Android Tablet: Samsung Note 10.1 Review

| #android | #Mobile Devices | #note | #review | #samsung | #tablet |

As a follow-up to the Android Phone thread, here’s the tablet thread! 

I bought a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, and I am unbelievably happy with it.  It’s only running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and it’s relatively low-res for a 10-inch device at 1280 x 800, but it’s got the quad-core Exynos chip and a huge battery and – importantly – it has the S-Pen.  Basically it’s a Wacom Cintique with a built-in Android computer, for $600 instead of $1200.  I fucking love it.

This post is divided into two parts: the unit itself, and then some software recommendations.

First up, the unit itself is sort of weirdly positioned as one of the best performing tabs with some curiously mid-range specs.  A lot of reviews I read before and after buying decry the resolution (1280 x 800) but in practice it’s perfectly fine.  Sure, someone else’s tab might look better, but – and I say this as the guy who loves his resolution – it doesn’t bother me at all.  It’s not so grainy it’s offensive, it’s not so low res you wonder why Samsung hates you. 

Some reviews talk about the build quality, as if the flexible plastic rear cover is somehow a knock against it when it provides that extra cushioning against impact, and allows the Note to have the best WiFi performance of any device I’ve ever used, including laptops.  This thing pulls in signals I’ve never seen before, and its GPS – REAL GPS, not that fake stuff on your phone – is incredibly fast and able to suck in what seems like every single satellite
up there.

Another byproduct of the plastic shell is weight.  It’s not heavy, and it’s easy to use on the couch or in bed or wherever you happen to need a giant fun toy.

The pen only goes in one way, which could be annoying, but it’s not like it takes me a huge amount of time to put it in properly.  The 30-pin Samsung connector is an unfortunate decision, but it allows one connector with a dozen uses instead of a dozen connectors, so I just hit Deal Extreme and bought a couple of spares.

Quite honestly I struggle to find any drawbacks to this device.  It works, it’s got one of the fastest Android CPUs you can buy, and you can draw on it.  The pen is amazing, it’s super sensitive and with the right apps, like the included full version of Photoshop or Sketchpad Pro you’re basically carring an decent studio worth of drawing equipment. 

On the software side, it’s a tablet, and that means its needs are a little bit different than an Android phone.  Let’s get to it.

Interestingly I find all the keyboard options too big to comfortably type on.  In portrait mode I can just about manage Swiftkey Tablet even if neither thumb can reach the G key comfortably, but it’s just uncomfortably huge.  In landscape mode is has a great split-keyboard that is much easier to use, but takes some getting used to. 

Instead, I find myself using the built-in Samsung keyboard the most, in pen mode.  Handwriting is so much faster than thumb-typing, it’s shocking.  It’s surprisingly accurate, without having to learn a weird writing style like the old Palm Pilots.  It utterly fails with punctuation, but is accurate enough most of the time that I rarely need to actually type.

Update: I use Swiftkey exlusively now.  I’ve gotten much quicker at it than I can write with a pen, so.


So if you have a Note, you’re set.  If you have a different tablet, you’ll probably be better off with Swiftkey:



The official Facebook app is bullshit on a tablet, it’s basically the standard client but MASSIVE.  It’s fucking annoying, conversations give you neck strain as you turn from one edge of the screen to the other.  Friendcaster is tablet-ready, and looks fantastic.  It also is far less prone to just doing nothing when trying to update than the official app.  Definitely recommended.


I dunno about the official Twitter app, but Falcon Pro is perfect.  Its split-column view is perfectly suited to the huge tablet screenspace.  Even if I was still using Twicca (which still has some amazing features) it’s not at all tablet-friendly.

[ Jan 26 2013 ]

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