We've accused most Android tablet makers of simply following the leader, but Samsung deserves plenty of credit for the idea behind its latest tablet, the Galaxy Note 10.1. The included, Wacom-designed S-Pen stylus gives it an advantage over most other tablets on the market.
Despite Apple's new iPad being the undisputed king of tablets, can the Galaxy Note 10.1 and its S-Pen offer a valid alternative? Let's find out.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
Apple new iPad
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New iPad vs. Galaxy Note 10.1: Display
Undoubtedly the key feature of the new iPad is its "retina" display. The resolution of 2048x1536 is double that of the original iPad and significantly higher than most Android tablets. This higher resolution gives it a pixel per inch (ppi) rating of 263ppi.
The "retina" screen is by far and away the best display on any mobile device we've come across. Text is crisp and clear with no visible aberrations, even when zoomed right in. Photos and videos look bright and vivid but not oversaturated like many other mobile displays. The iPad's screen is so sharp that it constantly highlights the low quality of many images on the Internet.
By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has a 10.1in PLS TFT screen with a rather standard resolution of 1280x800. We are yet to get our hands on the Galaxy Note 10.1 to make a definitive judgment, but the screen only has a pixels per inch rating of 149ppi, significantly less than the new iPad. This means it won't be able to display the same super crisp text as higher resolution screens.
Ultimately, we can't help but feel Samsung has missed a chance to fit a higher definition screen on the Galaxy Note 10.1. In addition to the iPad, the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity and the upcoming Acer Iconia Tab A700 are two other examples of tablets that have much higher resolution screens than the Note, immediately making them more appealing.
New iPad vs. Galaxy Note 10.1: Design
The new iPad features a near identical design to the iPad 2. A single-button front fascia, a brushed metal rear and a flat back are all highlights. The edges of the iPad curve as they meet the front edge of the device. The new iPad is slightly thicker and heavier than the iPad 2. Wi-Fi models are 51g heavier, and the Wi-Fi + 4G models are 49g heavier.
If you consider the iPad design a little stale, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 may appeal to you. The Galaxy Note 10.1 measures just 8.9mm thick (thinner than the iPad) and the largely plastic construction means it weighs in at just 600g for the 3G model. This makes it lighter than both variants of the iPad.
Despite the lighter weight, Samsung has still found room for a microSD card slot and a cavity to store the S-Pen when you're not using it. The Galaxy Note 10.1 comes in black and white colour variants, but it's not yet known which models will be sold in Australia.
New iPad vs. Galaxy Note 10.1: Software
The Galaxy Note 10.1 runs Google's Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android (4.0) out of the box with Samsung's now familiar TouchWIZ UI overlay on top. Expect the Galaxy Note 10.1 to get an upgrade to the latest 4.1 Jelly Bean software later this year, though Samsung hasn't locked down a specific time frame for this just yet.
Thankfully, Samsung appears to have spent quite some time developing the software for the Galaxy Note 10.1. It hasn't just slapped the S-Pen onto the Galaxy Note 10.1 and left it at that, either. The device comes with a range of software specifically designed to work with the S-Pen including Samsung's own S-Memo, S-Note and S-Planner apps. Preloaded Adobe Photoshop Touch and Adobe Ideas apps are both compatible with the S-Pen, while a range of third-party apps are present too, including Touch Retouch, Makeup, Zen Brush, Omni Sketch and Hello Crayon.
Samsung has also built palm rejection support into the Galaxy Note 10.1, which aims to cure the problem of accidentally hitting the screen when you're drawing with the S-Pen. There's also the ability to run two apps side by side on the screen, though only a handful of apps will be compatible with this feature.
Apple's iOS software, on the other hand, is easy to use, simple and effective. The iPad has more apps than any other software platform, but more importantly, it has a large range of excellent, quality apps built specifically for a tablet device. The user experience is generally positive, despite some annoying limitations. The new iPad is an efficient tablet that shows no signs of lag or slowdown during most tasks.
New iPad vs. Galaxy Note 10.1: Cameras
The new iPad has a significantly upgraded rear camera to the one on the iPad 2, which was a dreadful 0.7-megapixels. The new iPad's camera features some of the same technology used in the iPhone 4S, but in a 5-megapixel lens with backside-illuminated sensor. It also doubles as a full HD 1080p video recorder. Images aren't as sharp or clear as the excellent camera on the iPhone 4S, but they are certainly good enough for small prints. The front-facing camera on the new iPad is a disappointing VGA snapper.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 also has a 5-megapixel rear camera but adds a single LED flash to aid low light photos. More significant than the rear camera, however, is a 1.9-megapixel front facing camera for video calls. In our opinion, a front facing camera is far more important on a tablet than the rear one, simply due to the fact that it will be used for video call apps like Skype. The Galaxy Note 10.1's front camera is likely to offer significantly improved video quality when compared to the iPad's VGA camera.
New iPad vs. Galaxy Note 10.1: Internals, other features
The key feature of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is obviously the S-Pen stylus. It was a genuinely impressive feature on the Galaxy Note and is unlikely to be anything different on this tablet. It includes features like pressure sensitivity, the ability to act as a pointing device complete with an on-screen cursor, and even has a white tip on the top that acts as a handy on-screen eraser.
S-Pen aside, the Galaxy Note 10.1 also has reasonable specifications. The highlight is an impressive 2GB of RAM, more than most other Android tablets. Samsung's own Exynos quad-core 1.4GHz processor and up to 64GB of internal memory are other key features. Unlike the iPad, the Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with a microSD card slot for extra storage. If you purchase a 64GB microSD card, the Galaxy Note 10.1 can theoretically support up to 128GB of memory on the largest 64GB model. Samsung will also offer 16GB and 32GB models.
Apple rarely focuses on the technical specifications of its products, but the new iPad is an impressive piece of hardware in its own right. It's powered by a dual-core A5X processor but has a quad-core graphics processor. The main beneficiary here is gaming and the graphics it is capable of are very impressive. The iPad has 1GB of RAM and comes with either 16, 32, or 64GB of internal memory but there is no memory card slot for extra storage.
How do you think the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 stacks up against the new iPad? Let us know in the comments below!