The advent of capacitive touchscreen displays made us believe that there was no place of a stylus input for our mobile devices. And we did start to believe it until Samsung came out with their Galaxy Note last year. Despite some negative response for bringing back the stylus aka S Pen input with the Galaxy Note, the device became a success, selling over 10 million units in a year.
Now Samsung has come up with a logical extension of the Galaxy Note range with the Galaxy Note 10.1 or Galaxy Note 800 as it is known in India. Unlike the original Galaxy Note that spawned a new smartphone-tablet hybrid category (phablet), the Galaxy Note 800 is a proper tablet with a 10.1-inch display laden with a Wacom digitizer and S Pen support. But will the tablet be able to repeat the success similar to the original Galaxy Note? We take a thorough look.
Design and Build:
Samsung has adopted a new design for its tablet devices, including the Galaxy Note 800. Similar to the Galaxy Tab 2 series, this high-end tablet comes with a two tone finish, which in this case was white with a silver bezel. Also, just like previous gadgets from Samsung, this high-end tablet is also fitted with a plastic chassis. Now to be honest, the glossy plastic does not look cheap but it does not look as classy as compared to a device with metallic body. The glossy plastic also gives rise to fingerprint smudges and makes the rear scratch-prone.
As for the placements, the front is graced by a big 10.1-inch display, front-facing 1.9MP camera while the top side hosts a 3.5mm headphone jack, on/off button, volume +/- buttons; bottom side features a proprietary slot for charging and data transfer and; finally a 5MP camera with LED flash at the back and S Pen slot.
The Galaxy Note 800 comes with a 10.1-inch display and supports a resolution of 1280×800 pixels (WXGA). The resolution is perfectly doable but given the fact that the Galaxy Note 800 tries to compete with the iPad and the likes, the resolution is a bit downer if you are expecting some detailed pixels per inch.
The Galaxy Tab 800 is equipped with an LCD panel, which means the blacks are not as deep as AMOLED displays found in Samsung’s smartphones but is still respectable. Color reproduction is decent and can even be tweaked by selecting the Movie or Dynamic color modes. The screen is legible under direct sunlight as well.
However, one issue I faced with the display was the touch response, which was hit and a miss. The display had to be touched couple of times before the tablet started registering touch inputs after using S Pen.
If you recall, Samsung announced the Galaxy Note 800 at MWC but closer to the launch, beefed up the device with 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos processor and 2GB RAM. It was a good decision as the extra horsepower does help the device. The execution of the apps was pretty quick and I didn’t feel any sign of lagginess except for the occasional touchscreen input misses.
Rounding up the hardware are dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 with apt-X codec support, microSD card slot and A-GPS.
S Pen and Apps:
Let’s talk about the USP of the device – the S Pen. Samsung has worked to improve the S Pen and it is pretty evident. The S Pen is now a bit thicker and fits nicely in the hands. The S Pen also features a button that enhances the functionality of the S Pen. For instance, pressing the button while clicking on the screen takes a screenshot; pressing the button and swiping up will activate the menu. Removing the S Pen from its slot will wake up the device and will pop up a bunch of apps from the side which you can use with the S Pen. The apps pop up menu can be configured according to user’s preference.
The bunch of pre-loaded apps that take advantage of the S Pen input include S Note, S Planner, Adobe Photoshop Touch and few more. S Note, in particular, is a very interesting app. It not only allows to take and store handwritten notes, S Note is also capable of recording the S Pen input with the ‘record sketching’ feature, solve math problems or create shapes. However, if you wish, you can use the S Pen on any level of the OS.
Samsung also has an S Pen SDK in place for developers that allows them to take advantage of the S Pen input for their apps.
The tablet runs Android 4.0 and the Android 4.1 update is expected anytime soon. The Galaxy Note 10.1 also runs TouchWiz and brings some of the features found in Galaxy S III like Smart Stay and Pop Up Play. Although Smart Stay works, we found it to be unneeded for a tablet. Pop Up Play on the other hand, is pretty nifty. The default video player will be popped up so as to allow users to watch a movie and type an email simultaneously. The Pop Up Player is resizable as well.
Multiscreen is another improvement that takes advantage of the larger display. It is similar to what Samsung has added to the Galaxy Note II but is limited to Samsung apps only. Hopefully the Android 4.1 will add the Multi-view that will allow to use various non-Samsung apps. Mini apps also allow to multitask but again, is limited to certain number of applications.
The tablet also comes pre-loaded with Peel Smart Remote app that works in conjunction with the IR blaster. The app transforms Galaxy Note 10.1 to a universal remote control.
Completing the software lineup is the Allshare Play, Game Hub, ChatON messenger, Polaris Office, app recommendations from S Suggest and My Education for educational content.
Multimedia and Camera:
Galaxy Note 10.1 offers a good multimedia experience. The wide variety of codec and format support enables the tablet to play almost any content out of the box without having to convert it. It supports DivX, MPEG4, AVI, FLV, MKV, WebM, MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG and more.
The tablet’s rear-facing camera is a 5MP one whereas the front-facing supports a resolution of up to 1.9MP. To be honest, Galaxy Note 10.1 is a decent snapper and gets the work done.
To spruce it up, Samsung has also added some features to enhance photographs and includes shooting modes like Share shot and Buddy photo share.
Both front and rear cameras are capable of shooting 720p HD videos.
Calling and Battery Life:
The HSPA+ variant of Galaxy Note 10.1 also includes calling functionality. And though there isn’t any earpiece on the tablet, a user can communicate with a headset (wired or wireless) or via the loudspeakers. The call quality turned out to be good on both sides and the option of ‘Extra Volume’ certainly helps to make it more audible.
The tablet has a 7000mAh batter and though each user’s battery life would vary according to the usage, the tablet lasted for about 2 days with latched onto a 3G network and Wi-Fi the whole time with sessions of games, videos and music.
Overall, the tablet is pretty good with its fast processor, ample RAM and storage and S Pen input that brings a new way to interact with the Galaxy Note 10.1. But the biggest hindrance, we feel, is the price. Samsung sells the 3G variant for Rs. 37,500 with no option for Indian consumers to buy the Wi-Fi-only variant. The Wi-Fi-variant would not only make the tablet cheaper but would help to increase the adoption of the device as well.