Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 preview: First look

GSMArena team, 6 April 2012.
Pages: 12345

User interface

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 wastes no time with Honeycomb and jumps straight to Ice Cream Sandwich. It's covered with TouchWiz, which adds more customizations to the interface than its Honeycomb counterpart.

Before we begin, here is a video demo of the UI in action, which showcases the centerpiece of the Note 10.1,the S Pen.

You're probably familiar with the ICS interface, but we'll go over it again and make a note of where Samsung tweaked things up. Let's kick things off with examining the four corners of the screen.

The navigation keys are in the bottom left corner of the homescreen: Back, Home and Task switcher (plus a screenshot key courtesy of TouchWiz). The search shortcut is visible on all homescreens in the top left, the app drawer in the top right and finally, the notification area with quick toggles (again, a TouchWiz thing) in the lower right corner.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Preview Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Preview
TouchWiz customizations are visible right from the homescreen

The homescreen panes may look like default ICS homescreens, but they're not - the pinch gesture familiar from TouchWiz phones has been added to the Note 10.1 and it lets you add, delete and rearrange homescreens easily.

The same pinch gesture can be used in the app drawer to again let you rearrange pages. You can't delete or add new pages this way though.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Preview Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Preview
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Preview Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Preview
The pinch gesture works on the homescreen and app drawer, just like on a TouchWiz phone

The taskbar at the bottom has an arrow that flips up a row of what Samsung calls Mini Apps. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 had them too, so they're not new, but they're fairly unique in the Android world.

Mini Apps are small, independent windows that are overlaid over anything else - homescreens, regular full-screen apps, anything. You can fit two or three of those on the large 10.1" screen and they really improve the multitasking abilities of the tablet.

Available Mini Apps include a dialer, messaging, email, calculator, music player, S Memo and S Planner, even a task manager. If you're not using some of those apps, you can always choose to hide them.

Each Mini App has a button in the top left that launches the corresponding full-featured app and a close button in the top right. Such overlaid windows have been a staple of desktop OSes, but they feel a little odd in Android at first.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Preview Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Preview Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Preview
Several of the available Mini Apps

The notification area has the connectivity toggles that we've come to know from the smartphone edition of TouchWiz. They offer more functionality than the stock ICS quick settings - including GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controls - which saves you the extra effort of entering the extended settings menu. The rest of the toggles are Notifications, Sound, Auto-rotation and Flight mode.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Preview Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Preview
The notification area has been improved too the task switcher

The screenshot button available in the bottom left corner can be quite useful in combination with the S Pen - once you've snapped a screen shot (you can press and hold the S Pen's button to do that too), it appears on the screen and lets you scribble some notes and save the image for later, share it or queue it up to print.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 comes with tons of pre-installed apps - S Memo, S Note, S Planner, Social Hub, Music hub, Pulse reader, AllShare, Polaris Office, Video player, Video maker and My files. The Photoshop Touch and Adobe Ideas are a nice perk too, which we'll cover in more detail later.

Synthetic benchmarks

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is powered by an Exynos chipset with a dual-core Cortex-A9 @ 1.4GHz, Mali-400MP GPU and 1GB of RAM. The screen has 1280x800 resolution, which is about standard.

In BenchmarkPi, the Note 10.1 is only a fraction slower than the Tegra 3-powered HTC One X (that's four A9's @ 1.5GHz). A pretty good result, but this particular benchmark isn't very multithread-friendly.

Benchmark Pi

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
    351
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
    520
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus
    470
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    420
  • HTC One X
    338
  • Huawei MediaPad
    703
  • Samsung Galaxy S II (ICS)
    452

Linpack is multithread friendly and the One X pulls ahead of the Note 10.1 by about 40%. That's far from double the performance, even though the One X has double the number of cores. Linpack results drop across the board when going from Gingerbread to Ice Cream Sandwich and the results for the small Note we have are from Gingerbread.

Linpack

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
    90
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
    86.5
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus
    76.8
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    105.2
  • HTC One X
    126.1
  • Huawei MediaPad
    75.9
  • Samsung Galaxy S II (ICS)
    77.6

When it comes to 3D graphics, the Mali-400MP GPU has repeatedly proven its worth and it offers very playable framerates. Note that the two phones - the One X and Galaxy S II - have lower resolutions,720p and WVGA respectively, which helps them get higher framerates.

NenaMark 2

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
    43.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
    43.4
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus
    43.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    33.9
  • HTC One X
    47.5
  • Huawei MediaPad
    31.9
  • Samsung Galaxy S II (ICS)
    51.6

The two browser benchmarks we ran show excellent performance from the Samsung Galaxy Note. Pure JavaScript performance (SunSpider) is close to the top, while JavaScript+HTML5 performance (BrowserMark) put it on top.

SunSpider

Lower is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
    1891
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
    1953
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus
    1992
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2867
  • HTC One X
    1757
  • Huawei MediaPad
    2490
  • Samsung Galaxy S II (ICS)
    1849
  • new Apple iPad
    1722

BrowserMark

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
    113256
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
    89659
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus
    93377
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    57995
  • HTC One X
    96803
  • Huawei MediaPad
    69597
  • Samsung Galaxy S II (ICS)
    111853
  • new Apple iPad
    103264
Next Page »

Pages: 12345