Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) Review
Interface and Functionality
If you’ve used a recent Galaxy device, then you’ll be at home with the TouchWiz Nature UX experience that’s running on top of Android 4.3 Jelly Bean on the Note 10.1 2014 Edition. In fact, the look, feel, and experience is similar to what’s seen on the Galaxy Note 3 – albeit, there are some notable omissions with its features set. Looking around, we feel at home with this interface, which again continues to have a slightly cartoonish element with its design. If you’re coming from the Galaxy S4, there isn’t nothing particularly new here folks, as the Note 10.1 very much works in standard fashion to its siblings – albeit, there’s more emphasis placed upon the various functions of the S Pen.
Considering that this is launching the same time as the Note 3, you’d think that it’s packed with all the same features, right? Strangely, it doesn’t have nearly the same features, as it lacks the Galaxy S4 and Note 3’s Air Gesture functionality – so there’s no waving of our hands to scroll web sites or flip through photos in the gallery. However, it does offer Air View, which is only accomplished via the S Pen. Sorry folks, there’s no finger tracking technology here.
Some minor, yet noteworthy extras like Air View, Smart Pause, and Smart Scroll are also present and you can learn more about them in our Samsung Galaxy S4 Review. Generally speaking, they all work and function in the manner we know them, but still, we would like to see their functions extended to other apps. For example, we can use the Air View function with the default email client, which enables us to preview messages by hovering the S Pen over the particular item, but it doesn’t work with the Gmail app. And the same thing can be said about the Smart Scroll feature with the default web browser – we can scroll with our eyes, but it’s not something we can do with Chrome.
So what’s actually new with the experience on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition that makes it different? Well, let’s explain them really quick below.
One of them, called Multi Window, takes great advantage of the phone's extra screen real estate. It allows one to have two apps open at the same time, each of them displayed in a window of its own. What's more is that on the Note 10.1, the same app can be opened twice, which means you are free to have two IM conversations open simultaneously. It’s what we like to call real multi-tasking, whereas it’s “task switching” with the normal Android way.
Another feature we quite like is My Magazine, powered by Flipboard. Think of it as a smart RSS reader for your news feed, but integrated into the UI. And by integrated we mean you can launch it with an upward swipe from the bottom of the home screen, just like you would trigger Google Now on a stock Android device. Visually and functionally, the app is diverse enough to be a one-stop hub for all our news/social networking needs.
Air Command is the new feature attached with the S Pen, which is automatically activated when the stylus is removed from its slot – or manually by hovering anywhere on the screen with the S Pen, and then clicking on the button on its body. Once activated, this fan looking thing pops up on the screen of the Note 10.1, thus, giving us access to yet five more functions – Action Memo, Scrap Booker, Screen Write, S Finder, and Pen Window.
With Action Memo, it’s more of a “smart” memo program because in addition to jotting down useful notes, which might include details such as email addresses and phone numbers to a certain individual, Action Memo enables us to select certain parts of the memo that can be saved to the phone. For example, Action Memo automatically creates a new contact in our address book with the appropriate fields (email address, phone numbers, etc) already populated with the pertinent information.
Scrap Booker gives us more control in what we clip from the web browser, so that secondary details, such as web page URLs, can be attached to the content that we clip and put into the Scrap Booker. Additionally, we can also add tags and text memos into our scrapbook, which then allows us to search for them more precisely when we use S Finder.
Screen Write takes a screen shot of whatever we’re doing, and then allows us to draw on it afterwards. It’s nothing too extensive, but its functions are mostly basic with its cropping and sharing features.
If you’re the kind of person that writes a ton of notes, you’ll surely appreciate the S Finder feature of the Note 3. Seeing that it can recognize words that you personally write down, S Finder makes it super easy to look up notes that we might otherwise would have a hard time tracking down. At the end of the day, it’s nothing more than a search function for your notes.
And lastly, there’s Pen Window, which gives us “mini” version of certain apps that we use the most. It’s kind of has the same premise to Multi Window, but instead, these secondary apps are layered on top of everything. Drawing a square shape, these mini apps pop us and are accessible at any time. It’s useful , but the apps compatibility with this feature is pretty slim.
Processor and Memory
In being a true competitor in the landscape, this tablet is packing a considerable amount of heat under the hood. Like its sibling in the Note 3, the 2014 Edition Note 10.1 is powered by a quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC coupled with a whopping 3GB of RAM and the Adreno 330 GPU. With such an intimidating force behind it, the tablet performs smoothly with all operations – though, some evidence of choppiness and delayed moments rear their ugly heads every now and then. It’s not profound, honestly, seeing that it’s mostly seen when navigating around the homescreen when there are several widgets in use.
Available in 16GB and 32GB capacities, we’re grateful to know that the tablet flaunts a handy dandy microSD card slot to supplement its internal storage.
Being a full-sized tablet, the screen size of the Note 10.1 makes it ideal for typing in landscape. With portrait, though, the process is slower seeing that stretching with our thumbs becomes a common practice. Although it might be perceived as overwhelming, especially with so many characters on screen, we still appreciate how everything is nearly accessible from the main layout. Of course, the Note 10.1 also offers us the ability to actually write things down with the S Pen, but the on-screen keyboard still proves to be the faster method.
Emailing isn’t a problem either, as the standard Email and Gmail apps perfectly adhere to our needs with their functions and layouts. However, as we’ve clearly detailed earlier on, the standard Email apps benefits from making good use out of the experience’s Air View functionality, which allows us to preview messages via hovering the S Pen over the display. Sadly, the love doesn’t extend to the Gmail app.
Considering that Note 10.1 is primarily focused with the note-taking experience and gives users organization, it’s without question the device that offers the most extensive and deep level of functionality with its core organizer apps. On the surface, all of its organizer apps function in the same manner we all know and love with Android. Nonetheless, the implementation of its various features, like Air View and Air Command, allows the Note 10.1 to be on a totally different level from its peers.
Internet and Connectivity
Thanks in part to its speedy performance and higher resolution display, this 2014 Edition is dramatically better in the web browsing department over its predecessor. Not only are we treated to peppy navigational controls and the sharp visuals of its display, but the S Pen enables us to interact with web pages more like a computer. Specifically, hovering the S Pen mimics the function of a mouse cursor.
At the very least, the tablet is available in Wi-Fi form, but for those who require a constant data connection, cellular enabled versions with support for 4G LTE connectivity will be made available as well. Beyond that, it’s outfitted with aGPS, Bluetooth 4.0, and an IR blaster. Somewhat of a bummer, it lacks NFC for quick content sharing.