regular games, and average social media. The galaxy note 10.1 takes a step further.

          No question best tablet ever made.

        • Richard Xing

          The iPad screen is actually better though. It scores 99% on sRGB color accuracy so it has a much better realistic color reproduction than the Note 10.1. Also, black levels are much deeper.

          • Max Buschkopf

            The difference in the color gamut of the two displays is negligible. The note’s less than 1% lower than the iPad I believe. That hardly qualifies as “much better”, but as a photographer I can tell you that 1% is negligible. The black level difference is also negligible at .09 nits difference. The note’s white point balance is closer meaning that color’s won’t be distorted. All the differences here are negligible between them though in both ways. Except for the resolution. Which still could be considered a negligible advantage of the note… they both have good screens.. (negligliebe ngelegengbnee,.. im done..)

    • John Locke

      This is the best 10″ Android tablet out there. It’s got actual features to take advantage of the large screen compared to rivals.

    • Al

      Anyone knwo if pdanet works with the 2014 yet? The old eyes have a hard time on my S3, would be nice to hotspot a larger screen…

    • jlninja

      Problem with reviewers is they dont go deep enough or dont know the product they’re reviewing.. What about the incompatability with the main application, s-note. Doesnt work with the note 2 version. And what about the loss of the cascade mode for mulritasking applications. This version of the note 10.1 is a major step backward. If Samsung is going to continue to make their own software incompatible between devices then there is a very valid reason for not wasting your money buying them.

      • http://annunakimaster.blogspot.com/ AnnunakiEnvoy

        Your note2 is obsolete, trow it away and get this one.

    • Annette

      Having had the note 10.1 I’m ready to give the 2014 a try. now my Note 3 d gear

    • cr_buck

      Its nice to see the tablet market getting some real choices besides just iPad. I would love to see an unbiased as possible comparison between the iPad Air, Nexus 10 2013/4?, Surface 2, and Note 10.1 2014. Each has their strengths and weaknesses and hatred of a particular company and/or ecosystem makes it hard to find a good solid comparison between them from one source.

    • JP123

      I actually don’t think its that expensive when you think about it, if has a lot of useful
      features so i don’t think the price is that bad. You pay more but you get more, its not us if it doesn’t have anything nder the hood.

    • ComeBackSteveJobs

      I played with this at Best Buy yesterday, the touchwiz lag is still there. This is unacceptable for a $600 tablet. I guess if you put Nova Launcher on it it will run much better. I still think you are better off with a Nexus 10 or a Surface.

    • Jay

      I use the first Note 10.1 with a Bamboo Stylus (the provided one is too small) and after more than a year of use it still give me jealous peaks of colleagues when I use my handwriting notes on it. Very happy with it and I’d like to purchase the 2014 version.

    • Julian Safo

      I need this table to further my education

    • marwin

      i like samsung galaxy and win
      from philippines… :)

    • aladdin suleymanli

      half kilo very heavy. not good for gaming

    • Johan

      Im impresswith my 2014, I just have 1 question, the home button does not look like it will take a hamering and last long, are there any means we can bypass the button with a onscreen option……..

    • Cliff Chan

      DIY $3.9 camouflage cloth pattern Galaxy s4 battery door replace the old version. this design is made by textile ejected, yes, with many different pattern and color. easy to install.with the textile injection, makes the s4 back door cover durable and no bad smell.

      I like the army pattern.you may search at gadget2us

      yes. I like the case with favor price. also can stick a wireless receiver card.

    Reviews Editor

    Writer, blogger, and videographer - Josh is a former support technician that learned much about technology by fixing everyone else's. On the side, he wrote...

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