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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.

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 tablet 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 standout feature of Samsung's latest offering is the S Pen which opens up a whole new dimension of functionality and creativity thanks to Samsung's preloaded software and Android tweaks. Since the tablet was first introduced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona the Galaxy Note's specs have changed. Six months ago, Samsung said the Note 10.1 would pack a dual-core CPU and 1GB of memory, as well as have internal storage of up to 64GB. For its final release, though, Samsung bumps the Note 10.1 to a quad-core Samsung Exynos processor with 2GB of system memorymaking it the first shipping tablet I've tested with that much RAM. Gone is the 64GB internal storage option; Note 10.1 comes in 16GB ($499) and 32GB ($549) varieties, expandable via MicroSD card by up to 64GB.

Design

The Note 10.1 has a distinctive but not especially high-end look. It ships with either a white or dark gray plastic back, and matching bezel with silver plastics accents around the edges. The tablet is neither the thinnest nor the lightest tablet, but it compares respectably to others in its size class. It measures 10.3 by 7.1 by 0.35 inches, and it weighs 1.31 poundsslightly more than the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity but noticeably less than the Apple iPad weighs at 1.44 pounds.

The Note 10.1 is largely designed with the intent of holding it horizontally in two hands, with the front-facing 1.9-megapixel camera centered above the display, and stereo speakers mounted on either side. When I held the tablet in both of my hands, I tended to keep my hands towards the bottom edges, which meant my fingers didn't obstruct the speakers. However, when I held the tablet vertically, the audio sounded a bit skewed.

Pen Takes Center Stage

Along the top edge (when held in horizontal mode) is the power button and volume rocker, the sturdy flap covering the MicroSD card slot, infrared port for use with an HDTV, and headphone jack.

One nifty addition: A slot that houses the included S Pen. Samsung will have several after-market pen options available as well, but the included pen is larger than its Galaxy Note phone cousin. I'd personally prefer the thicker barrel of the optional S Pen Holder Kit, but I found the one that comes with the tablet serviceable for casual use. Having the pen's resting place neatly tucked into the tablet makes the pen infinitely more useful than a separate stylus could ever hope to be.

 

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