Samsung's new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet is demonstrated in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
When the original 5-inch Galaxy Note was first announced, it was harshly criticized for its larger-than-usual size as well as its stylus, an accessory that was rendered mostly obsolete by the advent of capacitive touchscreen displays. Samsung ultimately sold millions of the device, proving that there's a market for humongous phones. Today, the company officially launched the Galaxy Note 10.1, and just like its predecessor, early reviews of the device are mixed at best — Engadget's Joseph Volpe even bluntly says that "the Note 10.1 looks and feels kind of cheap" with its plasticky design.
The 10.1-inch Note runs Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich with Samsung's Touchwiz skin on top. It's designed to be even more artist-friendly than the original Note: It still comes with the S Pen stylus that fits snugly inside a dock, and it now has 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity thanks to Wacom technology. The new Note is better at detecting if your palm is resting on the screen so it make the marks you make with your hand disappear as soon as it detects the S Pen.
Drawing on the 10.1-inch Note is obviously more comfortable than drawing on its relatively smaller predecessor. But as you might've guessed, even with the increased levels of sensitivity, you can't exactly replace your dedicated graphics tablet with it. Reviewers complain of missed presses and lines drawn, and accuracy is a constant problem. As Wired's Nathan Olivarez-Giles puts it, the S Pen and the S Note app are fun to use and are good enough for casual doodling, but a "pencil or pen and a sheet of paper remain the better option for professional-grade work" in the absence of professional graphics tablets.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 has a relatively low-res screen — especially when compared to the new iPad's Retina display — at 1280 x 800 pixels, but PCWorld's Melissa J. Perenson, in particular, thinks Samsung might have done something to boost the new Note's display. "The sharpness and color of images is dramatically better than the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, and my high-resolution images in the Google Gallery had sharpness and detail that came close to what you'd find on the high-pixel density displays," she writes.
One unique feature that's garnered generally positive feedback is the tablet's multiscreen function that gives you the power to split the screen between two apps. The downside is that the feature is limited to merely a handful of apps — just six, in fact. As Mashable's Peter Pachal says, though, it's still a "pretty cool trick, and it's great that Samsung ensured it works with the video player." Anyone who's ever used a tablet for more than just casual web browsing or content streaming can tell you that it's a nightmare trying to multitask on a tablet, so for a device that's focused on drawing, multiscreen is a great addition.
Other than the features mentioned above, the 10.1-inch Note also has an infrared blaster that turns it into a fancy remote control thanks to the Peel app, 2GB of RAM, a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, and a microSD card slot. These features sound great, but at $499 for the 16GB version, the Note 10.1 costs as much as the new iPad with 16GB storage, and far more than the universally lauded $199 8GB Nexus 7 that already comes with Android's newest operating system. Its price is the very reason why many reviewers think you should focus your tablet-buying eyes elsewhere.
"At $499, meanwhile, there are a host of other tablets with sharper displays, equal or greater built-in storage, and quad-core CPUs," Volpe says. Gizmodo's Brent Rose agrees and even advises people not to get to 10.1-inch Note at all: "The only possible exception would be a graphic designer absolutely convinced that the S Pen can be tamed... At a $500 starting price, this is a very clear pass for everyone else... the majority of things on this device don't work as well as they are supposed to."
Pachal, however, believes there could be a market for the new Note: "[T]he Galaxy Note 10.1 isn't really an iPad alternative; it's more of a tablet specialist — the tablet you go to when you need something very specific, which in this case is drawing, note-taking and multitasking. Just like you wouldn't go to a general practicioner for surgery, you don't get an Apple product if you want to use a stylus. You get the Galaxy Note 10.1. For anyone who ever wanted the digital equivalent of a legal pad, there's nothing better."
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