updated 07:44 pm EDT, Wed August 15, 2012
A first look at Samsung's 'new way'
Samsung rolled out the red carpet for the Galaxy Note 10.1 today, hailing its new pen-enabled tablet as the "New Way" to do touch computing. After showing off the device earlier this year, Samsung took the Note 10.1 back to the drawing board, beefing up its internals and adding a built-in slot for its S Pen, among other improvements. Electronista was in New York today for the Note 10.1's American launch event, and we went hands-on with the device, taking a look at just how productive Samsung's new productivity machine was.
After the official unveiling, Samsung released media attendants to a hall where dozens of Note 10.1 units were on display and ready for handling. The exhibit was divided into four sections meant to show off the different aspects of the new tablet: gaming, education, fashion, and art.
The section where the Galaxy Note 10.1's capabilities stood out most was the one dedicated to art. A number of pen-savvy Samsung employees were aligned in seats with Note 10.1s at the ready, doing caricatures and portraits of the queued members of the press as each took his turn. The Samsung sketchers were able to turn out some impressive works using the tablet, and we were surprised in our own scribbling with the tool. Samsung has done a good deal to make the S Pen experience as close to the actual act of pen-on-paper writing as possible, and it shows. Depending on the pressure one exerts when writing, the S Pen's line length widens and narrows, and the results look about as good as if we'd sketched in our own Moleskines with actual pens. In all, the S Pen is still the most important distinguishing factor for this device, and the work Samsung has put into it shows.
Other aspects of the tablet were on show as well. The segment devoted to education had a number of guest speakers from Kno, the textbook software company, showing off the possibilities of the Kno app on the Note 10.1. These digital textbooks were interesting, if only for their potential. They combined handwritten notes and annotations with 3D animations and web-linking, sketching out a very interesting path for the future of education. The Kno textbooks on hand were largely easy to navigate, though their more interesting elements seemed buried behind the user interface. This is something that may change, though, as more educators and publishers are able to put their own works out there.
The gaming section, perhaps ironically, was the most subdued of Samsung's exhibits. The section took the form of a lounge, with the Note 10.1 hooked to an assortment of televisions showing off a number of casual games. In one corner, the tablet was synced with a Samsung television and functioned as its remote. A Samsung attendant told us that a television need not be too advanced for the Note 10.1's remote function to work. It needs only to be capable of receiving an IR signal. In our time at that station, the remote function seemed smooth enough, providing additional information on programming, switching between stations, and controlling other television functions.
As to the build of the device, that appears to be a point of concern. The Galaxy Note 10.1's backing doesn't feel too substantive, and it has a great deal of give should one push on it. Tapping it results in an unsatisfying hollow knock somewhat belied by the weight of the device. It feels as though the weight is in the front of the device, and not in a good way.
Performance-wise, this appears at first blush a solid machine. The Note 10.1 positively blazed through everything we could throw at it during the hands-on time. We got our hands on a copy for review, so we'll be taking a more in-depth look at the Galaxy Note 10.1 in the very near future. Check back soon to find out if the Galaxy Note 10.1 is likely to repeat any of the success of the smaller Note or the S III.