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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £399
inc VAT

Some clever touches and we like the stylus, but it's an expensive tablet and the screen is low resolution compared to the competition


10.1 in 1,280×800 display, 597g, 1.4GHz Exynos 4 Quad, 2.00GB RAM, 16GB disk, Android 4.0


As well as being able to use the capacitive touchscreen using your fingers, as with any Android tablet, the Galaxy Note 10.1’s real trick is the stylus (called the S Pen) tucked into a slot at the rear of the tablet.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 S Pen holder
The S Pen tucks out of sight at the rear of the tablet

It would have been easy for Samsung to simple make the stylus a replacement for your finger, but it’s worked the pen into the entire operating system, making this tablet a different experience to normal.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 S Pen
Samsung has worked the S Pen into the entire Android operating system, but you can still use it happily with just a finger

First up is the Touchwiz interface, which gives you shortcuts to the S Note (a stylus-enabled note-taking utility), Browser, Video Player and Gallery apps: just tap and slide your finger or the S Pen up to launch the relevant app. Note that Touchwiz only works if you don’t have security, such as PIN protection, turned on.

In addition, there’s a shortcut menu that appears when you remove the S Pen from its housing or hold its button down and swipe upwards. This lets you launch stylus-enhanced applications, such as the excellent Adobe Photoshop Touch. You can’t customise this menu, although you can choose which application to auto-launch when you remove the S Pen.

Samsung has also made some tweaks to Android to make it work with the S Pen. So, hold the stylus’ button down and long-press on the screen and it takes a screenshot. Hold the button down and double-tap the screen and you get up a windowed version of S Note for taking a quick note.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 mathematical formula
S Note has handwriting, shape and formula recognition built-in, turning your scrawl into legible notes

It’s the full version of S Note where you get more control over what you’re writing, with special modes to help recognise mathematical formulas; a shapes mode to help you draw clean shapes, such as triangles and squares; and handwriting recognition.

The latter is very good, correctly identifying our scrawl and converting it into real text. Our main problem with the system is that it’s fiddly to correct mistakes and position the cursor, as you have to use the on-screen cursor keys.


Samsung has introduces a Multiscreen mode, which puts two apps side-by-side, so you can run them at the same time. For example, you could take notes on a YouTube video. It also has a clever trick up its sleeve, so you can take a screenshot of one app, crop to the bit you’re interested in and drag the resulting image into S Note. It’s a nice way of taking notes and illustrating them. The only restriction is that multiscreen only works with the Browser, Polaris Office, S Note, Video Player, Gallery and Email.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 screenshot annotation
Multiscreen lets you sit two applications side-by-side, or even grab, crop and save screenshots into S Note

Beyond this there’s the standard Android 4.0 operating system. It’s mostly fast and fluid, as you’d expect from a tablet with a 1.4GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM. Even so, scrolling through lists or complicated web pages can make the tablet a little bit jerky; we’ll be interested to see how it would run with Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) and its Project Butter update, which is designed to make the UI a lot smoother. There’s definitely enough processor power to hand, though, with the BBC News website taking around seven seconds to render.

Battery life is very good, with the Galaxy Note 10.1 lasting 9h 53m in our video playback test. This is pretty much the same battery life as Apple’s new iPad.

We like that Samsung has barely touched Android. It has added a screenshot button to the soft buttons bar, as well as a Mini Apps bar. Mini Apps are utilities that you can bring up in front of the main Android interface and include a calculator, music player and calendar, among others. They work quite well, but for us they don’t add anything over widgets or standard applications.


A 5-megapixel camera at the rear can be used for photos and for recording Full HD video at 30fps. Photos aren’t too bad. Colours are punchy and bright, and the image was generally well exposed. Noise reduction tends to smooth out any fine detail when you look closely at a frame.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 sample shot
Out test shot shows that colours are punchy and details good, while the exposure’s pretty spot on

Video is also pretty good. The footage was clear and sharp, although detail tends to get smoothed out due to noise reduction. We also found that it had a bit of trouble with exposure, particularly with light streaming through a window. Still, it’s good enough for occasional use.

A VGA camera sits at the front and can be used for video calling. Quality is as you’d expect: fine for the odd video chat, but severely lacking in detail of any other use. However, the camera has a second purpose: Smart stay. This uses the camera to keep the tablet turned on while it detects a face looking at the screen, and is used in the Samsung Galaxy S III. It works most of the time, but we found a few instances where it popped up a message telling us that it couldn’t detect a face and that we should adjust the angle of the tablet.


The Galaxy Note 10.1 is rare amongst tablets, as it has an Infrared port on the top. When used with the pre-installed Smart Remote app, you can turn your tablet into a full touchscreen smart remote for all of your electronics devices. It may not swing your decision in favour of the Galaxy Note 10.1, but it’s a nice addition for anyone buying one of these tablets.


The basic Wi-Fi model comes with 16GB of onboard storage, but there’s a 32GB version available, too. However, as there’s a Micro SD card slot, which can take cards up to 64GB, it may make more sense to buy the smaller capacity and upgrade as you see fit later. If you need mobile, there’s a 3G model available, too, which costs around £100 more than the equivalent Wi-Fi model.

Pricing is largely the Galaxy Note 10.1’s problem, as you can buy a 16GB Wi-Fi new iPad for exactly the same price. The iPad is better built, has a better screen and is smoother to use. When it comes to Android tablets, the Google Nexus 7 is considerably cheaper if you can live with a 7in screen. In other words, you’re going to really have to want the stylus to pay this much for the Galaxy Note 10.1.

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Basic Specifications

ProcessorExynos 4 Quad
Processor clock speed1.4GHz
Maximum memory2GB
Pointing devicetouchscreen, stylus


Viewable size10.1 in
Native resolution1,280×800
Graphics/video portsNone
Graphics MemoryN/A


Total storage capacity16GB
Optical drive typeN/A

Ports and Expansion

Wired network ports0
Wireless networking support802.11n
PC Card slots0
Supported memory cardsMicro SDXC
Other portsdock connector


Carrying caseNo
Operating systemAndroid 4.0
Operating system restore optionrestore partition
Software includedAdobe Photoshop Touch
Optional extrasN/A

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB