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 pleasing physical design that doesn't look like an iPad
On the physical side, the Note 10.1 has a well-designed bezel with a distinct look and feel -- not an iPad copy as the Galaxy Tab clearly was. You get the usual upper-end hardware: 1.4GHz ARM processor, 5-megapixel rear camera, 1.9-megapixel front camera, Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, speakers, and audio jack. You get a few extras, such as an IR port to control Samsung TVs and an SD card slot that supports 64GB cards.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs. Apple iPad

What you don't get is HDMI output to mirror your display to a monitor or projector. Don't expect to give presentations on stage with the Note 10.1. Too bad -- its pen-based annotation capability would be perfect for such presentations.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 ships in several models, in white and dark gray color choices. In the United States, there's just the Wi-Fi only model, available for $500 with 16GB of storage and for $550 with 32GB of storage. Models with 3G and LTE cellular radios are planned, but Samsung hasn't said when they might appear in the U.S., what they might cost, or what carries they would be available for. Given how very few Androdi tablets actually have cellular models these days, I'm a little worried that they'll never arrive, leaving the iPad the only road-warrior-friendly tablet. Also planned is an upgrade to Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean" later this year.

Some Android capabilities improved, but most Android gotchas remain
I mentioned earlier that the Galaxy Note 10.1 was able to sign into our secure Wi-Fi access point -- a first among Android devices I've tested. The Note 10.1 seems to have fixed the problem in Android.

Another apparent fix is in the stock Android browser (you don't get Google Chrome on the Note 10.1), which is much more compatible with AJAX-based sites than previous Android devices. Text selection doesn't always work in TinyMCE editing fields, but most of the controls do, and text selection works fine in Java windows. Buttons for uploading images from the tablet also work, even letting you choose the source application. In that last regard, the Note 10.1 outdoes the iPad. For text selection, the iPad usually works well in TinyMCE windows but has trouble in Java windows -- the opposite of the Note 10.1.

The Note 10.1 doesn't work with Cisco IPSec VPNs, unlike the iPad. And the selection of apps in the Google Play app store still don't hold a candle to what you can get for iOS. But there are decent apps for the basics, from Polaris Office and Quickoffice for office productivity to the popular games.

Turning on encryption in Android remains an extra step that takes your tablet out of commission for up to an hour, and you often have to sign in twice when encryption is enabled: once for the encryption password and again for the lock screen password. In contrast, they're one and the same on an iPad. Fortunately, you only have to enter the encryption password after a shutdown or restart on the Android tablet, so if you let it sleep, you'll end up having to enter just the lock screen password.

But the list of flaws in Android continues to decline, both as Google works on the core OS and as Samsung adds its own enhancements.

This article, "Review: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 shines bright," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in mobile computing, read Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog at, follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter, and follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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