Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

Summary:

The Good

Fast, Nice screen (1280 x 800), Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.1), S-Pen

The Bad

Limiting Printing options – will only print text to Samsung Printers without special apps, no Flash support, proprietary connector, no user guide in box, Amazon Prime Video support is hard to set up.

 Overall impression

Being Android based, it feels and acts like any Android based tablet, but add the S-Pen and there is a new dimension that makes it appealing to those with a knack for drawing or simply taking hand notes. The S-Pen fits neatly – almost invisibly – into the edge of the tablet, showing good design overall. The screen was plenty adequate and tasks like surfing the web went reasonably fast.

Apps are abundant for the Android platform but I did not see any that took advantage of the S-Pen. The apps that came bundled with it included the S-Note (described below), time, weather, email, etc. It also included Netflix, but no Amazon Prime. As a Prime member, I was disappointed, but found a way to get it running.

How to set up Amazon Prime Video

Using the Note’s browser, go to http://helpx.adobe.com/flash-player/kb/archived-flash-player-versions.html and find the Flash Player for Android 4.0 archives heading (about half way down the page).   Tap on the link Flash Player 11.1 for Android 4.0 (11.1.112.60).  This is version 11.1.112.60.  I tried the one labeled 115.7 but it didn’t work.

Go to Settings -> Security ->unknown sources and check the “allow installation of non-market apps from Unknown sources”. (remember to uncheck this after you are done.) Alternatively, if the app tries to install when the download finishes, it will ask you about installing from unknown app market. Tap “Settings” and do the above steps.

Go to the notifications window (bottom right) and tap the adobe flash download and install.  Now find Firefox browser for android on the play store. Install it and reboot (power off completely, then power on.) Open your Amazon Prime account and try viewing a movie.  It worked for me so it should work for you. Sometimes the picture gets splotchy and jerky and I have to restart it, but I haven’t  heard of Samsung providing Amazon Prime support any time soon.

The S pen

The apps that work with the S pen are few. Sure you can use the pen stylus to type and touch and click, but what’s the fun in that? The S-Note application is not intuitive. It supplies several “templates” to start a page with and the S-Pen comes in quite handy for these. But there is a bit of work to do to write a new recipe, for example. In addition to recipes, the other templates work pretty much the same way.

Note taking was another story. While in the store, the demo was sitting at a notepad background where you could write (print) some text using the pen and the word was automatically put on the note paper in typeface, so it appeared handwriting recognition worked pretty well. After bringing the tablet home however, the note taking app would not transform written text into typeface. After fiddling with some of the buttons and options, a new window pops up from the bottom and you need to write in that window and then the typeface would appear on the note paper. Kind of a two-step approach which is not as intuitive.  I still don’t know how I got the screen to come up. I also didn’t try writing in cursive to see how well it did.

I used a drawing or sketch template to draw something and I can see where it would be very handy to convey an idea or sketch one down so you don’t forget. Like a paper napkin only better and more long lived.

Beyond the S-Pen

Other than the S-Pen feature, it was simply another Android tablet. Nicely styled, but unless you really need the S-Pen, it’s probably not worth the additional up-charge over the Galaxy 10.1 or some of the other 10″ tablets out there.

Printing on Android tablets is not straightforward. There are apps from the various printer manufacturers, plus some independent app providers. With my Canon printers, the app only allows image and PDF printing. After speaking with the Samsung rep, he claimed that he can print text and images to any HP printer. It’s an Android issue more than a specific manufacturer. Until Android is robust enough to support printer drivers directly, your results may vary.

Bottom Line:

I’d recommend this tablet to anyone who wants to draw/scribble notes. Otherwise, save $100 and buy the Galaxy 10.1. I didn’t think the drawing was worth it and returned it with a plan to get the Galaxy 10.1 or another 10″ Android tablet.

-Bart

3.5 / 5 stars     

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