Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition Review and Giveaway

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Releasing a tablet with the exact same name and slapping “2014 Edition” on it does not necessarily make you think that huge changes are in store. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, despite having a name that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, actually brings some serious new goodies to the table. Does it rewrite everything you’ve ever thought a tablet could be? No, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive as far as high-end tablets go.

We’re giving away this Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) tablet! Read on to find out what it’s all about, then join our giveaway to be in the running to win it!

Introducing the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition

Samsung has thrown its latest Note 10.1 inch tablet right into the heart of the incredibly competitive top-of-the-line tablet space. As more and more buyers seek such devices, the competition level explodes. Of course, this is a good thing for buyers, as competition forces manufacturers to add new features and push devices to another level.

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When you think of high-end tablets, the iPad is surely one of the first that comes to mind. At $549 for the 16 GB model and $599 for the 32 GB model, Samsung’s offering is $50 dearer for the 16 GB and is the exact same price for the 32 GB when compared to Apple’s newly-announced iPad Air.

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Of course, Apple is not Samsung’s only competition. Plenty of other Android models¬†exist close to that price range, such as the Nexus 10 (which is a Samsung device, but marketed by Google), which comes in a full $100 cheaper while offering very similar specs. You could even argue that Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX line falls in a similar space, but it lacks many of the features and has a smaller screen. Even the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 could be a potential competitor, but it’s $899 price tag will likely be prohibitive to many buyers (plus, you know, Windows 8).

What it really comes down to is the S Pen, which is something you will not find on any of Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition’s competitors. Does this put it over the edge, or is it simply a gimmick? You’ll have to keep reading to find out for yourself.

Initial Impressions

Samsung’s latest Note tablet comes in a pretty simple light brown box, which seems to be the trend for most of Samsung’s portable devices now. Upon opening, you are greeted by the beautiful tablet with its charger and documentation tucked underneath. Plenty of plastic covers the tablet, which is always good, since you know it will not arrive damaged.

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Once I removed the plastic, the first thing I did was look for the S Pen, which is the main reason to buy this model, after all. It took me a few seconds to locate it, and having never used a Samsung device featuring one, I was a little surprised how simple it looks. Knowing how advanced it actually is, it doesn’t look much different than a Nintendo DS stylus.

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The tablet is available in both white and black, and we opted to go with a white model for our review unit. From an aesthetics standpoint, it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s covered in the same¬†faux-leather that graces the back of the Galaxy Note 3, and it looks and feels awesome. You can immediately feel the extra grip it provides, which makes holding it a little easier, and much more comfortable.

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When I first turned the device on, all of my initial thoughts were incredibly positive. The setup process is easy, and you cannot help but notice just how stunning that ultra-high resolution 10.1-inch screen actually is.

Design

As I mentioned previously, this is a well-designed tablet. Every detail about it is absolutely beautiful. Personally, I think the white looks a little more elegant, but both colors are fantastic.

While Apple was quick to tout the incredible lightness of their new iPad Air, the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition is not far off, coming in at only 1.19 pounds; a difference you will be hard-pressed to actually notice when holding the two devices. Right off the bat, this makes the Galaxy Note 10.1 the most comfortable tablet I have ever held (the iPad Air is not available as of this writing, but 0.19 pounds is a negligible difference).

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An interesting design choice, and one that makes a lot of sense, is the location of the home button. It’s placed on the side of the tablet — so right from the start, you can tell that Samsung intended for this to be used primarily in landscape mode. You can still rotate the device, of course, but for most functions, I found myself using it on its side.

Another design change, and one that generates a mixed reaction compared to last year’s offering is the speakers. They have moved to the side of the tablet, and are no longer forward-facing. This allows the device to have a much thinner bezel around the screen, which certainly looks better. However, the new speaker location isn’t ideal and reduces the output volume, which is an obvious drawback. Now, they are not unusably quiet, but there is a noticeable difference.

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All in all, this is a stunning device. Most of the changes made over last year’s model ring positive, and it’s clear Samsung took their time to make this device beautiful and functional.

Specifications

Having a beautiful device is great, but what’s under the hood is also incredibly important. One of the most impressive parts of the Note 10.1 2014 Edition is its screen, which is, as the name implies, 10.1 inches. It also features a¬†2560×1600 resolution, and I must say, it looks absolutely drop dead gorgeous. Everything from playing games to watching videos is made better by the screen.

As far as power goes, the¬†1.9 GHz Exynos 5420 quad-core processor and 3 GB of RAM creates a fast experience, even when running two applications at the same time. However, Samsung’s version of Android is not the fastest, which we will dig into later.

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The¬†8,220 mAh battery performs well. You can easily¬†expect it to last two or three days with moderate usage. If you run the device continuously, that figure drops to about 7 to 8 hours, which is not the best battery performance, but when you consider how bright the screen is and how much power the device has under the hood, it’s certainly not bad.

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I’ve always thought the concept of a rear-facing camera on a tablet is kind of dumb. I mean, who is going to hold up their 10-inch device to take photos? That being said, the camera in the Note 10.1 2014 Edition is very underwhelming. It’s only 8 megapixels, and it struggles in moderate to low light. Samsung’s camera app is great, offering plenty of options and modes, but none of that really matters here since the hardware underperforms. On the video side, it records 1080p video, which is fine, but it suffers from the same issues as the still camera in terms of lighting.

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S Pen

I have very mixed feelings on the S Pen overall. On one hand, it’s a really cool accessory that adds some interesting functionality to the tablet. On the other hand though, much of it feels like a gimmick, and unless you are an artist planning on drawing on the tablet very often, you probably can’t quite find a use for it — your finger might perform just as well. Still, as far as a stylus goes, you will be hard-pressed to find one more advanced than this one.

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Using the S Pen to browse the web offers a minor but quite useful function: mousing over. With the S Pen, you can hold it over the link without actually touching the screen which works exactly as hovering a mouse cursor over a link on a computer. It’s an unexpected feature that I enjoyed.

You can use the S Pen to handwrite in almost any text field on the tablet, which is useful, but I didn’t find it to be any faster than just typing. For hunt and peck typists,¬†this could come in handy, but for someone accustomed to typing on a touchscreen, it’s more of a fun thing to show off. It’s accurate, which is all you can really ask for.

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The problem with using the handwriting input feature is that it’s kind of tucked away ‚Äď you have to hold down the gear icon to switch. It would have been nice if the button to jump to this mode was more apparent, but at once you know where it is, it’s not a big deal.

The main selling point of the S Pen is the Air Command widget. It gathers a bunch of tools specifically made for the stylus in a convenient menu that you access by simply pressing the button on the stylus while holding it near the screen. It will also launch as soon as you remove the S Pen from its holster in the tablet.

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Tucked inside the slick menu is five useful functions ‚ÄstAction Memo, Scrap Booker, Screen Writer, S Finder, and Pen Window. Action memo allows you to create quick handwritten notes that are linked to actions within the tablet, Scrap Booker lets you draw around any element on the web and save it to your device, Screen Writer takes a screenshot and lets you annotate it, S Finder is a search function, and Pen Window lets you draw a small window on the screen to open up a limited selection of multitasking apps. Each of these functions adds a lot of value and productivity to the device, which is, of course, a good thing.

Using the S Pen to write notes is an incredibly responsive experience. It is able to detect different levels of pressure and will make lighter or darker strokes based on how hard you push down (this is also fantastic for drawing). Samsung also stores your handwritten notes right on the home screen with a widget, which makes it easy to see them whenever you need to get access to them.

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It’s nothing like buying a third-party stylus on other tablets, as all those do is replicate your finger. With the S Pen, you get a stylus that is an integral part of the experience, but in spite of that, much of it feels like a gimmick. Other than writing and drawing, there is not much you can do with the S Pen that you can’t do with your finger just as easily. Still, it’s unique to Samsung, and if it’s a feature that compels you, this is the tablet to own.

TouchWiz UI

The Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition comes with Android 4.3 installed, but as is the case with all Samsung devices, it’s not a stock version of the OS. Instead, it comes with TouchWiz, which is a modification of Android OS that people either love or hate. Personally, I think it’s quite nice to look at, but if you are used to stock Android, this might not be your cup of tea.

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While at its core, it’s still Android, but there are some notable changes, such as a more widget-heavy focus. There is also the multi-window feature, which we will get to later. Most of the time TouchWiz runs snappily, but if you have a lot of widgets, performance will decrease occasionally, indicated by a slight delay between switching pages. This delay is even more exaggerated when opening Samsung’s My Magazine¬†interface, which can take over a full second to respond to the required gesture.

Speaking of My Magazine, it’s a really nice looking feature that is actually powered by Flipboard. It lets you follow the latest happenings in your news and social feeds. It’s quite beautiful, but I still prefer a traditional RSS reader and the apps for the social networks I want to use. I tried it out a couple of times, and just didn’t find it useful enough.

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All in all, TouchWiz UI looks fantastic, but it just doesn’t¬†run as fast as stock Android. Still, the beefy processor compensates for that in almost all instances, and gaining the multitasking is well worth the trade off.

Coolest Features

There are a few things the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition does that really surprised and impressed me. The one thing that I enjoyed the most was multitasking. Samsung lets you run two applications at the same time, with the screen split between the two. Not all apps are supported, but many key ones like YouTube, Hangouts, and the web browser are. You can drag the dot between the two apps to make one take up more of the display.

Along with the S Pen is the ability to launch S Window, which allows you to open a small app window on top of another one. You can, for example, launch a calculator over the web browser to perform some calculations without switching over to another app entirely. Of course, all of this could be done on a laptop, but it does help bring the tablet closer to the same level of functionality.

Another feature that I absolutely love is the eye tracking. The tablet will scan your face, and it will not go to sleep as long as you are looking at it. This is quite handy if you are doing something that doesn’t require actively¬†touching the screen.

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The front-facing camera also allows you to scroll through web pages without ever touching the screen. You simply look at it until the tablet acknowledges that it recognizes your eyes, then all you have to do is look up and down the page to scroll. With glasses on, there were occasions where it would not track my eyes properly, and I had to tilt my head to scroll, but it’s still a really great feature, and one that is a lot of fun to show your friends when you are playing with your new toy.

Should you buy the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition?

Generally speaking, I am not a tablet person. They fall directly into that line between phones and laptops; I just don’t see it as a gap that needs to be bridged. That being said, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition has almost turned me around, and as far as tablets go, it’s the most pleasant experience I have ever had. With the S Pen, the beautiful screen, and the true multitasking, Samsung did a great job here. However, if you don’t need the S Pen functionality, you might be better off saving some money and picking up a Nexus 10, which is a full $100 cheaper.

MakeUseOf recommends: Buy it if you want a fantastic tablet with S Pen functionality. Get a Nexus 10 if the S Pen doesn’t interest you.

How do I win the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition?

You may enter by submitting your name and email address. You’ll receive one entry simply by doing so.

After that, you’ll also be offered various methods to earn additional entries. They range from sharing a link to this giveaway on social networks; to commenting or visiting a specific page. The more you participate, the higher your chances of winning! You will receive 5 additional entries into the giveaway for every successful referral via your shared links.

This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, November 8. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.

The Winner

Congratulations, Andrew Lee! You would have received an email from jackson@makeuseof.com. Please respond before November 14 to claim your prize. Enquires beyond this date will not be entertained.

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact Jackson Chung for further details.

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2,248 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Shane

Great review, i appreciate all the detail you went in to aswell. Thanks.

I will get one this afternoon!

Reply

Dexter W

Y(^_^)Y Loving It!

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Kent

I should add . . . a lite version of AutoCad is available FOR FREE for Android, as well as a version of Photoshop. Both of these would take great advantage of an S-Pen. Again, the market is people in the design world, of all it’s flavors. For everyone else, the regular non-Note Galaxy Tab is probably sufficient.

Reply

Kent

A decent review, although I had to kind of skim it.

One thing though . . . it never ceases to amaze me when people write things like “I have very mixed feelings on the S Pen overall . . . adds some interesting functionality to the tablet. On the other hand though, much of it feels like a gimmick. . . ”

I mean, that’s like a hairdresser saying, “I tested a tractor but I can’t really see it’s usefulness as I never use most of what it does – the whole thing seems like a huge gimmick.”

If you are an an artist, architect, anyone in construction, or any trade, skill or hobby where you need to make sketches and drawings, – to name a few – the S-Pen would be the sine qua non.
This would be the tablet that would stand out for you among all the others w/o S-Pen type functionality.
Read some reviews from people that take advantage of it and see if they would say it’s a “gimmick”.

When you make a review, I really think you have to think of the device’s audience, not just how it would fit into your own personal world.

Reply

Deysi D

I’ll admit it I’m a little sad I didn’t win :(

Reply

BidServices

Great review for the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. Thank you for sharing.

Reply

Matthew Masters

My care facility could make use of this gem!

Reply

Juanita Cook

I haven’t used one before but would love the chance to try.

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Abdul Mannan

i need it

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Sammy K

Either the Note 10.1 because of the S-pen (I tend to write small) or the Nexus 10 because it’s a Nexus and actually gets updates in a timely manner.

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