Ever since the first iPad came out in 2010, tech companies around the world have tried to match its success, in about the same manner that many tech companies have tried to match the success of the iPhone ever since the first version came out in 2007. But, unlike the iPhone situation, and despite the abundance of Android tablets that have hit the shelves since 2010, Apple has managed to stay ahead of everyone else in the tablet market. But, as was the case with the iPhone, Apple is now starting to feel the heat from Android manufacturers.
With that being said, I find it very curious that Samsung was not able, up until now, to manufacture a proper competitor to the iPad. Basically, no Galaxy Tab model was able to match the experience offered by the iPad, despite the fact that some models are priced almost equally with the Apple tablet. Samsung is not only the biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world by number of smartphones sold, but their Galaxy S line is also constantly beating the iPhone when it comes to hardware. In addition, they also manufacture both the CPU and the Retina display that Apple brags about when marketing the iPad. From where I’m standing, Samsung has all the resources needed to make a tablet that’s better than the iPad.
And then we get to yesterday’s Samsung announcement, one that confirms the previously rumored specs for the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. Could this be the moment that Android fans have been waiting for? Is the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 a decent competitor to the iPad? Are there any areas where the Note 10.1 is better than the iPad? Let’s find out, shall we? As always, we’ll break down our Galaxy Note 10.1 vs Apple iPad fight into five equally important rounds: Display, Internal Hardware, OS & Features, Design & Extras and Pricing and Availability.
As I’ve mentioned above, Samsung is the company that manufacturers the best display currently available on the market, namely the Retina display of the new Apple iPad (third generation). At 9.7 inches in diagonal, the iPad three’s IPS LCD display uses an impressive 1536 x 2048 pixel resolution to bring up the Pixel Per Inch (PPI) density to 264. Under these circumstances, you would expect that the Galaxy Note 10.1 offers at least a 200 PPI ratio, right? Wrong, as the biggest downside to buying a Galaxy Note 10.1 is the poor resolution of its 10.1 inch display.
The Samsung Galaxy Note tablet uses a 800 x 1280 pixel resolution (actually, the same resolution used by the Galaxy Note’s 5.3 inch display), bringing down the PPI ratio to just 149, equal to that of the ASUS Transformer Prime (released back in October 2011). By comparison, the Google Nexus 7 has a PPI ratio of 216, while the ASUS Transformer Prime Infinity has a PPI ratio of 224. The original iPad showcased a PPI ratio of 132. If you’re looking for a tablet with a crisp display, the Galaxy Note 10.1 just isn’t it.
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend any device featuring a PPI ratio under 200 PPI, and this principle is not limited to top-end smartphone and tablet offerings, but all the way down to cheap smartphones (can catch a list of the best cheap Android smartphones of 2012 here).
If you ask me, this is a very weird situation, seeing as Samsung is the ultimate leader in the mobile display market. The South Korean giant basically owns the entire SAMOLED market, and it also manufactures the best LCD display on the market (the Retina display). We talked about the reasons why Samsung will not equip its tablets with “Retina displays” here, but I’m sure a lot of us expected a better quality display for their top-end tablet. Are there any conspiracy theorists amongst you guys that can imagine some sort of an agreement between Samsung and Apple?
The picture below shows the iPad 2 display on the left and the iPad 3 display on the right. Notice how sharp the icon is? That's why the new iPad wins this round by a couple of lengths!
Clear Winner: Apple third generation iPad
The new Apple iPad is built on the Apple A5X chipset, one that packs a 1GHz dual-core Cortex A9 processor and a quad-core PowerVR SGX543MP4 GPU. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 uses the same Exynos 4212 quad SoC as the Galaxy S3, one consisting out of a 1.4GHz quad-core Cortex A9 processor and a Mali-400MP GPU. While the Exynos 4212 has a better performing processor than the A5X, the latter has a better GPU.
However, while the performance of the CPU is not influenced by the resolution, the video rendering frame rate is, meaning that although the iPad’s GPU is better, the Note 10.1 should be capable of maintaining more than decent frame rates, as the output is of lower resolution. It’s just that the level of detail won’t be there.
The third generation iPad also features 1GB of RAM, while the Galaxy Note 10.1 features 2GB.
Winner: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
I’m going to be completely honest with you and tell you that this is probably the most difficult department to judge. From one side, there are surely a lot more good apps designed for the iPad than for Android tablets, but from the other, the Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with a unique accessory: the S-Pen, which is basically a pressure sensitive stylus, one able to recognize 256 different levels of pressure.
The S Pen is not worth using in apps that do not support it. But in apps that do support the S Pen, that’s where the Galaxy Note 10.1 shines. For instance, editing photos on a tab was never easier than it is with the S Pen optimized Adobe Photoshop Touch app (comes for free on all Galaxy Notes 10.1). Taking notes using Samsung’s S Note app, now also able to recognize mathematic formulas, is also something you can’t do on an iPad. In addition, the Galaxy Note 10.1 also uses most of the smart functions that have been introduced by Galaxy S3.
Yet another function that’s unique to the Galaxy Note 10.1 is its “Multiscreen” feature, one that allows users to use different applications side-by-side (for instance, you can watch a web page on half of the screen, and take notes with the S Pen on the other half), although just a few apps are currently supported. Although far from perfect, this is the best rendition of the multitasking principle that I have seen so far on a tablet, so I really hope that other tablet manufacturers learn from Samsung’s example.
Here's an official video from Samsung showcasing all the unique features of the Galaxy Note 10.1:
As a conclusion, on one side we have the amazing number of high quality apps designed for the iPad, while on the other, we get a bunch of cool features that are unique to the Galaxy Note 10.1. I told you this is a tough one!
Despite the fact that the Note 10.1 has a bigger display than the iPad by 0.4 inch, thanks to a very small bezel, the differences in size between the two devices are not as big as you would expect. The Note 10.1 measures 262 x 180 x 8.9 mm, while the iPad measures 241.2 x 185.7 x 9.4 mm, meaning that the Note 10.1 is actually thinner and less wide than the iPad 3. However, due to the fact that the new iPad uses an 11,560 mAh battery, I’m not going to hold its extra 0.5 mm thickness against it, since the Note 10.1 only uses a 7,000 mAh battery. Most of the extra battery goes to the iPad’s display, meaning that we should see similar battery life lengths. The huge battery is also what makes the iPad 3 a bit heavier than the Galaxy Note 10.1: 652 grams vs 597 grams. Both tablets are very slick looking, so neither wins in the design aspect.
Now to the extras, I must say that I applaud the fact that Samsung has decided to place a microSD slot on the Galaxy Note 10.1, something that the iPad does not feature. If you ever need more space, you can just buy a 64GB microSD card and you instantly get more storage than a tablet really needs, anyway.
Connectivity-wise, both tablets are equally prepared, as Samsung has announced that an LTE-compatible version of the Galaxy Note 10.1 will be available later this year, while Wi-Fi only and 3G versions will launch starting this month.
At the present, the new iPad is available in roughly all corners of the world, in all its versions (Wi-Fi only, LTE). Pricing has remained consistent since the original iPad, so at least you know what to expect when you set to buy an Apple tablet.
Unfortunately, Samsung has not shared any details regarding the price of the Galaxy Note 10.1, so we’re unable to judge this category at the time being. However, Samsung has announced that their Galaxy Note 10.1 will become available worldwide by the end of this month, so we’ll soon update this section with pricing information for the Galaxy Note 10.1.
So… is the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 the iPad killer that Android fans have been expecting? Unfortunately not!
And this is all due to the fact that the Note 10.1 has a poor resolution display. Sure, it comes with a few cool features, the quad-core processor is powerful, while the S Pen and the S Pen optimized apps are certainly something that will draw many customers, but tablets are really all about the display. And when you fail in the display department, the tablet cannot be deemed as better than the iPad. The Note is a different kind of tablet, and that might help a lot with Samsung’s sale numbers, but from an end-user perspective, in the summer of 2012, I expect all top-end devices to feature a crisp display (meaning that the PPI ratio should rest well above 200).
Feel free to disagree and share your opinions in the comments section below!