Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 shines bright

Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 is the first Android tablet that could replace an iPad

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A nicer, much friendlier interface
Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" has made it easier to set up your tablet, with a cleaner user interface and more intuitive settings that provide more context and explanation than before. It really helps get your Android tablet the way you want it. The Galaxy Note adds a few more bells and whistles, resulting in an even smoother overall experience. For example, you can add Dropbox and other accounts in the same settings area where you add your email, Google, and Samsung accounts. The Galaxy Note also breaks out LDAP and Exchange ActiveSync as their own options, so users can more easily find and use them.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

I also like Samsung's subtle way to change the keyboard in the Note 10.1: Use the pinch gesture to switch keyboards among the fixed, floating, and split views -- though be careful you don't actually tap some keys while doing so. You can also access the clipboard from the keyboard, such as to paste screenshots and other Gallery images into a presentation or document.

If readable fonts ever become available, the ability in the Note 10.1 to change the system font should be welcome; for now, stick with the default Helvetica S. But the crisp screen, pleasing color palettes, and clean application chrome all make the Note 10.1 a pleasure to use. A great example of this is the S Planner calendar app Samsung provides: In the Note phablet, it's hard to read, in garish colors, but in the Note tablet, it's beautifully readable with paperlike backgrounds and a clean color palette.

Even more, S Planner is a better calendar app than the stock Android version, providing more sophisticated repeating events (also not available on the iPad) and a year view. On the Note 10.1, you'll enjoy working in your calendar.

The Note 10.1 also uses Samsung's prior UI enhancement of a hiding app dock at the bottom of the screen -- clearly inspired by the Dock in OS X, but still welcome. Finally, it supports solid security and management capabilities, using the Android 4 capabilities augmented with Samsung's SAFE extensions. It should meet most businesses' security standards.

Then there are the other recent Samsung innovations introduced in the Galaxy Tab 2 tablet and Note phablet. One is the tracking ability that uses the front camera to search for your eyes, so the screen doesn't go to sleep when you're reading but otherwise not interacting with the device. Another is the use of an internal gyroscope to detect tilt, pan, and rotation of the device, which is then used for actions such as scrolling -- you'll like it in action and flying games.

The rest of the UI is Android 4, with its useful widgets, multifunctional notifications tray (where you can change network and other hardware settings, as well as see notifications such as new emails), handy app tray with live thumbnails, and solid array of accessibility options for the disabled.

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