The pen is mightier...if you have small hands
Let's talk more about the stylus for a minute: It's housed in a slot on the side of the tablet and you can use it to navigate your way around the Note 10.1's TouchWiz interface. Pulling out the pen from its slot automatically launches the Air Command menu—a small wheel that holds options for taking notes on your current screen or launching Samsung apps that work with stylus. The pen is a little small and really works best for people with small-to-medium-sized hands. If you have larger mitts, you might want to use the stylus sparingly, as it can lead to some rather painful hand cramps.
Impressive build, not so impressive performance
One of the most common complaints about Samsung's devices is that they feel overly plastic and slimy. To combat this, the Note 10.1's back is textured to look and feel like it's covered in leather. The faux-leather makes it feel like you're holding a high-quality folio and makes the tablet a bit easier to grip. The front of the Note sports a gorgeous 10.1-inch display that's super clear and looks quite sharp. It's great for reading books and watching movies, but you'll need to crank up the brightness in order to see it better outside.
The tablet comes in both 16GB and 32GB models, and a microSD card slot on the side lets you add an additional 64GB of storage. The Note 10.1 has an 8-megapixel camera that takes decent photos, but chances are your phone comes with a better shooter. The Note 10.1 can play back up to 9 hours of HD video, according to our lab tests, which is about an hour less than what we got from the third- and fourth-generation iPads.
Although it has an impressive processor and a good amount of RAM, the Note 10.1 still felt sluggish and unresponsive at more than a few times. The tablet stuttered while playing graphic-intensive games like Riptide GP 2, and it would sometimes lock up for a few seconds when jumping in and out of apps. You can close apps you have running in the background to help mitigate some of the performance problems, but it's a kind of a pain to do that every time you want to start up a new app.
Speaking of apps, Android's selection of tablet-optimized apps is still lacking compared to what you can get in the iOS App Store. Just finding an app that works on your tablet turns into a game of rock, paper, scissors, and more often than not you'll end up with a phone app blown up to fit on a larger screen. It's the complete opposite of what you experience on iOS, where at least you can tell which apps are iPhone only.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.