The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is a top-tier entrant into to the ever-expanding Android tablet market that its makers will hope fares well against the likes of the Asus Transformer range, the Toshiba AT300 and Acer's Iconia Tabs.

However, it comes at a more premium price tag than some of its rivals, with only the flagship Asus Transformer Prime Infinity costing more in the big-screen tablet arena. And crucially, given Samsung's huge rivalry with Apple, it's a tablet that squares up directly against the new iPad in terms of cost.

It's USP - the S-Pen - may win some fandroids over, though, and there are plenty of standout software tweaks to get excited about.

We liked

We're massive fans of a native experience, and we're of the opinion that if you're going to skin Google's mobile platform then you should do it comprehensively - don't just make small changes here and there for the sake of it. Alterations should enhance, or at least differentiate, the experience.

Luckily, Samsung seems to have this philosophy too, and the TouchWiz UI onboard the Galaxy Note 10.1 offers some fantastic software options, such as the split-screen app viewing, the picture-out video playback and, of course, the S-Pen control.

The quad-core Exynos processor, combined with 2GB of RAM, also means that the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 doesn't disappoint when it comes to speed and performance. Apps are quick to load, media playback is stutter-free and multitasking is done with ease.

We disliked

The design is strikingly similar to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 - a far more budget-friendly tablet - which is a shame. It's a shame because, while the price tag is the same, the design of the Galaxy Note 10.1 is nowhere near on a par with the new iPad.

And while the quad-core grunt and healthy RAM offering outdoes its Cupertino-based rival, the display lacks the wow factor of Apple's incredible Retina screen.

Also, despite us praising the TouchWiz interface, there is a hint of overkill when it comes to Samsung's customisations. Google produces perfectly good (nay, brilliant) email and calendar apps, so it's a pity that Samsung continues to force feed us its own variations.

Final verdict

Let us get the obvious out of the way first - no, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is not an iPad killer. Despite being priced-up identically, Apple's 10-inch tablet easily comes out top.

But that's not necessarily a decisive blow for the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. Not everyone buys into Apple's walled ecosystem, after all - many people are looking for an Android adventure. And in this sense, the Note 10.1 doesn't disappoint.

Its S-Pen control setup is brilliantly intuitive, especially when combined with arty apps such as Photoshop Touch, and Samsung has made some great alterations to Google's mobile OS.

Split-screen app viewing works particularly well on a tablet, and the pop-out video window is great for casual viewing when you need to also check your emails or get stuff done on the web.

And while we've lamented the fact that the design is no better than the more affordable Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, it's still not a bad-looking tablet. And, let's be frank, it at least stands out from the vast array of black tablet clones that are already available.

Ultimately, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is a step up for Samsung, and is the best tablet to land from the Korean giant since the original Galaxy Tab 10.1 landed in 2011. It's super-speedy thanks to the quad-core CPU, and multitasking is a breeze thanks to the generous memory onboard.

The price is perhaps a bit more than we would have liked, and it's perhaps not the game-changer that we were secretly hoping Samsung had up its sleeve, but it's still a great 10-inch tablet with a stylish-twist (or should that be stylus-twist?).