The original Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 was one of our favorite tablets at the time of its release. Its built-in stylus, IR-emitter, and split screen multitasking made it a productivity powerhouse that other tablets just couldn’t match. The 2014 Edition ($549.99/16GB) is better in every conceivable way—it’s lighter, faster, packs a higher-resolution display, more stylus functionality, and even better multitasking capability.
This year’s Note 10.1 is not without its flaws, though, as the software experience can be buggy at times. Fortunately, the Note 10.1 still offers the best stylus and multitasking experiences available. It’s one of the few Android tablets that can actually make your life easier, and if Samsung can iron out some of the software bugs, it’ll make for a compelling alternative to the Apple iPad.
The design is reasonably high-end, too, with a seamless strip of chrome-effect plastic surrounding the edge and a white plastic rear, imprinted with a leather-effect pattern. If this sounds cheesy, it doesn’t come across so in the flesh. The Note 10.1 doesn’t wow like the iPad Air or the Xperia Tablet Z, and isn’t particularly light at 535g. However, there isn’t anything cheap about its design. It’s certainly a big improvement on the first Note 10.1, which was bulkier and heavier.
With an eight-core SoC inside, it looks well up to the job of keeping Android 4.3 running smoothly, too. In fact, the Note’s Samsung Exynos 5 Octa comprises a pair of quad-core processors: one clocked at 1.9GHz for demanding tasks such as games, and the other clocked at 1.3GHz, which kicks in when such high power isn’t required – watching video, for instance, or listening to music. In addition, there’s a sizeable 3GB of RAM, and a six-core Mali-T628 GPU for gaming.
Fire it up, and the good impressions continue. The screen – as is typical of Samsung’s flagship devices – boasts a bright and fully saturated look, and with a pixel density of 299ppi, it matches the Nexus 10 and outdoes the iPad Air. It’s a magnificently crisp display.
Resolution isn’t everything, however, and on the quality front, the Note 10.1 also scores highly. Measured with our colorimeter, the display hit a maximum brightness of 367cd/m2 and a contrast level of 798:1. It isn’t as bright or quite as colour-accurate as the iPad Air – it crushes greys into blacks a touch more, and whites are a shade yellow – but again we’re splitting hairs here, and fine ones at that.