01
Oct
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Last year's Note 10.1 was a first for Samsung. It was the first 10-inch tablet to carry the Note name, and the first consumer tablet that made good use of a stylus. It brought about many innovative, though not perfectly executed, features that changed the way Android worked. Multiple apps on the same screen, handwriting input and palm rejection, and the like were all relative newcomers to the tablet scene. And for the most part, they were all well received by those who bought the tablet.

But this is Samsung we're talking about. This is a company that is constantly changing and evolving, always questioning how can we make this better? Of course, better is highly subjective; while most of Samsung's features are generally thought of as novelties, there's no denying that this is a company constantly striving to stand out in the crowd. To deliver features that people actually want (and, of course, some that no one will ever use). To be innovative.

Enter the Note 10.1 2014 Edition which, coincidentally, will be available beginning in 2013. This is Samsung's second 10.1-inch Note, and the third tablet in the Note series. With the Note 8.0, it fixed a lot of the issues that users found with the original 10.1. The 10.1 2014 builds on that change, adding even more features and streamlining the entire package. New design elements. New functionality. An improved S Pen. That's just to name a few.

But the real question is how much of this is useful, and how much is just fluff?

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Specs
  • Display: 10.1-inch 2560x1600 Super Clear LCD
  • Processor: Exynos 5420 Quad-Core processor
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Storage: 16/32GB
  • Cameras: 8MP rear shooter, 2MP front
  • Ports: microUSB, microSD
  • Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi Direct, AllShareCast
  • Battery: 8,220mAh
  • OS: Android 4.3
  • Dimensions/Weight: 243.1 X 171.4 X 7.9mm, 535g
  • Price: 16GB – $550; 32GB – $600

The Good
  • The display. Samsung has, in my opinion, always been known for packing its devices with pretty great displays. The 2014 Note 10.1 is no exception to this – the display is beautiful. Sharp, vivid, and clear, it's an overall pleasure to look at.
  • Loud, clear speakers. Samsung knows what people want out of tablet speakers, and it delivers. The speakers sound pretty phenomenal.
  • S Pen ... most of the time. I've long been a fan of stylus input, and the Note series' S Pen adds incredibly useful functionality over a normal passive stylus. With the new features baked into the Note 10.1 2014, the S Pen gets even better – though it's not entirely perfect. There's lag when launching things like Air Command, which can be frustrating.
  • Stock Samsung keyboard. As far as stock software keyboards are concerned, Samsung's is probably the best I've ever used. It's fast, precise, and is fairly easy to touch-type on. I also love the dedicated number row.

The Bad
  • Slightly choppy performance. I see approximately zero reasons why this tablet should lag, chop, or otherwise do something deemed as unfit in the world of performance, yet here we are. I'm not sure the cause, but it occasionally decided to be choppy during transitions or animations. I expect this from budget devices, not from top-of-the-line hardware.
  • Awkward things. I've noticed that Samsung has a funny way of taking intuitive, simple feature or options in stock Android and making them overly complicated or confusing. Like the Settings menu – why categorize everything? It was fine the way it used to be. Or creating a folder. Dragging an icon on top of the other icon makes perfect sense. But dragging it to the top of the screen to make a folder, then dragging subsequent icons into said folder? No. Just no.
  • Multi-Window is a still kind of hacky and doesn't work all that well. This is another innovative feature that simply doesn't work like it should all the time. When it does work, it's the best multi-window experience Samsung has ever offered; when it doesn't, however, it's clear that MW is still kind of a janky mess. I'm strangely OK with this for the most part, as the steps taken forward with every iteration of the feature display that it's on its way to becoming rock solid ... eventually.  
  • The single notification shade. I realize this may be subjective, but I prefer the dual shades introduced in Android 4.2. Especially on a 10.1-inch tablet. I just makes more sense and looks better to me. The single massive shade looks too phone-esque, and doesn't make the best use of the larger screen real estate.

Hardware

Build Quality and Design

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When I write reviews, this is usually where I start, then skip around for all the other parts. But this section usually consists of my initial impressions of the device in question. The Note 10.1 2014 Edition is an odd sort of beast – there's nothing remarkable about its looks, but it still somehow manages to make you want to touch it. Maybe because it's a Samsung. Or maybe because I knew what goodies it potentially held under the hood. Either way, I simply couldn't wait to get my hands on it when I cracked open the box.

It feels good; solid. No creaking to speak of, no questionable components. Physically, it's a nice-feeling device. Aesthetically, however, I'm a little torn.

Samsung decided to try something new for the Note 10.1 2014 (and Note 3) – it crafted a faux leather back with faux stitching. The back looks nice, and feels good. The stitching, on the other hand, makes it look cheap and, simply put, kind of tacky. If they would've chosen to use real stitching of some sort, then it could be quite classy. But this imitation stitching just doesn't do it for me. I can handle the wannabe leather – and even that is pushing it – but it feels nice and isn't too overbearing, so it gets a pass.

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The silver band around the outside of the entire tablet is also a sticking point for me – it's plastic, but made to look like aluminum. So, now we're up to faux leather, faux stitching, and faux aluminum. I wish Samsung would've actually used premium materials on this tablet, instead of just crap that looks like premium material. This is a $600 tablet after all, and the use of faux pieces is insulting to those who buy it.

All that said, it still looks OK, especially to those who may not pay that much attention to the aesthetic details. My review unit is white, and I have an affinity for white things. Gadgets, guitars, chairs, etc. If it's white, it generally just looks nicer to me. Thus, I can't speak for how the black one looks, but I imagine it isn't much different.

And now for the guided tour – this is always fun. The front of the device has a white bezel with a Samsung logo, ambient light sensor, and camera at the top; menu, home, and back buttons are found at the bottom. Like most recent Samsung devices, the menu and back buttons are capacitive, while home is a physical key. It's slightly strange using these keys, but we'll get into that shortly.

The sides of the device are where you'll find the speakers; the microSD card slot and S Pen bay are also on the right side. The top houses the power button, volume rocker, and IR blaster. The microUSB port is on the bottom.

The back is nice and clean, with a Samsung logo and the 8MP shooter centered at the top. All standard fare, really.

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Save for the tacky faux stitching and questionable silver binding, the exterior looks pretty good and feels solid. The bezels are just wide enough that you won't accidentally hit the screen when holding the device, granted you always use it in landscape. Switch it to portrait and you're in for a different (and incredibly frustrating) experience. I accidentally hit the back button almost every time I switched to portrait mode, which of course exited the foreground app on most occasions. It's more than just a little bit annoying, and is just one of the reasons I dislike physical buttons on a tablet. The other reasons are fairly straightforward – they're just awkward to use. I'm still not sure why Samsung insists on physical keys all around.

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Speaking of the keys, here's how the default actions work:

Menu

  • Single tap – opens the menu
  • Double tap – nothing
  • Long press – Opens S Finder

Home

  • Single Tap – Goes home
  • Double Tap – Opens S Voice
  • Long Press – Multitasking, task manager, Google Now, and/or close all

Back

  • Single tap – goes back
  • Double tap – nothing
  • Long press – nothing

It kind of drives me nuts that it takes two taps to get to Google Now (well, technically it's one long-press and one tap). Even after disabling S Voice, there was no way to assign the double tap action to Google Now. It just becomes an action-less action.

Display

Last year, people were disappointed that the original Note 10.1 shipped with a 1280x800 display. It was a tablet looking to offer a premium experience, but most high-end devices at that time were shipping with 1920x1200 screens, so it was sort of a contradiction. Samsung wanted to make sure that didn't happen this time – the Note 10.1 2014 has a 2560x1600 display and it looks great. This resolution is fantastic for a display of this size, and I for one am glad that it's becoming the norm.

Everything is sharp and crystal clear – text looks fantastic. The colors are bright and vibrant, but not oversaturated. Viewing angles are good, but colors become washed out at extreme angles. That probably doesn't matter all that much, because I find it hard to imagine a scenario where an extreme angle is absolutely necessary.

Like with other Samsung devices, there's also an option to tweak the screen color. There are three primary options: dynamic, standard, and movie; but there's also an option for adaptive display. This mode will automatically change the display's color range, saturation, and sharpness in certain apps to offer the best viewing experience. This is the default option (which I left enabled most of the time), and I found most of the changes to be incredibly subtle (read: I didn't really notice a difference). I guess that's kind of the point, though – the change should be gradual.

While we're talking about this display, I want to point out one thing within the Display Settings entry that drives me absolutely crazy: this is where you'll find the option to show the battery percentage in the notification bar. How is this a logical place for that option? It should be in the Battery section of the settings menu, or at the very least, in the Notification Panel settings. Those are at least logical. The only reason I can see for it being in this section is because it actually displays something that wasn't previously there. Still, it's just not and intuitive place.

Speakers

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On the original Galaxy Note 10.1, Samsung went with front-facing speakers, which was a pretty good choice at the time. With the 2014 Note 10.1, it decided to move the speakers to the sides of the device. While some may see that a questionable decision, I think it worked out really well – these speakers are crazy loud and sound very sharp.

The night I got the Note 10.1, I spent some time watching guitar amp demos to see how it responded to drastic and dynamic changes that are meant to showcase how a product sounds. It didn't disappoint. In fact, I had to turn it down a few times, because it can put out some serious volume – I was actually really impressed with how loud it can get.

With that said, I'm not sure I'd go as far as to say that you can listen to music on it without the need for an external speaker, but it should work really well for movies/YouTube or playing games. That's probably a more common use-case for a tablet anyway.

Camera

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While the camera may be loaded with a lot of Samsung's enhancements and shot modes, it's pretty typical of a tablet camera: it's pretty good outdoors, but basically garbage indoors. Let's take a look at some sample images first, then we'll get into the camera's features.

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As far as the software itself is concerned, the Note 10.1 2014's camera is loaded to the guts with stuff. It has a slew of different modes:

  • Auto
  • Beauty Face
  • Best Photo
  • Best Face
  • Sound & Shot
  • Drama
  • Rich Tone (HDR)
  • Eraser
  • Panorama
  • Sports
  • Night
  • Dual Shot

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Most of those should be easily recognized – they're a big part of the camera overhaul on the Galaxy S 4. Despite all that, this camera just isn't good. As always, I'm surprised that manufacturers simply don't care about the camera experience on tablets; one can only assume it's because they don't expect folks to be using their 10.1-inch slate for grabbing a lot of pictures. Or maybe it's some sort of conspiracy to actually prevent people from using tablets as cameras more often. If that's the case, I fully support the crappy tablet camera movement.

Storage and Wireless

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The Note 10.1 2014 comes with two storage options: 16GB and 32GB. The system itself takes up 6GB, and after installing just a few basic apps that tend to take up a bit of space (Chrome, Magazines, Music), my 32GB review unit only had ~22GB left available. Given that, it's basically impossible for me to recommend the 16GB model – there's likely only about 8GB of usable space out of the box without even installing anything. That's simply not enough for anyone who wants to get good use out of the tablet. That said, there's also a microSD card slot for optional expansion, and the unit does support Apps2SD... but that only moves the apk, which generally isn't that large. The bulk of the data is still stored locally.

When it comes to the wireless radios on the Note 10.1 2014, they pretty much just work. I say "pretty much" because the Bluetooth settings menu can be laggy – sometimes it takes a good 5-10 seconds to respond to a tap telling it to disconnect the currently-connected Bluetooth device, or enter that specific device's connection options. This is the case in several areas on the 2014 Note 10.1 – it's slow where it simply shouldn't be slow.

Otherwise, all the connections work as they should, and I experienced no issues with any of the radios.

Battery Life

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The first couple of days I had the Note 10.1 2014, I used the hell out of it. Day two was probably the most use it saw – nearly six hours of on-screen time by the time it hit the charger with about 18% remaining battery. I surfed the web, played with the S Pen and all its features, did a little gaming, watched YouTube, and streamed music over a Bluetooth connection. It had been off the charger for about 22 hours after all that, and could've easily seen at least another hour or so of heavy use before going completely dead.

The next few days, I used it a little more sparingly, as I was mostly working on the text for this review. Thus, I only grabbed the tablet when I needed to verify how a particular feature worked or something similar. It easily lasted through two days, and still had plenty of juice left – I stuck it on charge with about 48% remaining battery, just to top it off. It has excellent idle battery life.

Needless to say, the Note 10.1 2014 should easily be able to get you through a couple days, unless you're using it like a laptop for a full eight-hour workday. If that's the case, you'll definitely have to charge it overnight every night. But it should be able to get you through a day regardless, and more than that under what I would think to be "normal" use.

S Pen

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I'm not going to discuss the functionality of the S Pen yet, but rather the little pen itself. It's a small, plastic thing, and feels pretty fragile. Of course, you'd have to be doing some pretty rough stylus work to damage it, but I guess freak accidents do happen. The back end matches the silver binding so it blends in while inside the bay, and Samsung redesigned it so it can enter the bay without having to be aligned a certain way. That makes it much easier to quickly insert and remove. And of course it has the small action button where your thumb should rest.

Samsung also includes a tool to remove the tip, as well as half a dozen or so replacement tips, in the box. This way if you somehow damage the business end of the stylus, or it wears out from regular use, you can simply replace it. 

Software

One of the most challenging things about being a device reviewer is remaining completely objective while still being able to dash a certain amount of acceptable subjective-ness into a piece. If the entire review is completely subjective, then it's worthless to most people. If it's too objective, then it reads like a textbook and not like it was written by someone who actually used the device.

When it comes to overlays like TouchWiz, that balance is absolutely crucial. While I may personally be a little tired of bone-stock Android, I still love it. I can't let that love blind me to the point that I'm not open to new ideas or things not working the way I'm used to. With that out of the way, let's talk a little bit about Samsung's take on Android.

This is, of course, what makes a Samsung device a Samsung. It still feels and (kind of) looks like Android, but everything is somehow different. I'm not sure they leave any part of the system untouched; from homescreens to settings and beyond, TouchWiz is definitely its own sort of beast.

Love it or hate it, it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

S Apps

At this point, I'm sure many of you are already familiar enough with TouchWiz to have a good idea of what it's all about. I don't want to approach this from a "this is what's different from stock Android" angle, but rather "here's what this device can do, and how well it does it." Let's dig in.

The biggest selling point of the Note 10.1 2014 is, of course, the S Pen. Personally, I like to pronounce that as one word – Spen – but that's irrelevant. Many of the apps are catered to the S Pen, and it has a few new tricks up its sleeve, as well.

Air Command

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Air Command is one of the new S Pen features for the Note 3 and 10.1 2014, and it's pretty neat. Basically, when the pen is removed from the bay (or when the button on its side is pressed while hovering the pen just above the screen) a small circular window appears with five different options: Action Memo, Scrapbooker, Screen Write, S Finder, and Pen Window. These names are fairly ambiguous, so here's the long and short of what they do:

  • Action Memo: This is essentially quick note-taking tool. Say you're out and need to jot down a phone number, address, or some other third thing, this is where you'd do it. It has nifty little tools that can automatically recognize text and execute various requests, like add to contacts, search the web, email, map, or add to a task list. Of course, your handwriting has to be pretty neat and tidy for it to accurately decipher the text. I'd like to think I have pretty nice handwriting, and it successfully detected what I was trying to say about 70% of the time.
  • Scrapbooker: This is a way to quickly and easily collect and curate things you like or want to keep. For example, I'm in the market for a new guitar amp. I've been looking awfully hard at the EVH 5150 III, and I've read a slew of reviews, watched videos, and the like. If I want to collect this particular information – which is scattered around various locations on the web – and keep it all in one spot, Scrapbooker lets me do that. Think of it as Pinterest meets Pocket, with a side of Skitch stuffed in the middle. The main downside is that if you scrapbook something from the YouTube app, it doesn't actually save the link so all you get is an image. While I often think things like this are a gimmick, I could actually see myself using this one.
  • Screen Write: This is basically a markup and annotation tool that takes a screenshot and lets you write on it. It makes sharing specific content or pointing out something on the page extremely easy.
  • S Finder: Quickly search the system for specific phrases in apps, contacts, calendar appointments, browser history, help, and local files. This replaces Google Search as the default search tool in most areas. It works, but I don't really like it. Google's offering is far superior.
  • Pen Window: This is an interesting tool that allows you to draw a square on the screen and launch various "mini apps" within that area. Among these tools, you'll find calculator, alarm, YouTube, contacts, ChatOn, Hangouts, and Samsung's stock browser (not Chrome). The strange thing here is that they're just scaled-down versions of the full-size app – not reformatted mini apps. It's unclear at this point whether or not Samsung plans to extend this functionality to more apps in the future, or if apps can just elect to support the feature and provide access in an update. Either way, you can run multiple apps at one time, so I'd actually like to see more than just the stock options here.

Air Command is a cool feature, but there's one problem: it's pretty damn laggy. Sometimes I experience upwards of a five second delay from the time I pressed the bottom until the time the menu popped up. That may not seem like a big deal, but if you're in a time pinch, those five seconds can feel like an eternity. Also, there's no reason a fresh-out-of-the-box device with a high end processor and 3GB of RAM should experience choppiness or lag. It's simply unacceptable in my opinion.

S Note

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S Note, or Snote as I like to call it (yes, I do that with all the S apps), is a note-taking application with a few new bells and whistles. It's a simple, capable, and to-the-point note-taker. It allows for pen input that is customizable (pen type, color, line thickness), typing with the stock keyboard, or shape creations via the selection tool. It has been completely redesigned for the Note 10.1 2014, and now allows for resizable and searchable text (via S Finder).

This is actually what I believe to be one of the most useful S Apps, as it really brings functionality that many users are probably looking for in a device like this – handwriting recognition and excellent palm rejection. You can add images, video, charts, illustrations, things from your Scrapbooks, maps, and more to your notes. S Note keeps things very simple while also being highly flexible and powerful. Definitely one of the go-to S Pen apps.

The only downside is that I think the S Pen is too skinny to easily write with. There's an option to write with your finger too, just in case you feel the same about the pen.

The Others

While those are the key apps that basically rely on the S Pen, there are a couple of third-party offerings that incorporate the pen's functionality, as well.

  • Sketchbook for Galaxy: This is basically just Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro application with a bit of enhanced functionality for the S Pen.
  • Twitter: Back at the Note/Gear Unpacked event at IFA, Samsung teased a redesigned Twitter application that would be available exclusively on the Note 10.1 2014 for a limited time. The updated app not only has a tablet-specific interface (finally), but it also has a few tweaks just for the S Pen: hovering over certain elements (like the search box or search function) and Air View will supply a tooltip to let you know what each particular element does. You can also use the pen to handwrite search queries, as well as draw pictures in tweets. Horray for that.

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There are also a handful of other Samsung apps that first showed up on the GS4, like Group Play, KNOX, S Translator, Story Album, S Voice, and Video Editor. These are all along for the ride on the Note 10.1 2014 as well, in case you're into that sort of stuff.

Multi-Window

While Multi-Window is nothing new in itself, it is on the receiving end of a few upgrades on the Note 10.1 2014. Some of them are functional and work well. Others are frustrating and make me want to throw it out of a window, at a brick wall, or some combination of the two. Let's talk about that.

First up, Samsung added a new "create" feature to Multi-Window. Initially I thought this may be a way to add any app to a window – nope. It simply adds the two open windows to the MW menu, so you can quickly recall both apps simultaneously. While not what I expected, this is still cool. Say, for example, you like to surf the web and look at Twitter at the same time – no problem, just create a MW "preset" that will launch the two side by side. As soon as you tap that entry in the MW menu from there forward, poof – Chrome and Twitter are there.

... But it's not perfect.

Let's say in the above scenario, you're looking at Twitter and come across an interesting link. You tap said link, which should then open in Chrome. And it does. But there's a chance it might open in a full Chrome window.

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During my use, it sometimes killed the Twitter window and opened the link in a maximized Chrome window. Sometimes it worked as you'd expect – both windows stayed in place and the Chrome window just opened a new tab. I tried a few different scenarios, but could never figure out exactly what would cause it to work one way or the other. Who knows. As I've already said, Multi-Window is still pretty hacky.

Ever wished you could open an app using MW and them switch back to a different window within the same section of screen? Now you can. MW allows app stacking, which essentially keeps track of all the windows opened within a certain section of screen and lets you easily cycle between them by long-pressing the circle in the app divider. This is super rad – it's like in-window multi-tasking. It's brilliant.

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You can also open the same app in two different windows, though not all apps support this. The stock Samsung browser is one of the few, as is YouTube. So now you can watch a video while you watch a video. Or browse the web while you browse the web. Xzibit will love this feature.

My Magazine

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The Note 10.1 2014's launcher is basically the same as other recent Samsung devices, with one distinct change: it has quick access to a magazine-like interface called My Magazine. A simple swipe up from the bottom of the homescreen (or hitting home button while on the main homescreen) pulls up this feature, which basically seems like a Flipboard-esque newsreader of sorts.

It's essentially a bare-bones, no frills reader that shows pre-selected news topics (categories can be set by the user), personal information like calendar, email, recent pictures, etc., local information like movie times and sporting events, and updates from any linked social networks.

Basically, it wants to be an all-you-can-read hub of information that really just seems to cluster everything together. It's like having your living, dining, kitchen, bathroom, garage, and office all in one 15x15 room. It's just sort of a mess. Maybe someone who has very little information in the aforementioned categories can appreciate it, but I found it to be basically a waste of time to try to get anything useful out of it.

Performance

This might be the thing that surprised me the most about the Note 10.1 2014. I was expecting a top-notch, blazing fast, melt your face off tablet. But that's not what this is. In fact, sometimes it seems to struggle with itself to execute many of the things that set it apart – like Air Control, for example.

Don't get me wrong – as a "normal" tablet, it's fast and fluid. Benchmarks are good, and third-party apps run smoothly. Ironically, it's the Samsung proprietary stuff that tends to be laggy and/or choppy – like I said earlier, on average the lag when executing Air Command is upwards of five seconds.

But the worst part is in the Gallery – it's insanely slow. Unbelievably so. When trying to change folders, the wait was sometimes more than 45 seconds. Yeah, three-fourths of a minute. It took 27 seconds to delete a picture on one occasion. It took seven seconds to load an image. It's absolutely unacceptable. I honestly can't believe Samsung would let a product out the door with that sort of lag. Hell, that's not even lag, it's just bullshit.

The animations when swiping between homescreens or changing apps are also choppy at times. I just don't understand how this level of performance can happen in a device with a top-of-the-line quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM.

With all that out of the way, here are some benchmarks for you number junkies.

AnTuTu

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Geekbench 3

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Androbench

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Conclusion

I've never been so torn about a device at the end of a review before. Under normal circumstances, I have a strong sway one way or the other about a device, but still remain as objective as possible in my final judgment. I can easily see the redeeming qualities in most devices, but never overlook the downsides. The Note 10.1 2014 Edition has been a different experience, as most of its faults are found within the device itself, or Samsung's added features that are supposed to make it a better tablet.

Still, I see what makes it appealing to many people. The S Pen makes the tablet superior for many applications, and Samsung has software like S Note to add even more utility. But then there's the other side – laggy Air Command, the basically unusable gallery, the choppy transitions. That is beyond off-putting, as are all the faux materials used. In a premium tablet like this, I not only expect a premium experience in the software, but premium materials in the build. Not lookalike plastic. Like I said before, that's pretty insulting to the consumer who just spent six-hundred dollars on the product. Forgive the comparison, but that simply isn't something Apple would even consider on its tablets, and I hold Samsung to the same – if not a higher – standard. Why? Because they're building what many consider the best devices in the Android scene, and they need to back that reputation up. Plastic parts simply aren't the way to do that.

Don't get me wrong, though – the Note 10.1 2014 is a good tablet. I wouldn't say it's great, but I will go as far as to say that it's probably the best tablet I've reviewed this year. Maybe even the best 10-inch Android-powered tablet to hit the scene overall, especially when considering the sheer amount of features packed into one slate. But the year isn't over, either.

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Here's where the Note 10.1 2014 sits with me: it's probably good for students who need to take notes and/or see multiple things on the screen at once, or professionals who need similar features. The average user can, of course, also benefit from mutli-window, S Note, and the S Pen in general, but I personally think those users would be better off with the Note 3 or waiting to see how NVIDIA's Tegra Note devices fare in terms of stylus compatibility and the like. Ultimately, if stylus support is all that you're after, the latter could save you quite a bit of money ($200 vs $600).

Naturally, there will be users who just want a 10.1-inch screen, and that's OK. There will also be those among you who will not only buy, but unabashedly defend the Note as if it were the greatest thing since mac-n-cheese. But that's OK too – there's something to be said for someone who stands by a manufacturer and a device purchase, mac-n-cheese haters be damned.

Ultimately, I know people will buy – and love – the Note 10.1 2014 Edition. With that said, I'm having a hard time giving it an overall recommendation. It's a good tablet, though not great. I just can't in good conscience recommend a $600 device with lag and stutter out of the box and with such poor build materials. Of course, the former are things that can (and may) get fixed in a future update. While the build materials can't be changed, a better software experience would go a long way in making this a much, much better tablet; though I'm still not convinced it'll be $600 worth of good.

Alas, the functionality offered here is simply unmatched at this time, and Samsung knows that. If natural handwriting, an active stylus, and multi-window are things that you absolutely need in a tablet, you won't regret buying the Note 10.1 2014, despite its high price tag. The experience may be mildly frustrating at times, but you'll love it when those flukes aren't happening.

If, on the other hand, you can't see yourself using the S Pen, you're much better off with a different, more affordable device.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, and musician. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6- or 7-string, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • sourabh sekhar

    thank you AP for dishing out a review earlier than most other sites :)

  • armshouse

    good article. by the way

    Enter the Note 10.1 2014 Edition which, coincidentally, will be available beginning in 2013.

    • Bleakvision

      They are doing an Autodesk.

  • StriderWhite

    What about the legendary Note 12? Is it real or is a myth?

    • ins0mn1a

      i want it! seriously, i want a large, high-res android tablet with an active stylus. i am just imagining the horror of the current samsung design language: a 12" tablet with fake leather back and a physical home button. just thinking about it is making me nauseous.

      • StriderWhite

        You're right, that phisical button is a huge mistake (in fact the old Note doesn't have it!). About the fake leather back, I don't care too much, as long as the tablet just works fine...

        • ins0mn1a

          i am usually very firmly in the "don't care how it looks, just give me functionality" camp. but there is something about the symbolism of leather book covers that creeps me out. it's like a lament for the "good old days", when knowledge was scarce, expensive, inaccessible, and kept in heavy volumes with leather covers. the way i see it, the fabulous thing about modern computing devices is that they are taking us far away from those wretched days. so why on earth would someone make a fake leather cover on such a device? to me this signals that the manufacturer's vision of the device is very different from my own (or that they have no vision at all), and i find it worrisome.

          there, i said it, now i feel better. talk about first world problems ;)

  • Carlos Rodríguez

    That's what I hate from touchwiz devices.

    Some neat stuff and features but sometimes laggy, with LOADS of bloatware and many times features that a regular person won't ever use.

    If Samsung (and any other OEM) wants to set itself apart from other manufacturers, just use the blazing fast stock android and put your basic apps only. And offer a free download of the features an user would want.

    I know it's apples and oranges (ba dum tsss), but I think the OEM should deliver its products like most laptops out there. Windows and their crapware that you can easily uninstall. The same can be applied to android. Leave the freaking OS alone and put all the features you won't find in any other phone/tablet. With that, you'll find a consistent OS and the choice of features. The best of both worlds.

    Cheers!

    • sourabh sekhar

      There are two problems with touch wiz, namely lag and UI.both of which can be solved with a software update from samsung.i have a s3,samsung didnt change the ui much but,they made it better in 4.2.2 and the lag reduced considerably but is still present in some apps.Touchwiz does some stuff that is much better than stock android i.e camera app.

    • KaliK0t

      The problem with most tech commentaries about Stock Android this Stock Android that is that the main selling point of the Note 10.1 IS the PEN

      It might just as well be the Nexus 10 if you didnt have multi-window and S-Pen and that has been available for almost a year already

    • Hihi

      the first Note 10.1 lagged at first too. with firmware updates lags disappeared.

  • Chris P

    1. Ew. Menu button. "Legacy" since ICS, yet Samsung pull this crap regularly. Also I'm not sure I could buy a tablet with physical buttons, even if it's running Android 4.2+
    2. Mein Gott, that settings app is abhorrent!

    • obarthelemy

      I'd rather have a hardware menu button than lose screen space to it ?

      • Chris P

        Is that a question? It doesn't look like a question.
        But really, I'd rather not restrict the way I can hold a tablet with physical buttons.
        I think physical nav buttons are illogical and restrictive. But hey, to each their own I guess. Let's move on.
        If physical buttons are really the way to go, why not have a Recents button? The menu button is legacy, and if Samsung feel TouchWiz/Android needs it, they're doing something wrong. There's a reason Android 4.0's onscreen buttons don't include the menu button by default: it's not necessary anymore.

  • Vitaly Streltsov

    Imo, solid hw but TW , s-apps are killing it. I hope, real working source code will be available to build CM.

  • obarthelemy

    I strongly disagree about material. My 2012 Note 10.1 is plasticy, but it has held up very well to the test of time. Better than various metal tablets I see that became scratch central.

    Hopefully, the software issues will get fixed ?

    • ins0mn1a

      i agree with you to some degree: nothing wrong with using plastic. it's light, doesn't block EM waves, it can have very pleasant texture (e.g. nexus 10 and nexus 7), and if done right can be quite resilient. but fake leather with fake stitching? that's just embarrassing. you know those iOS apps with fake leather / metal / wood textures? yes, embarrassing.

  • chad

    You forgot to mention that the display is RG-BW pentile.

  • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

    Great review. I'm torn between this and the new Nexus 10 which is presumably launching this fall. I guess it'll come down to which one comes out with an LTE version first. If Google even so much as announces an LTE version of the new Nexus 10 with availability "later" (as they did with the 2013 N7), that'll be my choice. If the new N10 is only available in WiFi like the current ones, then I'll probably hold out for an LTE version of this Note 10.1.

    The Motorola Xoom is still the only 10-inch "Nexus" tablet with LTE, so that's why I've held onto it. It's getting long in the tooth, though, so it's time for something new.

  • Cal Waldie

    ".......And so, kids, that's why the Nexus 10 remains the best 10 inch tablet in the world. Class dismissed."

    • Joshua

      I wish it were this simple. Unfortunately, there are two things that prevent me from agreeing:

      The lack of expandable storage in the Nexus line is an absolute deal-breaker. Nothing beats the convenience of a microSD card. Plug it into your computer using an adapter, transfer files immediately, then plug it into your tablet and voilà, done. This, in my opinion, is vastly superior to using an OTG cable and having to use a tablet file-explorer interface, which doesn't yet come close to the ease of a computer one.

      The active stylus is spectacular. I own a Note 2 and can vouch for its convenience. I can only imagine that it's even better on a tablet where the screen real estate is much more convenient for things like note-taking and such.

      • Richard Lloyd

        Actually, the most covenient way to transfer files between a PC and a tablet is via the network surely? No fiddly SD cards and tricky adapters and no cables either, but there again I use Linux on my PC, which is handles a much wider variety of networked filing systems than Windows....

        • Joshua

          I use Ubuntu on my laptop, which is my primary computing device. However, I have no wireless network of my own. I live in an apartment without Wi-Fi because I live a block from my university. Since I'm so close to free Wi-Fi, I don't pay for my own. Of course, this comes with the understanding that my school's Wi-Fi network is shit, and I can't really use it for anything but web browsing.

      • Lumi

        Isn't the point of microSD cards the ability to expand storage, not transport? I won't call taking a tiny sd card out from a device (often, shutdown of the device is required) putting it into an adapter that may or may not work (I've had 3 that failed me) anything near convenient. And devices have been known to burn out SD cards (happened to my S2), taking it in and out frequently has been known to trigger that. But I still do rejoice in the fact that I CAN expand the storage of my phone.

        And I agree about the stylus. I don't use it much on my Note 2, but I really want to use it on a tablet.

        • Joshua

          Of course the expandability issue is an important one for me. However, I personally find it nice to at least have the option of being able to transfer files by moving the card rather than trying to use any one of the number of annoying interfaces that grace mobile devices: data cable directly into the computer (ALWAYS brings up these stupid Verizon things), USB OTG (mobile file managers, while better than nothing, tend to be much less good than computer ones for transferring files), or wireless data transfer, which is actually not an option at all for me since I don't even have a Wi-Fi network.

          And yeah, the stylus is just a no-brainer on tablets. II'm willing to bet that an Asus tablet with an active stylus would be perfect for me, considering that Asus produces some great devices.

    • mustbepbs

      The Nexus 10 has its own issues with lag due to the resolution and lackluster GPU.

      • Richard Lloyd

        I don't get lag on my Nexus 10, but I do run CM10.2 on it. It was slightly strange to read a long review of a 10.1" 2560x1600 tablet made by Samsung and not see a single mention of the Nexus 10 (and yet we *did* see a mention of Apple!).

        I suspect putting CyanogenMod and a few stylus apps on this Note 3 might provide a much better user experience, but tablet reviewers never seem to suggest this, despite very obvious lag and UI issues. My feeling is that if you can forego the stylus, the current Nexus 10 is better value and its successor will at least match the Note 3 at a lower price.

    • ari_free

      Not if you're an artist.

  • Joshua

    So they're capable of making a phone with 32/64 GB add the primary options, with a 16GB option essentially as an afterthought for limited markets, but they can't do the same for a tablet, in which one could arguably fit a 500 GB drive? Samsung's product development department is making less and less sense to me as of late.

    I also need to complain about the disgusting leather/stitching back. I mean, even the king of skeuomorphism, Apple, decided to tone things down a bit, and then they go and do that? To my eyes it looks hideous, plain and simple. On the Note 3, one could conceivably cover it with a slim case, so at least it gets hidden. I can't really see that happening with a tablet, at least not for me. They're already big enough as it is.

    Spec-wise, though, this tablet is damn near perfect. A gorgeous screen, dimensions that are very nice, snappy processor, plenty of room for activities RAM, and the S Pen (which I know I would use because I use the one on my Note 2), etc. And then there are the stupid physical buttons, which it shouldn't even cross am engineer'mind to include, but there we go.

    I want to buy an Android tablet. I honest-to-your-deity-of-choice do. I will not buy an iPad: iOS just doesn't cut it for me. But DAMN Android OEMs, how hard is it to get this right? I'd probably be better off starting my own company, hiring a bunch of engineers, and making a device tailored to my needs than waiting for a tablet I like.

    And no /rant this time. I probably won't be done for a few weeks until I'm done steaming over this obviously deliberate slight against me. Samsung knew I would react this way. I call conspiracy!

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      You hit the nail on the head in every way here. On a personal level, I absolutely share your sentiments.

    • Udayan Banerji

      "I want to buy an Android tablet. I honest-to-your-deity-of-choice do. I will not buy an iPad: iOS just doesn't cut it for me. But DAMN Android OEMs, how hard is it to get this right? "

      This is absolutely spot on. I can blindly pick from 5 top Android phones and be happy with whatever I get. I know I will be. But 10-inch tablet? None.

      I was looking forward to this thing. I can settle for the looks. But choppy UI? On an octa-core? I mean stock Android is slick smooth on the Nexus 10. The idiots actually reduced performance? AND they cheat on benchmarks!

      Let us all buy refurbished N10 for $200 and be happy. Aah that is Samsung too.

      • Joshua

        Exactly. Basically any flagship Android phone will be great. Each may have some compromises, but mostly they're minor compared to the other headlining features. Tablets? No such luck. As far as I can tell, every Android tablet on the market right now has a set of compromises that will actually be noticeable in daily use.

        I'd be willing to put up with one or two of these problems if they were the only problems with the device. However, seeing as that's not the case, I don't think I would compromise here. Not for this device.

        • http://www.LOVEanon.org/ Michael Oghia (Ogie)

          What about the new Nexus 7 or a (hopefully soon to be released new) Nexus 10?

          • Joshua

            Both are awesome tablets, and I hope they work for you. However, I immediately discount from my purchase considerations every single Nexus device due to their lack of a microSD slot. This feature is, for me, vital. Without it, I will not purchase the device.

          • http://www.LOVEanon.org/ Michael Oghia (Ogie)

            Why so? Just curious :) Does cloud storage not work for you?

          • Joshua

            Oh, I already use cloud storage. However, I only use the free amounts doled out by the various cloud storage companies. I'm not going to pay extra to have access to documents that are already mine. Further, there are many things that I like to keep on my device-music, for example. I travel a lot, so there are many times I don't have access to a network at all. Even if I do, it's either the shitty Wi-Fi my school offers or the absolutely terrible data connection I get at my apartment (even though I have Verizon, too). Further, I have limited data, and I refuse, once again, to use that data for stuff that's already mine. No, I need either ample local storage, for which companies charge you as if it were made of unicorn tears, or I need expandable storage. Also, the SD card comes with the convenience of being transferable to a new device should I switch, which means I wouldn't need to download or transfer every single thing in the event of a device switch. Oh, and I prefer to transfer stuff using a computer file manager and an SD card adapter than using either a direct connection to my computer, which ALWAYS goes screwy for one reason or another, or using a USB OTG cable which would force me to use a file manager on the device, which I much less then ideal.

            Holy block of text, Batman! Sorry about that, I just started writing as I thought of stuff. I didn't really think about the organization. If you see any errors, let me know. I used swipe input to write this, and that has a habit of completely messing up words if you are off a little.

          • http://www.LOVEanon.org/ Michael Oghia (Ogie)

            Haha well, you're obviously very passionate about it--and from what I gather, it's both because of necessity and principle. I hope someone finally makes what you want!

          • Joshua

            That's an excellent way to put it. Necessity because I use it so the time and principle because I feel users should always have that option available. I hope so too! I think Asus is getting close to having a perfect product in its Transformer Book Trio.

          • http://www.LOVEanon.org/ Michael Oghia (Ogie)

            It's honestly anti-consumer that they don't. I think the jury has ruled that it's clearly to push cloud storage over physical storage. But I see mass solid state and flash-based storage as the future, not the cloud--to unreliable, insecure, and a hassle. It all relies on fast Internet with large download caps--something many people and places don't have. I live in India, and before that, Lebanon. Using a cloud for many things there is just impractical. For companies to push cloud storage in the US/Canada/Europe/Australia, etc., I understand. But unless they are doing it and limiting physical storage in most other places to try and influence mobile and Internet service providers to offer quicker speeds, greater download limits, and wider coverage (presumably in a more affordable way), it's just inconsiderate at best and stupid at worst.

            And btw, I was going to suggest you look at an Asus tablet! They are a really reliable company

          • Joshua

            Yes, I agree about the storage issue. I think people see cloud storage as safer because "it's in the cloud!" of course. What no one seems to think about is the fact that cloud storage still has to rely on physical media to save your information, whether those be magnetic hard drives or SSDs at the cloud company's facility. You're probably just as safe making a local backup on a secondary hard drive. 4TB drives can be had for a couple hundred bucks, which would allow easy backups of basically everything forever. Cloud storage makes sense for easy transfer of files, but even then it's not impossible to set up a home server for the same thing.

            If I remember correctly, in most parts of India the internet is capped at 128 kbps, right? I can see why that would be an issue when it comes to using cloud storage. Talk about inconsiderate and stupid, haha!

            Yeah, my friend just got an Asus Memo Pad Smart 10 for $260. They retailed for quite a bit more than that when new, so that's a pretty good deal. It's not the best tablet, but it's not terrible either. At that price point, though, it's an unbeatable deal for a 10" tablet. I'm looking to spend quite a bit more than that, though, so I'm hoping Asus can wow me with their next-generation offerings.

          • http://www.LOVEanon.org/ Michael Oghia (Ogie)

            No, my WiFi speed at home is blazin fast. But we have a download cap. Thus, no streaming and such.

            I hope Asus can too!

          • Jim

            Has anyone had problems with transferring file from PC to the notes SD card? I went through two Note 2014 units and both wouldn't load data via the USB cable. Also, when the SD card was placed into the PC, that data wasn't readable on the tablet. I have a Note 8" & 10" first gen and they both work flawlessly. The 2014 unit had tons of problems, especially concerning data transfer to the card. I tried several PC's and cards and this wasn't a factor. All performed well with the Note 8 & 10 first gen units. Upon returning the two new units, I went to a store across the way and they had a Samung rep walking around with a 2014 unit and we tried the same SD cards in his device. The same thing happened. Two different lots, two diferent stores and the same problem. And yes, the gallery is slow to open.
            As you can tell I like the Note line up and hoped the new unit would be great. However it is glitchy and if it can't do the simplistic functions like copy files the SD cards, I guess I'll have to wait and see if this problem is rectified.
            Anyone experience this?

    • Fellwalker

      When you've got your tablet let us know. It would be great to have a tablet designed by users who are engineers rather than by marketing departments.

      • Joshua

        Will do, haha! I'll make sure it's absolutely perfect.

    • Hihi

      The back looks beautiful. The device is perfect for me.

      • Joshua

        We all have different opinions. I'm glad it works for you and I hope you enjoy your purchase. Personally, I feel there are too many problems with this device to justify paying $550+ for it.

        • Hihi

          damn, it's a shame nobody has made a perfect tablet for you...

          • Joshua

            Oh quit with the sarcasm. I don't subscribe to the Apple mentality of "Well they said it's the right thing for us, so I'll go with it!" *I'm* the consumer. I AM the one who drops $600 on the device. Therefore, I feel that I'm perfectly entitled to demand $600 worth of device. Since I don't feel any tablet has reached that, no OEM has made the perfect tablet for me.

          • Hihi

            That's what I meant. Nobody has made a perfect device for me too, tbh. Probably there are very few people for whom there were made perfect devices.

          • Joshua

            Oh, sorry about my snap, then. I have a hard time with tone of voice over the internet. Yeah, I understand and agree. I'm keeping an eye on all of Asus's announcements. They've been putting out some amazing designs lately, so I'm hoping that within a year or two they'll put something out that I'm willing to drop $500 on.

    • mobilemann

      lol, iOS has much better apps, what doesn't cut it?

      I only ask because i see this a lot with people who then spout a bunch of garbage about the sharing api's. The major thing missing from iOS now is intents, there's not much i can't do, and i have much harder work flows than most.

      Although dealing with apple is definitely a negative. They pull stupid shit like pulling NZB Apps from the app store, but their tablet selection is still 5-10 times better than androids, this is fact.

      You're cutting off your own foot.

      • Joshua

        Awesome, they have a wider selection of apps that I'll never use and more than likely cost a lot more than the Android equivalents. All the apps that I need on a tablet either have dedicated tablet interfaces or are acceptable in "stretched phone" format.

        That's not even bringing up the issue of customizability. I'm willing to mess with system-level stuff just because I don't like the color of an icon, for example. I use Linux on my computer because Windows doesn't give me enough options. The fact of the matter is that iOS doesn't even come close to matching Android's level of customizability, let alone rival it, even when jailbroken. No, I'd be cutting off my own foot in buying an iPad because I'd have to pay an arm and a leg without getting my money's worth back. If I were to spend $500+ on a device, I may as well get a Note 10.1 2014, because at the very least I'd be able to modify it until I'm somewhat satisfied.

        Finally, I don't like many of Apple's practices. Even if an iPad could satisfy me, I would object to giving my money to Apple, and so still refuse to purchase their products.

        • mobilemann

          cute. i've spent $100+ in both stores, every cross platform app i've bought on both has been, gasp, the same price. (plex, icam, etc)

          The second part i do find funny, as i used to write launchers for iOS jailbroken devices via dreamboard. However, that doesn't bother me as much as it did in my 20s. These days, i focus more on functionality, and making sure i can do everything i need. Both OS's do the job. I can vpn in (openvpn finally supports unjailbroken iOS:D) check ip cameras, find nzb's, manage my services, smb, afp, remote plex, etc.

          As for practices, you do know samsung has been convicted of more stuff than apple's been accused of? Or do you prefer OEM's who artificially boost their benchmarks? bear in mind, i personally, don't give a fuck. I'm 1 day away from my pre-ordered gnote 3, and currently rock a gs3, but I also have a n7 (2012) and a ipad mini. One has a large selection of software, the other has a large selection of phone software.

          but yeah, have fun hating on brands, just like apple and samsung tell you too, missing the irony of you calling anyone sheep entirely.

          • Max Buschkopf

            My nexus's 32GB is almost full and 90% of the apps are fully tablet optimized, allowing me to do everything I need to do on it. It's stupid to constantly point out apples larger selection of apps, because it isn't like there is a shortage for android apps optimized for tablets or at least optimized for a high-resolution screens. People keep saying there is but it just honestly hasn't been a problem for me, I recently bought the note 10.1 2014 and am extremely pleased with it. Not only did it promptly receive an update to get rid of any performance issues, the options for productivity, business, and entertainment are with great number. In fact, I can't really find anything that I need to do that there isn't a decently polished app in the play store for. The app selection might have been insufficient back mid-2012 but in the past year it has grown exponentially.

          • mobilemann

            lol, you can do that with like 5 games. It's not stupid to point out a much larger tablet made part of the store, sorry.

            not to mention, more half of your tablet apps, look horrible at 1080p, none were designed for these ridiculous new resolutions (i have a n7 2013 too), where as apple forces developers to play ball, which is mean, but results in a much better experience for tablet owners.

            and I'm also a note 3 user. Stop making stuff up!

          • Max Buschkopf

            I'm not making stuff up. I'm just sharing my experience, I'm basing an argument off of a real world situation not a bunch of random shit I read in random places on the internet. Who are you to tell me you know my experience better than me myself? I don't care if you believe me and this is the last response I'm going to be making on this site, as it is seems it will be impossible to have a cogent argument, or an exchange of personal development. I don't need you to tell me I'm right, nor do I need you to confirm how polished my experience has been on my device because; I use it every day and am fully familiar with how the variety of applications available. I shouldn't have considered this thread an appropriate place for me to share my experience; it was my fault.

          • mobilemann

            well, you can fill up any tablets storage with a handful of high end games.

            I own 3 android tablets as well; and in my just as valid experience anecdotal experience, i find that tops 50% are even optimized for tablets, then tops 10% of them, have assets for these ultra high res screens.

            thanks for focusing on a part of my post that i probably shouldn't have said (it was bad) and ignoring all the other stuff, i should expect as much from people who are unwilling to admit another platform might have a better ecosystem

          • Max Buschkopf

            I apologize also, my intent wasn't to imply that Apples ecosystem isn't better. I do understand that they have backed there tablet much more than google has backed android for tablets and the play store, they really pushed developers to make quality applications, and gave their device hardware and software that developers can work with. There has been an undeniable amount of progress though since android has come to tablets, and there is still a long way to go before they have a storied franchise of buttery smooth apps written for high res screens like apple has. I do think though that since we saw the release of the original nexus 7, google has really been pushing for high quality, high resolution applications. Apple does have very strong, amazing, foundations as far as applications go, all i meant to say is that it doesn't mean that Google isn't building theirs to. I don't want you to think I am someone who is Anti, or Pro any single operation system; and perhaps I over-assumed when I thought that you were someone who blindly supports apple; I have just read a lot of heat that people have put on Google and the Play Store for not supporting tablet optimized apps decently when it has been getting better, especially when you know what apps or developers to look for.

          • mobilemann

            nope, i rock a note 3 man, and i love the phone, love it. I've bought a n7 (2013) but i'm still going to buy the new "retina" mini.

            i'm not saying it's hasn't gotten better mind you, i believe it has, (as i also had a a100 by acer, and hp touchpad etc, and it's miles better than it was then)

            I also honestly, like to dip my feet into multiple platforms.

    • Ttree

      I checked it out at the Samsung shop. Tested an actual model (not demo) with the magnetic "notepad" case. The case is slim and light and the device in the case is compact and light, and feels nice and balanced. Unlike the iPad 4 in its magnetic case, (which is also very slippery and hard to balance in one hand without the case and which I find incredibly heavy). I am planning to order the Note 10.1 2014 tomorrow and will get the thin magnetic case for it as well. I need mine for meetings and design and to be as portable as possible (I work on tablets in my job which is tablet usability studies) so such things as lightness and portability tablet are priority for me. I wouldn't be getting a 10" device if I didn't think it was portable enough.

  • http://goodmorninggloucester.wordpress.com/ captjoe06

    Wow. Very disappointed with the lag issues. I was all ready to line up at Best Buy but I find a $600 tablet with lag inexcusable. Dang it.

    I actually like the looks of the new backing they are using. Looks really smudge and smear proof. Like the idea of the expandable memory micro sd slot. Like the 16:10 aspect ratio over last year's model 16:9. But if you're telling me that LAST year's Nexus 10 performs on par with this (despite supposedly better specs) then the new Nexus 10 should kick it's butt.

    While the s pen seems like a cool idea it's not make or break for me.

    So I guess it comes down to what I value more- expandable memory and 16:10 aspect ratio or better performance in the upcoming new Nexus 10 and an aspect ratio of 16:9 if they keep the Nexus 10 refresh the same as last year's aspect ratio.

    I'll take one for a spin at Best Buy on the 10th and see if the lag is noticeable.

    • Joshua

      All of Samsung's tablets last year had a 16:10 aspect ratio. The N10 has this same 2560x1600 screen and the Note line all had 1280x800, which is analogous to 1280x720, the 16:9 format.

  • Dan C.

    Can you try a custom launcher like Nova and see if it's still laggy?

  • porter86

    Android tablets will never compete with the iPad. Top specs but still lags, who wants that? And no tablet optimised apps either..

    Proof that specs aren't everything.. http://versus.com/en/samsung-galaxy-note-10-1-2014-edition-vs-apple-ipad-4-64gb

    • Joshua

      Saying "never" is too limiting. Android is vastly more powerful than iOS, and so it's very preferable to have it on a tablet. OEMs can't seem to make a tablet that lacks make faults, though. I enumerated the ones in this tablet above. Obviously the major flaw in the iPad is the operating system.

    • crankerchick

      Try using a 3rd generation iPad with iOS 7. Lag city.

      • greyhulk

        No joke. I actually nearly bought an iPad 4 until I read that it lags with iOS7 too. While I'm sure Apple will address this, it's frustrating that they released it in this state.

        I dumped my iPad 3 and started using my Nexus 10 full time. No regrets and much less lag.

        • crankerchick

          I'm using my Nexus 7 a lot more now too. I'll wait for iPad 5 and hope Apple addresses the lag in updates in the mean time.

  • wickets

    thanks for the excellent review

  • Bleakvision

    Last years review was a great hit piece (-1 for rewriting history in the introduction), this was more on the boring side.

    • Bleakvision

      1) This tablet will look terribly old when the new, sleek iPad 5 hits the scene. It has zero chance at this price point. Some of the S-Pen features are unique and theoretically useful, but the input lag alone kills the experience. Samsung needs to take that Microsoft study about input lag to heart. (http://goo.gl/ccBAE)

      2) Look at the hand written texts in the review, you can not write any smaller than that - which kills it for students who might want to write more complex formulas and sketches. If you're a student, definitely try before you buy! In my experience with with Note 2 and Note 8.0 only basic scribbling is possible.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

        2) Look at the hand written texts in the review, you can not write any smaller than that - which kills it for students who might want to write more complex formulas and sketches. If you're a student, definitely try before you buy! In my experience with with Note 2 and Note 8.0 only basic scribbling is possible.

        --Yes you can, I just had the brush thickness larger so the text would be legible in screenshots without having to make them full size.

        3) The review was good as always, I just would have liked a more critical review of all the S-Garbage. Also, capacitive hardware buttons on a tablet and even the infamous menu button makes a return? How could you let that go?

        --Because this isn't something new. Samsung has been doing this on all of its new devices - why start harping on it now (more than we already have in past reviews)? I tried to stick to everything relevant - and most importantly, new - about this tablet.

        • Bleakvision

          Thanks for the clear response!
          I look forward to give the hand writing on this Note a try.

          BTW the new mobile theme of disqus has a few bugs ;)

    • Stocklone

      I quit going to Android Police for about 6 months because of that review. Honestly, I couldn't believe they actually published it.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

        That was a very polarizing review, but it helped us change our format and better curate our reviews.

  • duse

    Sorry but the Menu button alone is the single biggest piece of fail I have ever heard of on a tablet. The screen is huge and it's simply ridiculous to have any UI elements off screen. Tons of apps won't even use it and the button will do nothing. I expected a quality Android site like AP to criticize this much more heavily.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Again, this isn't a new thing for Samsung. I did mention how awkward the buttons are, but didn't feel the need to spend a lot of time on something that's overly obvious.

      • Dillon Lawrence

        I agree. Some people will like them for their own reasons (personal taste) others will hate them. It's the same with button placement etc.

      • duse

        Yeah that's true...the thing about it is user experience is paramount. It's why iPhone beats Android in user satisfaction surveys all the time. The Android community should be rooting for Android to move forward in this regard, and Google has done a decent (not perfect) job attempting to do that. Companies like Samsung doing things like this really wreck that, and it deserves to be universally panned.

    • Hihi

      interestingly nobody complains about home button on almost all windows tablet being there, but in pretty much every comment section about note 10.1 there are people calling it fail...

      • duse

        I never said anything about the Home button, I said the Menu button.

        • Hihi

          hah, complaining about placement of MENU button... that's ridiculous. it is near the home button where would it be? instead of hitting the home button hit the button 1 cm to the left of it

  • spydie

    so is air command going to be that laggy on the Note 3? I HOPE NOT! I have one coming in a few days... thinking about canceling it now!

  • spydie

    The gallery in all my samsung phones have become so laggy at times that they are totally unusable. I use quickpic and have tried many others. They all produce "some" lag at times, but not like the totally unusable samsung gallery. How hard can it be to display all your pictures folders in a timely manner? Obviously very hard....

  • Mystery Man

    This new mobile Disqus is AWFUL. Please put it back the way it was.

    • Joshua

      It has its problems, but I've NEVER encountered a worse mobile user experience than what mobile Disqus was before. Let's keep this new one and just fix the errors.

  • Mike Reid

    >Hell, that's not even lag, it's just bullshit.

    Agreed.

    And that's the kind of no nonsense reporting that keep me coming back to AP. :)

  • Vinnie

    What's the point of all this complaining.... The only thing all the consumer should do is to boycott the product. then & only then Sammy will start to listen.... Apply the same for other company....

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      Oh God.

  • Rafael Santana de Brito
  • Babs Oyed

    I agree with most of your point except for your criticism of the plastic component. I think that's utterly subjective and I find you're "plasticophobia" to be irrational and annoying.

    I absolutely will rather have plastic if it keeps the device lighter.

    I plan to buy this tablet, I'm just waiting to see if there will be a 12.1 inch Note and if there will be a 64gb version.
    Thanks for the review.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      I never said a bad word about plastic. It's plastic trying to look like leather, stitching, or chrome that rubs me the wrong way. It may be subjective, but I'd be willing to bet that most people agree with me.

    • someone755

      Plastic=good.
      Cheap plastic on flagship=bad.

  • Michael J Carroll

    I like how you mentioned you like to call the S Pen the Spen right under the section on Sapps.

  • Dyelon

    It sounds like a good custom ROM could solve alot of the Note's problems...no?

    • Fellwalker

      But you lose what you've paid all that money for - the spen integration

      • Joshua

        I think CM actually has S Pen support built into its Note ROMs. Don't quote me on that, though, since I could be wrong. I'm torn between saying it's CM and AOKP. Of course, it could be neither, lol.

        • Dyelon

          No you're right. There's a few different ROMs that maintain S-Pen functionality. If I get a Note 2014, it will be on the basis that those ROMs will be available for me and will include S-Pen support. Or else I'll just get the new Nexus 10.

  • nothanks

    Bought the first note 10.1 less than one year ago. No updates in my country since then. Whenever i read about future updates the 10.1 is never mentioned. Samsung takes your money and that's it basically. I wanted a tablet with a stylus but it is not so useful to justify the prize and how sammy treats its customers: No thanks. not to mention Knox. Its a no brainer for me to switch to another company

    • sgp

      Agreed. I live in the states and my 10.1 is still running 4.1.2 with no update in site! I don't expect them to support it forever, but I am a bit disappointed with their update policy. The note will be my last Samsung phone/tablet purchase.

  • Stocklone

    I live and die by the S Pen. There really is no other option. I'm buying it and deal with any lag issues that should be fixed with a patch. The original Note 10.1 is far far smoother experience after the JellyBean update. I assume the same will happen with this one. This has to be a software optimization issue.

    • someone755

      Well if the company's flagship devices have lags because of their poorly made software, that company is a no-no for me.

  • Himmat Singh

    It's 2013, and we have a "premium" tablet with 3GB (I repeat, 3GB) worth of RAM yet there's evident lag. Android is a lost cause I tell you. My iPad 2 with 1/6th of the RAM is pretty darn fluid.

    This, to me (referring to the lag), has always been one of Android's weakest point. Sad to see it's still not lag-free in this day and age.

    PS: It's not just the Note 10.1 2. I've used the S4, HTC One, Padfone 2, Note 2...they all have intermittent moments of lag.

    • greyhulk

      You clearly haven't updated your iPad 2 to iOS7 yet. Go ahead and do that and then come back here and preach about how fluid it is. I'll wait.

    • someone755

      If my chipset-from-2011 Xperia S can't have any lag, you're doing something wrong, Mister...
      (Also, have you tried a linaro franco.kernel plus a linaro ROM with the N4?)

    • reuben

      I have a HTC one and it's flawless. Never lags. For me it's not android that's the problem it's touchwiz. There's already been updates to sort out most of the lad on the note 10.1 2014

  • Nadia Taylor

    as kathy respond Im alarned that aperson can get paid $9726 in one month on the internet. review, BIG44.­c­o­m

  • AverageConsumer

    I know this would be completely different OS, but how does the Surface 2 (w/Stylus) fair to this? I mean if I'm paying $600 and getting what seems to be an action-packed Stallone movie filled with acclaimed stars but shows overall failing quality. Although I obviously have not used this machine, the "lag" thing is really bothering me, considering the RAM upgrade, that should not be an issue.
    But back to the main question.. would anyone prefer Surface 2 over this? If so, why or why not..?

    • someone755

      We're Android fans. We'll never recommend you the Surface. :P
      Though, I'm a big Sammy hater and would never recommend you a Sammy either... xD

  • deze

    I scour the internet regularly for a good sketchbook art review of this device since it houses a Wacom digitiser , but nothing yet... Just loads of reviews covering the same old marketing USP's ...

    A digital sketchpad would be the primary use for this device for me and many other artists I'm sure.. I guess I'm going to have to wait until the device is commercially out in the wild for these type of reviews. Nice review by the way, but nothing relevant here for me ;-(

    • someone755

      It's a wacom digitizer. It's practically the same as the one in the old Note Tab. The pen is a bit different and overall improved, but that's it.

  • bryan

    The system bar up a the top makes sense for me because I do so much handwriting in lectures. When I get near the bottom of the screen, the notifications and mini apps are constantly opening because of my knuckle or wrist.

  • CJ456

    If you don´t like this tablet I would wait for Next year´s Xperia tablet Z (probably Xperia Tablet Z1) it wouldn´t only be featherweight and gourgeous but pack great internals (the one currently in offer just doesn´t cut it anymore)

    • someone755

      Agreed. Wanted to get the Z Tab, but realized that a Z1 was probably due soon...
      It's still a great tablet, tho. Just not worth the same money as a Z1 with a Snapdragon 800 inside.

  • Noe Juarez

    On the storage whats apk that only moves to sd card? I feel like returning the note 10.1 2014 now that I know I cant move app to sd.

    • someone755

      In today's world, most apps, if moved to .android_secure, take more data than if installed in /data.

  • fredphoesh

    @cameronsummerson:disqus when you say it was laggy out of the box, I am assuming you waited 10 minutes after entering your account details, rebooted the device and then tested it?
    As we all know, android devices restore all your contacts etc when you first start it up... so it should be tested only once all that is done.
    I say this because I have a nexus 10 which is much slower than this device and dont have lag at all... so there must be something causing that.

  • oneshot

    Hello, I have one question: does the formula match still exist in the 2014 edition? And if yes, is it in the device, or in the app store, and how can it be used? Thanks!

  • Tom

    Hi Guys, the 2014 edition just hit the streets where I am and I was contemplating an upgrade from my current 2012 Note 10.1, however, judging from the review, I am now rather torn. Nevertheless, what's your take on an upgrade from the old 10.1 to this new one? I use the 10.1 mainly for one-on-one presentations, videos, note taking using the spen and reading online news.

  • maaen

    You should have also mentioned in a big way ...the need to have user replaceable battery and two slots for micro sd memory cards apart from the on board memory of minimum 32gb.
    Above points are very important to consider unless you want us all to throw away tablets once the on board battery dies...

  • edwin

    This front facing stereo speakers damn sharp and awesome. .hope coming2014 they will make S5 build in a quad front facing speaker to beat down HTC one..

  • end7

    Please how do I get the firmware update for this tablet

  • Khaycee Calabia

    can i ask if playstore is already installed in all note 10.1 2014 edition?

  • Mike Buhagiar

    For the record, I bought the LTE version with 32GB and can honestly say there is no lag and no stutter. I appreciate style is personal and the faux leather seems to create a "marmite" momentyou either love it or you hate it) The black version looks fine and don't forget its mostly hidden away inside your protective case.
    So style fashionisttas should perhaps accessorise their gadget to bring out their individualism.

    Its a great device. Well worth looking at it especially with the faster processor in the LTE which may not have been available when this review was published.

    ( ps.Great review by the way)