Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review

A closer look at the now quad-core tablet from Korea

TODO alt text

We mentioned the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1's striking similarities to the recently unveiled Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 in our introduction, and there's no doubt that on first glance they appear almost identical.

The truth is that the Note's dimensions are a little bit different, at 262 x 180 x 8.9mm, and it's a tiny bit heavier, at 597g. Despite the slightly different tale of the tape, though, there's no escaping the fact that we're dealing with a white plastic tablet, complete with silver trim and front-facing twin speaker grills.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 1 review

And while the Pearl White finish is somewhat aesthetically pleasing (a Pearl Grey offering is also available), there's no disguising the slightly disappointing design. We're not saying the build quality is anywhere below par, but we'd have much preferred an aluminium chassis, or at least a textured plastic or rubber.

Like the Samsung Galaxy S3, the white finish looks nice from afar but up close it's a tad too flexible for our liking, and it you'll find it's covered with fingerprints and smudges after only a short play - a crime the silver mock-metal trim is also guilty of.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 1 review

Talking of that silver trim and, front-facing, it is penetrated on the top side edges by the dual stereo speaker setup. This is a feature that, once again, was also part of the Tab 2 10.1's design, but it's one that we're fond of, since it produces a much more natural audio experience.

The port and button action is all found across the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1's top edge. From left to right you'll find the power button, the volume rocker, a microSD (flap-covered port), an infrared receiver and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There's a distinct lack of an HDMI port, so you'll need a USB adaptor for wired HD TV action.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 1 review

On the bottom are the little slot where the S-Pen slots into - which we'll come back to later - and the Micro USB port that is used for disk mounting and charging.

The silver trim curves into the front edge nicely, although there is a noticeable lip where the silver reaches the white bezel. There's also a distinct black trim around the LCD display, and we can't help but think that Samsung could have done a better job of seamlessly integrating the panel into the design.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 1 review

And yes, you read that correctly - it's an LCD display. A TFT one, in fact, with an awfully underwhelming 1280 x 800 display. Yes, we know that's still an HD display, but in a tablet arena now being dominated by Full HD 1080p displays (not to mention the iPad's 2048 x 1536 display), and Samsung being a display panel specialist, we can't help but feel a little short-changed. The original 5.3-inch Samsung Galaxy Note boasted a Super AMOLED display, after all.

Grumbles aside, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 still has a vibrant display with great viewing angles, and more than does the job of making HD footage stand out. It just lacks that wow factor that we've come to expect from Samsung.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 1 review

The processor onboard is a 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos one, backed up by 2GB of RAM. While rivals go down the Nvidia Tegra 3 route for their quad-core engine rooms, Samsung is able to keep things in-house.

The huge RAM option is a nice first for an Android tablet as well - comfortably blowing the 1GB Transformer Pad Infinity, as well as the iPad, out of the water in this respect.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 1 review

As mentioned, the onboard storage is 16GB, and this is expandable by up to 64GB more by using the microSD slot. Samsung mentions 32GB and 64GB options on its website, but there's no word of these versions landing in the UK yet.

We had no issue transferring stuff from our microSD card to the internal storage, or running digital media directly from it. Our review model was the Wi-Fi-only version, although for £100 (around $155) more, 3G connectivity (HSPA+ 21Mbps 850/900/1900/2100, EDGE/GPRS 850/900/1800/1900) is available.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 1 review

Weighing a shade under 600g, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is light enough to hold, even for long periods of time, and the curved, shiny design makes it pleasing in the hand. There are no physical buttons up top - long gone are the days of an Android home button (despite Samsung still putting one on its flagship smartphone).

The battery is a 7,000mAh Li-on one - we'll let you know later on how we got on with it.