Samsung made some major announcements in early September that we’re sure you were very well aware of. The Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear understandably received much of the attention during Samsung’s announcement, although an update to their Galaxy Note 10.1 was announced alongside both devices.

The new Galaxy Note 10.1 has received a refresh this year that adds some improvements to its internal specs, its display and even a few tweaks to the tablet’s overall design that resemble much of what Samsung introduced in the Galaxy Note 3’s design. From our short time with the new Galaxy Note 10.1 during Samsung’s press event in early September, we were really impressed with its speed and display.

Now that the new Galaxy Note 10.1 is made it to our offices, we proceeded to run it through our review process to see if this could be one of the best tablets Samsung has ever offered, or if it’s just another minor improvement that you probably could do without. There’s only one way to find out and that’s by checking out our review of the Galaxy Note 10.1 – 2014 Edition.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – 2014 Edition Specs

Display: 2500 x 1600
Display Size: 10.1”
Display Type: Super Clear LCD
Processor: 1.9GHz quad-core Cortex-A15
RAM: 3GB
Storage: 16GB / 32GB / 64GB
MicroSD: Yes > up to 64GB
Battery Capacity: 8220 mAh Li-ion
Rear-Facing Camera: 8MP
Front-Facing Camera: 2MP
Weight: 535g
Dimensions: 243.1mm x 171.4mm x 7.9mm

Complete specifications are available on Samsung.com

Context

I’ve reviewed a number of tablets for Ubergizmo, including Samsung’s recently released Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 and Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 and got my hands on the new Galaxy Note 10.1 during a press event Samsung held in early September. I think it’s safe to say that I’m pretty well educated in Samsung’s latest offerings and will try to do my best to judge the complete package of the Galaxy Note 10.1, which includes its improved internal specs, improvements to its software and everything else.

Industrial Design

The new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 borrows much of its design from the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1, although there are certainly a number of improvements that make it stand out a bit more when compared to that tablet. One of the first things you’ll notice when you pick up the Galaxy Note 10.1 is its 10.1-inch screen, which is displays a resolution of 2500 x 1600. Surrounding the screen is a white bezel, which looks to measure in at ½ an inch on its sides and around 1 inch on the bottom and top. The top bezel is where you’ll find the Galaxy Note 10.1’s front-facing camera, an ambient light sensor and the Samsung logo, while the bottom is where the device’s oval home screen can be found, with a capacitive menu and back button located at its sides.

"SAMSUNG HAS GIVEN THE GALAXY NOTE 10.1 THE PREMIUM LOOK AND FEEL IT SO RIGHTFULLY DESERVES"  

The outer rim of the Galaxy Note 10.1 is highlighted with thick strip of aluminum that has small grooves, although you barely feel the grooves when you’re normally handling the tablet. The top of the tablet is where its sleep / wake button and volume rocker are located towards to the left, and there’s an IR blaster located right in the middle. The right side is where you’ll find the Note 10.1’s S Pen, one of its dual speakers and a microSD slot, which supports cards up to 64GB. The bottom is where you’ll find a microUSB port and a very small microphone port. To finish off the rim, the left side you’ll find the second speaker along with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The rear of the Galaxy Note 10.1 borrows from what was introduced in the Galaxy Note 3, which is a part of a new design language the company is rolling out on its mobile products. Instead of a plastic rear shell, which many have criticized over the years, Samsung has included a stitched leather look, although it isn’t as smooth leather should be. The stitched leather certainly feels smoother than the typical plastic shell, but don’t expect it to feel as soft as your leather couch or wallet, if you happen to own either. At the top-center portion of the rear, you’ll find the Note 10.1’s 8MP main camera, and a Samsung logo sitting right below it.

The design of the Galaxy Note 10.1 is a step up from the original tablet as it doesn’t add any unnecessary bulk to the tablet due to Samsung streamlining its design. Samsung has given the Galaxy Note 10.1 the premium look and feel it so rightfully deserves.

Display (excellent)

Samsung has included displays on its tablets that typically feature a resolution of 1280 x 800, which is a pretty standard resolution for 10.1-inch, 8-inch and 7-inch tablets, but the company has finally stepped up their tablet resolutions starting with the new Galaxy Note 10.1. The 2014 edition Galaxy Note 10.1 features a display resolution of 2500 x 1600, and it looks absolutely gorgeous when viewing in person. Thanks to the resolution as well as its Super Clear LCD screen, colors are extremely vibrant, text looks crisp and there’s a deep contrast as well.

It’s a shame the photos we take of the Galaxy Note 10.1’s screen will be degraded due to a number of reasons, so if you get a chance to check it out at your local consumer electronics retailer, do so as you’ll be as impressed with the display as we are.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – 2014 Edition Custom Features

Air Command

Samsung introduced Air View with its Galaxy Note 2, and it’s taking things a bit further as you’ll now be able to issue Air Commands while using the S Pen. All you’ll need to do is hold your S Pen about an inch away from the screen, to which you’ll see a dot indicating the Note 10.1 senses the pen within its proximity. At this range, clicking on the button towards the tip of the S Pen will result in the Air Commands to be accessible. Once Air Command pops up, you’ll be able to perform five different actions: Action Memo, Scrap Booker, Screen Write, S Finder and Pen Window.

Action Memo

All of the actions within the Air Command allow you to perform some neat things, such as the Pen Window action, which allows you to open a new window over whatever it is you’re doing to a number of things, such as a Google Hangouts chat, a YouTube video or even an Internet browser. But the one action we were most impressed with was Action Memo, which allows you to take a simple memo and perform an action surrounding that memo. For example, you can jot down a phone number and email address of someone you just met, and then have the Galaxy Note 10.1 read your handwriting and import that information into your Contacts. It makes having to input that kind of information less tedious and a little more fun, especially if you prefer to write things down rather than inputting them through a virtual keyboard.

Samsung Knox

We know how important it is for people to be allowed to BYOD at work, although being able to separate your work life and personal life on a single device can be difficult to do. With Samsung Knox, the company has made it easier to separate business and pleasure by giving the user access to a completely separate profile that can feature corporate emails, applications, calendars and anything else you’d need in order to keep up with work. Best of all, Samsung Knox is password protected, so you can easily pass around your Note 10.1 to your friends and family without worrying about your work-related material getting messed with.

Killer Apps

Virtual Keyboard (very good)

We’ve always been fans of the virtual keyboard Samsung makes available on its smartphone and tablet devices and the Galaxy Note 10.1’s keyboard is no different. The standard virtual keyboard Samsung has made available on a number of its mobile devices which has Swiftkey support, meaning you can drag your finger or the S Pen across different keys in order to spell something out. Samsung’s keyboards also has a small row located above the keys that contains numbers, which makes getting to number keys so much easier.

If you don’t feel like typing, the Galaxy Note 10.1 allows you to write with the S Pen as well. Just hover over where you want to write, click on the S Pen icon and then you can start writing your correspondence the old-fashioned way: by writing with a digital pen on a tablet.

Facebook (good)

Facebook has yet to be create a standalone application that makes full use of the size of Android tablets as they’re often just blown-up versions of the smartphone application. This certainly holds true with Facebook on the Galaxy Note 10.1, and is made even more apparent when viewing the application in landscape mode. Images look extremely stretched out and often pixelated while videos also suffering the same fate. Viewing Facebook in portrait mode makes things slightly better, but at this stage in the game, Facebook really needs to update its application so larger tablets can give users an experience they deserve.

Google Maps (excellent)

Google Maps is on the Galaxy Note 10.1 is exactly what you’d expect if you’re familiar with the popular mapping software. You can view a map of your immediate area, search for a location and receive turn-by-turn navigation to your destination. Google Maps can give you public transit information, current traffic conditions and even bicycle routes. If you sync your Google profile with Maps, you can also save favorite locations and access previously searched locations across multiple devices. And on the Galaxy Note 10.1, we noticed no slowdown at all when navigating through Google Maps, which makes using it even easier.

Entertainment (good)

Video Playback (average)

Samsung has offered a pretty standard video player across its previously released tablets, and it looks like the only difference between the Galaxy Note 10.1 and other Samsung tablets is its amazing screen. In regards to the actual video player, you’ll be able to control videos as you’d expect: you can play, pause, fast forward and rewind videos at any time. You can also launch the video play in multi-window mode, which shrinks the video to allow it to play so you can do something else in the background. You can also wirelessly transmit videos from your device to other Samsung devices, such as an HDTV.

Gaming (excellent)

For the purpose of our gaming test, we played Candy Crush Saga, which is more of a casual puzzle game, and Dead Trigger, which pushes the hardware of Android devices a little harder as its a first-person shooter with 3D graphics. We know Samsung included a 1.9GHz quad-core processor in the Galaxy Note 10.1, so we expected it to perform very well in this section, and we weren’t let down. Both Candy Crush Saga and Dead Trigger performed flawlessly as the Note 10.1 was able to run them without any issues.

Speaker Quality (weak)

Samsung isn’t known for offering ground-breaking speakers on its mobile devices. The Galaxy Note 10.1 features dual stereo speakers that are located at both sides of the tablet, which certainly helps increase in the range at which its sound can be delivered. Unfortunately, the speakers favor mostly high range sounds, which means for the most part, you’ll be hearing music, videos and anything else in an extremely tinny sound. The one good thing about the speakers is at their loudest setting, they can be really loud, which means you’ll be able to enjoy your tunes from across the room or even one or two rooms away.

If you take your music serious and really want the Galaxy Note 10.1, we recommend you get yourself either some good headphones or bluetooth speaker as you’re not going to be happy with the quality of the speakers on this tablet. For the rest of you, you’ll probably make due with what the Note 10.1 offers to watch viral videos about what foxes say, but it may feel a bit lacking

Digital Imaging (very good)

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 features an 8MP main camera in addition to a 2MP front-facing camera. We were extremely impressed with the Galaxy S4’s camera in regards to its quality as well as its software. Tablets tend to not have the greatest camera, although with an 8MP camera, the Note 10.1 may offer an experience that could finally change that way of thinking.

For the purpose of our review, we put the camera of the new Galaxy Note 10.1 up against another 10.1-inch Samsung tablet: the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1.

Camera Application (very good)

The new Galaxy Note 10.1 features many of the modes that were first featured in the camera application on the Galaxy S4. Users can choose a wide range of modes, including modes to select the best photo and face from a set of images, HDR support, drama shots and even the ability to delete photobombers through an Eraser mode.

Outside of the modes, you can change a number of the camera application’s settings for both still photos and videos. You can use voice control to take photos through trigger words, change your video recording mode to support fast-motion video and go into more extreme changes such as setting the camera’s white balance and exposure value.

Photo and Video Quality (very good)

The quality of photos and videos taken on the Galaxy Note 10.1 are a big improvement when compared to the camera on the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. As you can see from the sample images, the photo the Note 10.1 took has much better color, contrast and depth when compared to the Tab 3 10.1. There’s also a higher amount of detail in the Note 10.1’s photo that the Tab 3 10.1 just couldn’t capture, no matter how hard we tried.

Performance (excellent)

The new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 features a number of improvements over the original, both on the outside and inside. The tablet now has a 1.9GHz quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM along with additional improvements, although for the purpose of our performance portion of our review, we’ll just be focusing on how well the tablet will run using two benchmarks: Antutu and GLBenchmark.

"THE GALAXY NOTE 10.1 EXCEEDED OUR EXPECTATIONS"  

Antutu 3.x is an overall system performance benchmark which takes into account everything an Android device has to offer, including its CPU, GPU, and storage. The majority of Android devices tend to fall into a comparable performance footprint, which means unless you need to do something very specific with your device, like gaming, then you can expect a similar performance across the board.

antutu results

The overall performance of the Galaxy Note 10.1 exceeded our expectations as it scored a total of 29257. This score easily becomes the best one we’ve seen come from a 10.1-inch tablet, and what it means for you is that you don’t have to worry about the Galaxy Note 10.1 underperforming, especially when multi-tasking.

The second benchmark, GLBenchmark 2.7, was designed to stress the Android device’s graphics processor by running a game-like demo which features a fight between various characters in a number of different environments.

glbenchmark results

The Galaxy Note 10.1 also performed exceptionally well in our benchmark as it scored a total of 63 frames per second. This means the tablet will perform very well when 3D graphics are concerned. If our gaming portion of our review was any indication, you can expect a really smooth experience.

Perceived Performance

In addition to benchmarks, we also think it’s important to make a note of how a device’s perceived performance is. As you could expect from our benchmark results, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is extremely speedy when navigating across multiple applications, writing using the S Pen and multi-tasking.

Battery (very good)

The new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 features an 8220 mAh Li-ion battery, which is an improvement over the original Galaxy Note 10.1’s 7000 mAh battery. Considering how many more features and improved specs the new Galaxy Note 10.1 has over its original, we can see why Samsung had to improve its battery life, so let’s see just how much juice you’ll get out of the tablet.

Moderate Usage (very good)

For the purpose of our moderate usage test, we typically keep tabs on how far the battery drops on a tablet for an hour based on everyday usage. In the case of the Galaxy Note 10.1, we used it to correspond via email, browse Facebook, Twitter and Google+, chat through Google Hangouts,  and read a few news stories. After an hour of performing moderate tasks, we noticed the battery of the Galaxy Note 10.1 dropped by 12%, which means under these conditions you should expect a little over 8 hours of battery life as long as you don’t push the tablet’s hardware too hard.

Video Streaming Test (good)

For our video streaming test, we had the Galaxy Note 10.1 playing a 1080p video for an hour with its display set to 50% of its full brightness and the sound off. After our test was complete, we noticed a drop in the Galaxy Note 10.1’s battery by 14%, which means you should expect a little over 7 hours of battery life when streaming HD video.

Intense Usage (very good)

Our intense usage test sees how well a device’s battery can perform when its hardware is pushed to its limits. For the purpose of this test, we played Dead Trigger for an hour, which is a game that pushes devices to their limits with its 3D graphics, lighting effects and wave after wave of zombies. After an hour of running Dead Trigger on the Galaxy Note 10.1, we noted a drop of 24% in the tablet’s battery, which means you should expect a little over four hours of battery life when you push the tablet to its limits, such as when playing games.

Charging Time

As important as it is to gauge just how long a battery lasts in a mobile device, we think it’s equally important to gauge how long it’ll take to recharge a device. During this test, we had the Galaxy Note 10.1 charging for an hour with its display off and noted an increase of 18% in the tablet’s battery. This means if you run the battery dry of your Galaxy Note 10.1, it’ll recharge completely in under six hours. If you need your tablet to be fully charged, we recommend leaving it charging overnight so you can take advantage of its full battery the following day.

Conclusion (very good)

If you absolutely need to pick up a Samsung Android tablet this year, we highly recommend you pick the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition over the previously released Galaxy Tab 3 8.0 and Galaxy Tab 3 10.1. The Galaxy Note 10.1 is one of the fastest 10.1 tablets we’ve seen to date, thanks to the combination of its 1.9GHz quad-core processor as well as 3GB of RAM. The design of the Galaxy Note 10.1 is also top notch as Samsung is slowly moving away from the overall plastic feel of previously released products.

"THE GALAXY NOTE 10.1 IS ONE OF THE FASTEST 10.1 TABLETS WE'VE SEEN TO DATE"  

Not every experience on the Galaxy Note 10.1 is as exceptional as its speed and design as its speakers still need some much-needed attention, as well as its default video player. These two areas are certainly holding back the Galaxy Note 10.1 from receiving higher marks in our eyes, although considering most people listen to their tablets with headphones or a bluetooth speaker as well as watching videos through YouTube or other streaming services with their own media player, these issues may not cause too much concern for most people.

Even if you don’t expect to use the S Pen, you probably won’t be able to help yourself as jotting down notes or writing emails with your own handwriting is pretty fun. And considering there are a number of useful applications and features that make full use of the S Pen, adapting to using it as your main input method is pretty easy.

When all is said and done, the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition brings everything that’s worked in previously released Samsung devices and bundled it together with extremely powerful hardware. If you want the latest and greatest 10.1-inch Android tablet, then allow us to introduce you to the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition.

Overall product rating: 8/10
Filed in Featured >Reviews >Tablets . Tags: galaxy note 10.1 and Samsung.
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