Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 preview: First look
Design and build quality
The family resemblance between the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is strong. That's not a complaint, since Samsung have done well optimally in the minimalistic design of the tablet.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is built around a 10.1" PLS LCD screen with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. While the resolution is far from stellar, it's the most common choice for 10-inch tablets. Now, that's a euphemism for average - the resolution bar has recently been raised quite high.
The image quality is pretty solid though - viewing angles are very good (although there's a noticeable blue tint when viewed at an angle) and the blacks look reasonably deep (we'll take the usual measurements when we get a retail-ready unit for review).
Pixel density is nothing exciting (149ppi), but big tablets like the Note 10.1 are viewed at a bigger distance than phones, so it's not much of an issue. Still, if you've seen the new iPad, the difference in sharpness is quite noticeable.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has no hardware controls at the front - it doesn't need any with Ice Cream Sandwich inside. All you get here is the front camera and some sensors.
There's no earpiece (like on the 7" Galaxy tablets or the 5.3" Galaxy Note), but loudspeaker mode or a headset (wired or wireless) would make a lot more sense anyway. The Note tablet is fully capable of making and receiving calls.
The two front-facing speakers are on either side of the screen. You have to be careful not to place your thumbs over the speakers when you hold the tablet landscape, but since they're positioned in the upper half of the tablet, that shouldn't be an issue.
At the top (in landscape) we find the 3.5mm audio jack along with the SIM compartment and microSD slot, both protected by plastic lids. There's also the Power/Lock button next to the volume rocker.
The microphone is at the bottom, which is something to consider if you're going to make calls in loudspeaker mode (the mic at the bottom might get muffled if the tablet is docked).
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 uses a proprietary 30-pin connector for charging and connectivity, which is also located at the bottom of the tablet.
Single, multi-function ports like the 30-pin connector on the Note 10.1 mean you'll need a proprietary cable for both computer connections and charging. It's not a happy moment when you need to fill up the battery, but all you have is a microUSB charger. The lack of USB charging is a common fault of tablets - it's something we can accept but not necessarily like.
The journey ends at the back of the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, where we find an LED flash next to the 3MP camera lens (the Tab 2 10.1 has no flash), though taking pictures with a tablet (especially in the dark) is of questionable merit.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is powered by a 7000 mAh Li-Ion battery. There are no official battery life estimates yet, but we'll be doing our own tests when we get our hands on a retail-ready unit.
The back cover is made of soft plastic, which is nice to the touch and offers decent grip. It's matte too, so it hides fingerprints very well. As you would imagine, you can't pop this cover open to access the battery, which is par for the course.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 can easily be held in one hand and will slip into a coat pocket or a purse. The thickness of 8.9mm feels better in the hand than 9.7mm of the Tab 2 10.1, though the portability of both devices is practically the same.
The Note 10.1 is well built, no creaks are heard while handling the device or weak spots to caution against.
The new S Pen
The S Pen debuted on the 5.3" Galaxy Note, but it didn't even looked like a pen. With the Galaxy Note 10.1, Samsung have gone a long way to make it feel like an actual pen.
That includes a clip so you can secure it in a shirt pocket, just like you would an actual pen. The top of the S Pen even has a springy push button, but that doesn't actually retract the white writing tip - it serves as an eraser instead.
The white tip is on a spring too, so you can press it against the screen of the Note 10.1 without worrying you'll damage it. And you'll be pressing it quite often - the digitizer can sense various degrees of pressure, which is an important feature when drawing.
There's a button on the side of the S Pen as well, which can be used to perform certain actions too.
Finally, the S Pen doesn't actually need to be touching the screen for the tablet to know where you're pointing it. This allows apps like Photoshop Touch to display a cursor, which helps you aim.