Since its debut in mid-2011, Samsung’s revamped Galaxy Tab series has been one of the best Android alternatives to the iPad. It’s been so good, in fact, that Apple has been suing Samsung for IP infringement and actively working to block sales of the tablet across the globe. Despite the lawsuits, Samsung seems undeterred. This week, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s second-largest phone maker has unveiled its latest bids to become the world’s largest tablet maker: the Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, and the Galaxy Note 10.1, which headlines the new lineup.
The Note 10.1 combines the S-Pen concept of the 5.3-inch Galaxy Note phone with the big screen of a full-size 10-inch tablet. But is it worth the time?
It’s been a couple months but Samsung’s latest tablet is finally out, check out our full Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet review for more information.
Design deja vu
I’ve never had a problem with companies releasing clearly differentiated variations on a concept, but the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and the Galaxy Note 10.1 are practically clones of one another. Save for a couple of Adobe apps, a glossy polish, and a packaged S-Pen, there is almost no difference between the two tablets. If Samsung intends to sell these in the same markets (countries), it needs to come up with a reason for them to both exist. Representatives told me that the Tab 2 10.1 is being positioned as a cheaper alternative to the Note 10.1, but for all practical purposes, it’s nearly identical. The Note does have a slightly faster 1.4GHz dual-core processor compared to the 1GHz dual-core chip in the Tab 2. So that’s something, right?
The problem with positioning the Note as the more premium device is that it feels and looks a bit cheaper than the Tab 2. Instead of the nice faux-aluminum brushed finish, Samsung has slapped on a sparkly, shiny plastic case. Much like the HP TouchPad’s shiny shell, it’s a magnet for fingerprints and looks a bit funky after just a few moments of use.
The Note does come with Adobe PhotoShop Touch and Adobe Ideas pre-loaded, which is nice as both apps normally cost a bit to purchase in the Android market, but any Tab 2 owner could download these apps. The Tab 2 even appears to come with the S-Memo software. Why anyone would pay more for the Note, I do not know.
A stylus without a home
Fingerprints aren’t the only design flaw of the Note. Like the LG Optimus Vu, it’s a device marketed around its stylus support, but it has no spot to put the stylus when you’re not using it. It won’t be a few hours before you begin to misplace or forget the stylus. What good is a stylus if you don’t have it? Samsung reps told me that a special screen cover accessory may come with a spot to store your S-Pen, which means you’ll likely have to shell out another $40 to $100 for a cover. Then again, those with a tight budget probably aren’t opting for Samsung’s premium tablet.
TouchWiz and Android 4.0
Griping aside, Samsung’s implementation of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is a decent first attempt. There are still some issues with menu sizes that could be smoothed over, but Samsung has left in some of the nicer UI benefits of Google’s newest OS including swiping active apps away to close them, making folders, and checking your monthly data usage. In addition, it has brought over the clean style of the Galaxy Tabs and some of the more helpful widgets.
Without knowing the price of the Galaxy Note 10.1, when it will become available or some of its more detailed specs, it’s difficult to say if you should look forward to the Note 10.1. As it stands, we wouldn’t pay the extra money for a stylus without a home. While I have my issues with the 5.3-inch Note, at least it delivered on its promise. So far, using the S-Pen on the Note 10.1 has been disappointing. It feels like an afterthought. This is a decent tablet, but it’s not the best integrated writing experience.