Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1: What You Need to Know Before Buying

Samsung’s new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet is now available at major national retailers starting at $500. So far, reviews of the new Samsung slate have been mixed. Critics such as PCWorld’s Melissa Perenson call the Note 10.1 a “solid performer with wide-reaching appeal.” However, others have called the device “disappointing” and a tablet overstuffed with features.

If you’re in the market for a new tablet that’s not the iPad, then the Note 10.1 might be the tablet for you. But before you run down to your local Best Buy or log into Amazon to get one, here are a few things you should know about Samsung’s latest tablet.

The Specs

Samsung’s new Note tablet features a 10.1 WXGA display with 1280-by-800 resolution, a 1.4GHz quad-core Samsung Exynos processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB or 32GB onboard storage, microSD card slot (supports up to 32GB), 5 megapixel rear-facing and 1.9MP front-facing cameras, Bluetooth 4.0, USB 2.0 port, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and an IR blaster. The Galaxy Note 10.1 is running Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich and comes with a Samsung S Pen stylus. Samsung says an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean upgrade is in the works.

Preloaded Apps and Deals

The Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with a free copy of Adobe PhotoShop Touch ($10 on Google Play), 50GB of free Dropbox storage for two years, Polaris Office, Kno e-textbook platform, and the Barnes & Noble Nook reading app.

Pricing and Availability

At launch, you will be able to buy the tablet from Amazon, Best Buy, BrandSmart, CDW, Conn’s, Fry’s, HH Gregg, and Tiger Direct. The 16GB version will set you back $500, while the 32GB model costs $550.

The S Pen

Apple may have set back the idea of adding a stylus to a touchscreen, but Samsung is slowly helping the lowly pen input make a comeback.

A stylus may not make much sense on a smartphone screen, but a stylus for drawing and note taking is a popular option for tablets, even on the iPad. You can use the S Pen for taking notes via the S Note app or editing images on PhotoShop Touch. And most critics, even those who didn’t like the Note 10.1, are saying the stylus is very responsive.

Samsung first included an S Pen with the 5-inch Galaxy Note “phablet"” released in the U.S. in February.

Multiscreen functionality

You don’t have to fill up the new tablet’s 10.1-inch screen with just one app, Samsung has added a Windows Snap-like functionality, called Multiscreen, that lets you see two apps side-by-side. The downside, however, is that it only works with a limited number of apps including the Web browser, S Note, Video Player, e-mail, Gallery, and Polaris Office. So you can use the new feature to copy and paste data between apps, or do research in the browser and take notes with S Note.

The Note 10.1’s video player also has “always on top” functionality called Pop Up Play that you can overlay anywhere on the screen.

Battery Life

PCWorld’s tests were able to squeeze 8 hours 24 minutes out of the device during video playback with a brightness of 200 candelas.

Hardware

The Note 10.1 is fairly thin and light given its size, especially compared to the iPad. Samsung’s new tablet weighs about 1.32 pounds and is just 0.35-inches thin, compared to the iPad’s 0.37-inch profile and 1.44-pound heft. But that thinness comes at a price, PCWorld’s review dinged the 10.1 for a plastic chassis that felt “inexpensively made.” Both The Verge and The New York Times said the plastic back flexes when you hold it. And the Times’ David Pogue even said he could feel the back flex against the tablet’s circuit board. Bottom line: you might want to see how this thing feels when you hold it before making a purchase.

Samsung’s new Note tablet sounds like it may have a few downsides, but overall, it’s at least worth checking out if you want a new tablet that’s not the iPad.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) on Twitter and Google+, and with Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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