Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) vs Apple iPad 4
Currently, the iPad 4 runs on iOS 7.0.2 – the most recent version of Apple's mobile operating system. Since its introduction, it has received mixed feedback by critics, acclaimed by some for its refreshed feel and added functionality, yet despised by others because of its new look, often described as “cartoonish”. But whether we like it or not, that's where iOS is headed in terms of presentation, so better embrace it as it is for iOS 7 is still among the best of its kind. (Read more about it in our iOS 7 Review.)
However, iOS 7 isn't quite perfect. During our testing, we spotted a few bugs here and there, and although they weren't anything crucial, they spoiled the otherwise near-flawless user experience. Nevertheless, we're sure that Apple will take care of them in a timely manner.
The 2014 Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes running Android 4.3 out of the box, so it is also up to date on the software front. Naturally, Samsung has modified heavily the system's interface with a layer of TouchWiz UI. There are tons of visual alterations, additional features and premium apps thrown in, and, of course, plenty of extras taking advantage of that S Pen stylus we mentioned earlier.
These two operating systems may share a lot of visual and functional similarities, but there's actually quite a lot that sets them apart. Samsung's approach to UI design is to make sure its devices are loaded to the brim right out of the box. On the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition we find lots of potentially useful features, such as the multi-window mode, allowing one to have several apps running simultaneously side-by-side for true multitasking. Also, My Magazine is great for it serves as a beautiful news feed covering topics the user is interested in. Air View is pretty neat as well, giving a preview of a photo folder as you hover over it with the S Pen. Speaking of which, there's a bunch of applications built-in, made especially for the S Pen digital stylus (learn more about them in our Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review). So yeah, there's plenty of major and minor goodies you get with the Note 10.1 without ever having to open the Play Store. But at the same time, all of this seems as a bit of an overkill. We're sure that some of the extras thrown in by Samsung would go unnoticed by many users, or would be dismissed as gimmicks only to be never used again after the first try. Still, it is great knowing that the Note 10.1 is one of the most feature-rich tablets out there.
With the iPad 4, Apple has kept things a bit simpler, a bit more down to earth. Its UI does not have as many extras, nor does it offer as many customization options as the 2014 Note 10.1. However, it is minimalist, intuitive, and with a very light learning curve. In other words, even a person who has never used an iOS device before should get the hang of it quickly. Furthermore, there's the handful of useful features introduced by the OS's latest version, such as Control Center, or the new Air Drop feature for file sharing. At the same time, iOS also comes with a handful of essentials pre-loaded, such as Notes, Reminders, and Calendar apps, as well as Newsstand, providing access to digital newspapers and magazines. And if there's something the user might need, chances are they'll find it for download from the Apple App Store.
Using an on-screen keyboard efficiently is often a matter of getting used to its layout. After a little practice, we could type comfortably on the keyboards on the iPad 4 and the 2014 Note 10.1 tablet, and we didn't find them much different from one another. They both offer a split key arrangement for easier typing when holding the device with two hands.
Processor and memory
Samsung has picked one of the fastest, most future-proof system-on-chip solutions around, namely the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, for its Note 10.1 tablet. Its quad-core CPU can sprint at up to 2.3GHz and its Adreno 330 GPU handles graphically-intensive tasks with ease. On top of that, a whopping 3GB of RAM are on board for seamless multitasking. So, what happens when all that powerful hardware is put to work? Well, we're mostly happy with the tablet's performance. However, we did notice some lagging and occasional choppiness on several instances while browsing through the UI or waking up the tablet from stand-by – issues we weren't expecting to see on a top-of-the-line Android tablet.
The iPad 4 is powered by an Apple-designed A6X chip with a 1.4GHz dual-core processor, PowerVR SGX 554 graphics, all backed by “only” 1GB of RAM. So yeah, it seems less powerful than the new Galaxy Note 10.1, but don't let these figures get you confused. Apple's iPad is very responsive with most tasks, be it playing a game, browsing the internet, or simply checking what's on your agenda for the day.
When it comes to storage space, the 2014 Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has a trick tucked up its sleeve – the tablet offers a microSD card slot for storage expansion. That said, popping a card in there and sticking with the base 16GB model is likely to be cheaper than picking the 32GB model instead. Furthermore, Samsung is treating all Note 10.1 buyers to 50GB of free Dropbox storage for 2 years, and that space is ideal for backing up photos and other files.
There is no way of adding extra storage to an iPad, so if 16GB aren't sufficient, you'll have to pay a hefty $100, $200, or $300 on top of its base price in order to get a 32-, 64- or 128GB model instead.
Internet and connectivity
Samsung has loaded the Note 10.1 with its own Internet browser, which is pretty fast indeed, although Safari on the iPad 4 is even faster and more responsive. Nevertheless, it is a pleasure to browse the internet on either of these two tablets, especially since their large, high-resolution screens can display entire web pages without us having to zoom in on them. Both web browser apps allow for pages to be organized in tabs, which facilitates switching between them, and they both can play back embedded YouTube videos without any problems.
In terms of features, the iPad's Safari internet browser has a bit of an advantage over the Note 10.1's Internet app. It allows tabs and bookmarks to be synchronized across Apple devices, so you can continue your work where you left off. This kind of functionality can be had on the Note 10.1 as well, should you choose to use the Chrome internet browser instead of the default one.
Connectivity-wise, both the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition and the iPad 4 come in multiple variants – an option for those who need only Wi-Fi to go online, and a 3G/4G model for people who need to be constantly connected to the internet. We must note that while all Note 10.1 models have a built-in GPS radio, the Wi-Fi-only iPad 4 doesn't have one, relying solely on Wi-Fi network data to provide positioning information.