Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - 2014 Edition review

it's time for Samsung's yearly refresh of the popular Note series, and this go-around we're going to take a good look at the big boy of the bunch — The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - 2014 Edition. Which we're going to call the Note 10.1 for the rest of this review.

We first saw the Note 10.1 back in Berlin at IFA 2013, and we were impressed with the thinness, the responsiveness and above all the beautiful 2560 x 1600 screen. This automatically addressed our biggest complaint about it's predecessor, namely it's 1200 x 800 resolution. Through all the rage on the Internet about LCD versus AMOLED, everyone can agree that Samsung is capable of building wonderful displays. We knew this was going to be one we wanted to look at. We like it when a product puts us all into full-on Android-nerd mode. And now is our chance.

You'll have your chance soon, because the Note 10.1 will be available starting October 10, in two Wifi-only models. You'll pay $550 for the 16GB version, and $600 for the 32GB version. That's a lot of money for anything. Hit the break and decide if it's worth it.

Galaxy Note 10.1 - 2014 Edition forums

A walkthrough

The Note 10.1 also addresses one of our other complaints about the original — the construction. While the first 10-inch Note felt flimsy and delicate, the 2014 edition is much more sturdy. You have a faux-chrome band around the entire edge and the plastic used for the back of the tablet is thicker and textured. It's a much nicer feeling tablet all around.

Another change from last year's Note 10.1 is the addition of a physical home button. You'll find it on the bottom bezel, along with two capacitive buttons (menu and back) that now work with the S Pen. Whether Samsung wanted a unified design for esthetic reasons, or for a common set-up for the software team we don't know, but the on-screen buttons from the original are no more.

Let's have a look at what makes this tick.

The hardware

A 10-inch tablet is one jumbo piece of glass, and presenting it the right way is important. We mentioned the band around the edge of the tablet as well as the textured (leather-textured, if you will) thicker back, and they all meet on the sides of the Note nicely. The plastic rolls over the edge of the trim band, and the trim band rolls over the edge of the glass. All the edges are rounded, but you get an angular feel rather than the rounded feel the last generation of Note devices gave off. The corner radius is also smaller, making the Note look rectangular over all. It's a good look. Our unit is in bright white, which seems to be easy enough to keep clean.

This is one of the nicest full-sized tablet screens out there

Nestled along that chrome-styled band are the controls, ports and speakers. The bottom of the device has a microUSB (not the 3.0 version in the Note 3) smack in the middle, a microSD card slot and speaker grill on the right, power, volume and IR across the top, and a 3.5mm headphone jack and second speaker to the left. The position of everything is fine and reachable. It's not as if you're going to use a 10-inch tablet one-handed anyway. 

Perched in the upper right corner is the S Pen. Two things users of other Note devices will appreciate right away are that it will go into it's cubby-hole either direction (see the Samsung logo in the image above) and that it's slightly thicker. It gives it a bit better feel with a little more meat to grab onto. It's also sporting more features in the software, and the Wacom-powered digitizer is running at an outstanding 2560 x 1600 resolution. These improvements make the S Pen the whole reason for picking up a Note 10, and it's the device's killer feature. 

The screen

The display is great. It's clear, crisp, and the resolution makes watching video or reading text a wonderful experience. Billed as a "Super clear LCD" the capacitive touch screen displays 16 million colors with a 2560 x 1600 resolution that gives the Note 10.1 a whopping 299 ppi density. It displays those colors well, with special Dynamic and Movie modes as well as an Adaptive mode that helps determine which setting is optimal. You'll like this screen, and it's one of the nicest full-sized tablet screens out there.

The engine

Under the hood you have the Exynos 5420 paired with 3GB of RAM. This makes the internals the pinnacle for spec junkies and hardware nerds alike, because this is the first we've seen of either. The 3GB of RAM is easy to understand, you have an extra GB to do more things faster, making the TouchWiz experience better. The CPU itself is pretty special, because of its capability to be a true eight-core processor. It can use the Heterogeneous Multi-Processing (HMP) big.LITTLE model, which will allow any or all of the cores to operate at will. 

In this model, the kernel is aware of both the quad-core A7 cluster and the quad-core A15 cluster, and a heterogeneous aware scheduler will run the cores independently as needed. In addition, the Exynos 5420 also enables a fix to the cache coherency interface, enabling the CPU cores to work more efficiently with the Mali T-628 GPU. 

There's no word on whether this will be enabled at launch or if users will have to wait for a software update to enable them. Our unit appears to only allow four cores to be enabled at once, and looks to be running the old-style kernel scheduler. We've reached out to Samsung for full clarification now that the press blackout has lifted.

The full specifications

  • Platform: Android 4.3 with TouchWiz
  • Display: 10.1-inch Super clear LCD with 2560 x 1600 resolution, 299 ppi
  • Memory: 3GB RAM; 16/32/64 GB storage; microSD card slot
  • Camera: 8MP rear with LED flash; 2.0MP front
  • Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n/ac dual-band Wifi; Bluetooth 4.0; A-GPS and GLONASS
  • Sensors: Accelerometer; proximit; compass
  • Battery: 8220mAh Lithium Ion
  • Dimensions: 243.1 x 171.4 x 7.9 mm, 535 grams

The software

You're buying a Samsung tablet if you pick up the Note 10.1, so you had better expect lots of colorful tweaks and software additions entwined into Android. Everyone has an opinion about TouchWiz, but with this tablet you're using it whether you like it or not if you want the S Pen features and support. I have to advise you to not buy this if you want to wipe it clean and install CM on it. Instead, save a couple hundred dollars and buy a tablet without the S Pen.

each version of TouchWiz looks a little more refined than the last

We'll stay out of that debate and instead focus on the out-of the-box experience, which isn't bad. There are tiny issues like animations that seem to flutter (that'd be less than a stutter in Jerry's dictionary of made-up meanings) on occasion, or a few millisecond pause when you want to open Air Command while the UI sound plays, but for the most part things are smooth and fluid. This is difficult to pull off on a 10-inch tablet, because the screen elements are in our field of vision longer. We notice every tiny slowdown or glitch.

TouchWiz is also slowly maturing, and each version looks a little more refined than the last. Special touches like the walkthrough video that plays when you first use S Note are a nice touch, and we hope Samsung continues down this path. You still have to contend with some of the things you may find irritating, but you'll have that with any operating system. We're not going to say TouchWiz is better or worse than any other flavor of Android, but we will say it's better than the last version of TouchWiz — and that's what matters.

There are also some big new features built into the operating system. My Magazine is a very nicely done Flipboard clone, complete with news, personal data, social networking and local information built into the flip-card interface. Think of it as Blinkfeed on steroids, with more data in more categories. The two drawbacks here are that you can't add your own sources, and like Blinkfeed, you can't shut it off if you would rather not use it.

The full suite of Samsung apps and features are available, just as you would expect. Multi-window applications are there and work as designed, facial and eye tracking to keep the screen from blinking out are there, Adaptive sound, blocking mode, nearby devices — all that you saw from the previous Note devices is still around and minus some small improvements works just the same. You'll feel right at home coming from a last-generation Note tablet.

Air command

Air command encompasses the new S Pen features, and makes for a fine addition to the Note software. When you remove the S Pen from its holder it will automatically open, or you can just hover the S Pen over the screen and tap the button to activate it. 

It's a simple semi-circular menu that shows you the five new powerful features. There doesn't seem to be a way to trigger it without the S Pen, but since most of the features require you to use the advanced stylus, we'll be forgiving. On the Air command window, from left to right:

  • Action memo allows you to write with the S Pen, then place your text into an actionable memo. You can create a contact, add a web link, an email address, a location or add it to a scrapbook entry. The software works surprisingly well, provided your handwriting isn't too sloppy.
  • Scrapbooker allows you to attach any sort of media to a scrapbook note, simply by drawing around it with the S Pen. It captures anything on the screen within the boundaries of your container, and it's intelligent — for example it will save a YouTube video as a video. 
  • Screen write lets the user save an annotate what they see on the screen with a variety of brushes and tools for decorating. It can be fun, but it's also a powerful tool for sharing ideas or instructions. 
  • S finder is a new way to search your content and the web, using variables like time or content type. Admittedly, we haven't had the Note 10.1 long enough to grow a large library of on-device content, but initial testing looks very positive. We'll continue to try this until we send the unit back to Samsung.
  • Pen window works by drawing a window outline, then choosing from a list of pre-installed apps — calculator, alarm, YouTube, contacts, ChatOn, Hangouts and the stock Web Browser — to fill it with. This window is fully actionable, staying above the rest of your displayed content. You can resize or move the window at will, and close it with a simple tap. I can tell you from experience it works very well with Google Hangouts, and I'm going to miss the feature when I send this one back and return to my Nexus 7.

Another addition worth mentioning is the full Knox security package. Users are able to create a separate and secure instance of the OS, complete with its own secure App store. Once installed and configured, your Knox secure container is just a tap in the status bar away. We're curious to see how well this holds up after some large-scale adoption with these new Note devices. 

All in all, this is the best version of TouchWiz yet. That may not be the best praise in the world, but it's a direction we like to see Samsung moving in and we think you will as well.

The camera

Please don't be that guy. While the camera in the Note 10.1 is fairly capable under perfect conditions, it's still cumbersome and pales when compared to the shooters in even the average smartphone. The 8MP sensor gets confused in bright light, often over exposing shots and delivering blurry pictures. Other times, it takes pictures that are pleasant to look at, and once in a while it will take an excellent picture. 

The front facing camera is adequate for video chatting, which is exactly what we like to see in a front facing camera. Five stars here, would use again. The camera software is the same award-worthy software we see in the latest Samsung phones and tablets, with multiple shooting modes and plenty of adjustment. 

The video cameras are nothing special, as you would expect. They will take average looking video at 1080p, but again chances are that your smartphone will do a better job and be easier to manage. One interesting addition to the rear camera is a fast motion mode, which creates time lapses at 2x, 4x or 8x. These are output at the full 1080p quality. See an example below.

The verdict

Galaxy Note 10.1 - 2014 Edition.

Right up front — this is a worthy upgrade from the original. It's faster, better built, and has better S Pen functionality. That's a no-brainer and if you're looking to upgrade last-years model you can buy with confidence. You're the power user Samsung has in mind for the Note series, and the 10-inch version fills a legitimate need for you. 

Conversely, if you're looking for a tablet and would never use the S Pen features, don't let the great screen lure you in. It's beautiful, that's true, but you'll be paying a premium for features you don't want or won't use. The next big thing, possibly even from Samsung may be a better match for your needs.

I'm intrigued by the Note series. I see situations where the S Pen could be a huge time saver, and think it can boost the productivity factor of what is basically an entertainment portal. Artists, musicians, teachers, construction workers, warehouse employees — the list goes on and on of people who may find the Note features worthwhile and useful in their day-to-day life. 

A blogger who likes to fish isn't necessarily on that list, but I'm very much looking forward to an 8-inch Note refresh (I prefer the smaller tablets to the larger) so I can enjoy the S Pen functions. The poor screen and flimsy build of the last model have been addressed, and for most folks — provided you'll use the features — the Note 10.1 will offer a long, useful life. 

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • What about battery life? Posted via Android Central App
  • Engadget's reviewer is a little disappointed:
    "[The tablet]makes it through between two and two and a half days of light to moderate usage, and between a day and a day and a half of heavier use; ultimately, it wasn't as good as the first Note 10.1. In our rundown test, in which we play a locally stored HD movie on an endless loop, our tablet only squeezed out seven and a half hours each time."
    I've never owned a tablet, so I have no reference, but I think I'll be able to get through a whole school day without having to charge it, so I should be ok, even if it's not great. The engadget review is much more critical than AC's. I would recommend you also read that one, this one seems more like an extensive hands-on in comparison.
  • I have years of reading Engadget´s reviews and I must say that they are a little biased on some reviews (some are great, and some aren´t) but this time they were a little biased. Most of the problems with this Note however are due to lack of software optimization, so you should wait to see when those issues are addresed
  • Addressed? When have you seen Samsung release updates to their devices? Rarely do you get updates and if you do see one, it'll be one.
  • if you are a student who uses an iPad, and you have never used a note, you don't know what you're missing.
  • I'm not a student but I can tell you I haven't missed a thing not using The Samsung Note 10.1. iPad still rules .
  • iPad = I can't.... It is under powered and less options for more price. That's why people here call it iMore!
  • Um, how would you know? Maybe you should be a student.
  • Does it render videos in full screen with no black bars like the ipad does?
  • That's really up to the video player app and if it has a zoom mode that cuts off the sides of the picture. If the native player doesn't do it, a bunch of other free players in the app market will.
  • Like the reply above says, it depends on the player...but also on the video source. This SHOULD play videos in a better way since this screen's ratio is closer to 16:9 (widescreen), as for the iPad it's actually closer to 4:3 ('old' TV). Now, while 16:9 is quite common for movies, some will have a longer format, and even in this widescreen tablet, there will be black bars on top, just not as exaggerated as you'd see on an iPad.
  • I currently have the Note 8.0 and Note 2. However, when I pick up the Note 3 on 10/4, I think the Note 8 is just too close in size. I owned the original Note 10.1, and sold it for the 8.0. But with this refresh I think I'll go back to the 10.1 for home and office, and carry my GN3 the rest of the time.
  • I'm actually intrigued by this tablet _because_ of the stylus, which I can't explain for the life of me. Thanks for the review. Also: no Yakity Sax on the fast motion video? I am ashamed.
  • I'm actually looking forward to the physical and capacitive buttons. I cannot tell you how many times I hit the nav bar while thumb typing on my Transformer Prime. It is just aggravating. Unlike Jerry, I am waiting on news of the rumored 12.2" tablet before pulling the trigger on the Note 10.1 because I want as big a tablet as is reasonable.
  • Odd to me they left out USB 3.0 when even the Note 3 has it. Be nice to charge that 8000+mAh battery in less time and transfer files faster. I do wish this article touched on charging and battery life. Those are pretty important numbers when considering any portable device these days. Great article though, thanks.
  • No 4k video capability - so no need for faster large file transfer sizes. You have to cut something to keep the costs down - this tablet's expensive (likely due to the screen type/size) - so you make choices that you think will best suit the consumer.
  • Unfortunately USB 3.0 as implemented by Samsung doesn't actually allow either of those things, see the Anandtech review of the Note 3... Just as slow to charge and still seemingly limited to USB 2.0 speeds for reading data off the device (writing to it is still far more bottlenecked by NAND & eMMC speed rather than interface).
  • Nexus or galaxy tab which one to buy? I am confused. Posted via Android Central App
  • Nexus
  • Ugh this guy is so creepy looking. I simply can't trust his reviews because he looks like a bum. His Youtube videos are downright scary. He's probably covered in food crumbs too. Can a reviewer who respects himself and thus gives solid opinions plz review this device?
  • You judgemental POS, go take a hike. Posted via Android Central App
  • Same applies to you so you take a hike, right off the nearest freeway overpass.
  • Nope, I'm gonna stick around. I enjoy this place. Posted via Android Central App
  • Angry wookie knows his stuff. He's not interviewing to be a waiter at your restaurant, he's giving information about tech. And there will be plenty of places to view a review of the device... so you didn't have to post this. You just felt that your opinion was worthwhile enough that it warranted being heard... which, in my experience, is almost never the case.
  • I put money on the fact that your a bewildered ex. Posted From my Motorola side view pager via 4-5683-8
  • "you're"
  • So you admit it. Gotcha.
  • Says the frog who loves a pig Posted via Android Central App
  • Suddenly I crave a +1 button on comments.
  • *roll eyes*
  • It ain't easy being green...with envy.
  • Good one :D
  • Lol oh Jerry...
  • Jerry,
    You should let people know about the problem with Galaxy Note 10.1 2014. Unlike the old version which allows you to split screen with more 50 apps, the new Edition only works for a few and most of which are not important for this feature. For example, the new edition doesn't work for Kindle app, all news apps, wiki app, and all the things most people use it for greater productivity. I tried to let Samsung know about the problem, but they aren't interested in it, so its not going to be fixed since in their data base it tells technical support it does support these apps. Try it and you will see data base is wrong. So they won't fix it.
  • Why not micro USB3 like the phone? More space, more accessory possibilities; I love the S-pen and multi-window etc. Clearly Samsung can make really nice kit; plus add real flexibility and many productive extras. They go 75% of the way towards fantastic - and just flipping well STOP SHORT - - AGAIN! Does this company have an imagination bypass or something? The Note 3 phone seems to be the more "finished" design. This tablet should be the logical conclusion of that approach. In stead it screeches to a halt 50 yards short of the finish line. What a frustrating company!!!! Do I have to buy ASUS, to get a more rounded and viable concept? At least the Transformer tries to be a finished design. Sombody at Samsung needs a kick up the bum!
  • This is just a guess, but the new Note 3 has 4k video capability, the new (2014) Note 10.1 does not - thus, the need for large file transfer (and quickly) is less important to the tablet than the phone.
  • That may be true in theory, in practice USB 3.0 on the Note 3 seems to do absolutely nothing.
  • I want this so badly!!!! Posted via Android Central App
  • This is my next big purchase. I deserve this for Christmas :-D Posted From my Motorola side view pager via 4-5683-8
  • Theres an app for this you know? Posted via Android Central App
  • As a scenographer, this is a dream come true. Researching and organizing images and information with Scrapbooker will save so much time and make sharing that info way easier. I'm thrilled to get this tablet soon! I would guess that all the normal S-pen features would work with Nova Launcher. I tested it on the 8.0 with perfect success, so this should naturally work too I hope. Either way, I'll be happy.
  • Looks nice, a definite upgrade of the previous note, but like the review says... if you dont need the S-Pen then its an over priced 10 inch tablet, the Nexus 10 would be much better value, and the Nexus 10 refresh would also be a lot more value if priced as last year *Edit due to fat fingers!*
  • Can't wait to have one in my hands and see if it's all it's cracked up to be. I REALLY want to dump the iPad for this, but I still need to see it work first. Nexus 10 couldn't draw me away from the iPad, maybe this one will... After all, it'll work better with my S4 :P At least they'll talk to each other without trying to fry each other's internals :P
  • Why oh why did they choose to go with a Pentile RGBW screen for this instead of using the screen straight off the Nexus 10? Ruins the device for me.
  • Have a look at it first. It's pretty spectacular.
  • Oh I'll get a look at one eventually, but it's a deal breaker for me right now. I can stomach rgbg pentile, but rgbw pentile is a whole different situation. I still remember how eye-searingly bad the rgbw motorola displays were.
  • I have not read one bad thing about the display. Not one.
  • Way too much money Samsung and your trying to lure people away from apple? And also apple is also over the Top with there iPad prices but people buy into it. Samsung needs a new strategy if there going to win the high end tablet war.
  • Apple's tablet is actually cheaper than this, which is funny.
  • So Jerry, will you folks be providing us with an update on the situation regarding the implementation of the HMP big.LITTLE model? I presently own the original Note 10.1, which I use quite heavily. I was all set to upgrade to the 2014 edition because of all the hardware and software updates, but not being able to utilize both core clusters concurrently if needed might be a deal-breaker for me. It hasn't quite been a year since I purchased the original, and this little detail is pretty much the only reason I haven't yet pulled the trigger on pre-ordering the 2014 model. If you're able to get confirmation on any of this from Samsung, it would be greatly appreciated.
  • Yes. I've contacted someone at Samsung who says they will try to get the details from the actual CPU "guys". As soon as I hear something, you will.   
  • Can't wait to hear about this. Great review Jerry.
  • Grammar check the first word! StealthDroid - Working in the Nexus Lab
  • I love that Samsung is making a killer tablet, but unfortunately, Touchwiz is a dealbreaker for me. If Samsung is going to insist that Touchwiz be included with tablets, they should at least give us the option to opt out of it when we light up the tablet for the first time.
  • I'm picking up a Note 3 on Friday, and considering this to replace my iPad. How are the apps on the original Note 10.1? Lacking, or good enough? The iPad dominates the app market for tablets, but I'm starting to get bored with it, and want to try something else.
  • Out of curiosity, how much space is being used initially out of the 32Gb on-board memory?
  • I read somewhere there is about 25GB left for the user on the 32 GB model.
  • I put a 64GB memory card in my 32GB so...90GB+ is fine for me....
  • I put a 64GB memory card in my 32GB so...90GB+ is fine for me....
  • My Magazine is actually flipboard powered. They paid Flipboard. Posted via Android Central App
  • Not going to lie, that was THE BEST rally car footage I have ever witnessed. You're a mad man Jerry, there could have been children. Very cool stuff
  • Yay! No more status bar when taking notes! No more accidental zoom and other unwanted gestures!
  • Does anyone know what how much memory is used by the OS and software that is preinstalled on this thing??? I'm just trying to get a feel for how much useable memory there is. Can't find that information anywhere. Deciding whether I should get the 16GB tablet and just buy a 64GB microSD or if I should go for the 32GB tablet.
  • How is it so so laggy with those specs?
  • I'm tablet shopping right now. This would be my no hesitation purchase but I have no idea when it'll be out in Canada. Plus I rather not wait since I need something to read my school books on. This tablet looks to be amazing though.
  • As an aspiring artist this is an invaluable tool for me, as it's capable if great accuracy AND the drawing programs are much cheaper while allowing for almost everything you will ever want dö do on a computer Posted via Android Central App
  • US of UK version? I split my time equally between the US and the UK and can't decide whether to get the US or UK version of the samsung galaxy note 2014. As far as I can see the difference is in the chipset and connectivity - 1.9 GHz octa-core Exynos CPU (3G) or a quad-core 2.3 Snapdragon 800 (LTE). And price of course. 1. Is one faster than the other?
    2. Will both work in each country? What would you recommend?
  • I cant justify expensive 10" tablets when for a little more than that money I can get something equally portable that can replace my Home PC
  • Try it. you will never go for an iPad or the rest.....
  • This is the best tablet on the market, better than any iPad or even the Nexus 7 tablet. No tablet can compare to this simply because of the fantastic software. A tablet needs the S-Pen feature or it is useless. The S-Pen makes the tablet a very powerful tool, once you use it for about a week you will not want a tablet without it. I run a construction business and the S-Pen is a tool I use with my customers every day. I can not begin to tell you how useful and important it is to make my job easier. I want this new tablet, going to wait until the 64gb, LTE version becomes available. I will give my last years Samsung tablet to my kids, they love the S-Pen feature. The Note 3 works so well together with it's big brother. The software on these new devices are mind blowing. I'll say it again, I wouldn't buy a new tablet without the S-Pen feature, without the S-Pen the tablet is just a toy to watch videos, with the S-Pen it is a very powerful tool.
  • I'm waiting for the price to come down. Now that the new Note and Pros are on the horizon, we should see a price drop on this GN 2014. I've been loving my GN3 since release day and feel the experience can only be better with a 10 inch screen. S Pen is invaluable, multi window rocks, and pen window simplifies so much. The Note line is my be all end all! Posted via Android Central App
  • I have an ipad 1,2,3...and the galaxy note 10.1 2014 is THE KING. ipads are a limited bunch of crap. Steve Jobs would have floored the market if he was still here.....the 1st ipad mini sucked...the specs did not even beat the samsung 7.7......
  • I love my 8.0 and still want the larger Note. I love Sansung and the Nite series. Have the Note2
    too. What can I say? Addicted.
  • I bought this model in april but now its wifi and bluetooth both crashed. How to repair this ?