Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 impressions: Where do I put my stylus?

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - And an original Note

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?

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Plastic shell

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.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - S-Pen

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Adobe PhotoShop Touch

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.

Worth it?

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. 

Product Review

Samsung’s vibrant Galaxy A9 hits the mark with quad camera, misses on the price

Samsung’s new 2018 Galaxy S9 smartphone is a contender in the midrange smartphone world, due to a very special quad-cam setup on the back. It’s made for Instagram fans who want Galaxy S-style features and design, without the big price…
Mobile

Samsung CEO says its foldable phone will double as a tablet

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years now and a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy F, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.
Mobile

How many? The Samsung Galaxy A9 has 4 camera lenses on the back

Samsung's new Galaxy A9 phone, fresh for 2018, has four camera lenses on the back. It's no gimmick either, as each performs a unique function, making the phone a versatile camera to have in your pocket.
Mobile

Razer Phone 2 vs. Galaxy Note 9: They’re closer than you think

While the Razer Phone wasn't a bad phone, it failed to set the market on fire. Razer's back though, with the much improved Razer Phone 2. But can it beat one of the big boys -- the Galaxy Note 9? We found out.
Mobile

Pocket transforms articles into podcasts with an assist from Amazon

Read-it-later app Pocket is adding an option to turn articles into easily navigable podcasts with its new app redesign for iOS and Android. The feature relies on Amazon's voice-to-text service Polly.
Mobile

Here’s our guide on how to get ‘Fortnite’ on your Android device

'Fortnite: Battle Royale' is one of the biggest games in the world right now, and it's finally on Android, even if getting set up is a bit long-winded. Here's how to play 'Fortnite: Battle Royale' on an Android device.
Product Review

Hotter than a Dot? Google's Home Mini outsmarts, doesn't outperform Amazon rival

With voice match and improved artificial intelligence capabilities, the $49 Google Home Mini is a voice assistant that seamlessly puts the Google platform on the tip of your tongue.
Computing

How to recover Google contacts

If you accidentally deleted an important person from your Google Contacts, they might not be lost forever. Recovering them is a fairly easy process -- as long as you do it quickly. Here's how.
Deals

Save up to $1,000 with the best smartphone deals for October 2018

Need a better phone but don't want to spend a fortune? It's never a bad time to score a new smartphone and save some cash. We rounded up the best smartphone deals available that can save you as much as $1,000.
Mobile

Got gadgets galore? Keep them charged up with the 10 best USB-C cables

If you weren't already aware, USB-C is quickly becoming mainstream. That's why we've rounded up some of the better USB-C cables on the market, whether you're looking to charge or sync your smartphone.
Computing

Tired of choosing between Windows and Mac? Check out these Chromebooks instead

We've compiled a list of the best Chromebooks -- laptops that combine great battery life, comfortable keyboards, and the performance it takes to run Google's lightweight Chrome OS. From Samsung to Acer, these are the Chromebooks that really…
Mobile

OnePlus charges into U.K. carrier stores, leaving online-only start in the past

OnePlus's next phone, the OnePlus 6T, will be more widely available than any OnePlus phone before it, as the company has announced major deals with retailers in the U.K. The device launches on October 30.
Mobile

The Palm has been revived, and it wants to help you limit your smartphone usage

A reboot of the classic Palm is finally here and it's tiny. It syncs to your phone and acts as a secondary device -- with a feature to help you disconnect from technology. At $350, the Palm will be available exclusively through Verizon.
Product Review

The all-new Palm wants to be many things, but it’s really just a tiny smartphone

The all-new Palm is here, and it’s tinier than ever. Exclusive to Verizon, it syncs to your primary smartphone and acts as a secondary device -- with features to help you disconnect from technology. But at $350, is it worth the high price…